The Southern Cafe

Girlyman at The Southern

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The weekend began as great as it could, with a Girlyman show at the Birchmere. You can read about it here. It ended as well as it began, with Girlyman at The Southern Cafe.

DorisMuramatsuTyGreensteinNateBorofsky

The Southern is the reincarnation of Gravity Lounge (in Charlottesville, VA). If I understand correctly, the sound engineer from Gravity Lounge bought the place, ripped out the décor and created a better listening room (not that it was bad to begin with). He did a very nice job.

Girlyman always delivers. Put them in a place with an excellent sound system, operate that system perfectly, fill it with an adoring (and respectful) crowd, and the magic is indescribable. Therefore, the rest is for my memory, since I can’t describe it to youWinking smile

There was no opening act so Girlyman performed two sets. They mingled with the audience during the 30-minute intermission (signing merch and chatting).

The set list had a fair amount of overlap from Friday night, but there were a number of significant changes (including kicking it off with Born at the Right Time by Paul Simon).

The request section is always a hoot. This time, they played Maori (with Nate cracking us up with the story behind the song). But, in typical fashion, dozens of songs were called for. A few people yelled out “Do the rest!” (meaning, play all of the songs that you didn’t play already). I can get behind that!

They closed the show with the same number from Friday, Postcards from Mexico, with them leading the audience in three-part harmony again. At Birchmere, while I was belting out my part (well, Nate’s part), I couldn’t hear a lot of other people joining in (even though the crowd loved Girlyman). Perhaps it was the acoustics, or perhaps there were 100’s of people there who don’t have confidence in their voices.

Last night, with a smaller crowd (just due to venue size), all three parts were being belted out (beautifully!). The audience sounded so good that Girlyman made us sing it (without them) a number of extra times, so they (and we) could soak it in. Fun!

I mentioned in Saturday’s post that their banter has migrated more toward the song intros rather than tuning songs. That continued last night. Even though some of the intro humor was similar, it wasn’t canned/rehearsed. We heard new twists, including things we had never heard before (like how/why Doris thought she was anemic, which turned into the discovery that she had Leukemia, not anemia).

DorisMuramatsu

After Postcards from Mexico, everyone shot out of their seats to give Girlyman a standing ovation. They returned shortly for an encore. Nate gave what appeared to be an emotional speech about how grateful they were that Doris was still alive (which at the time, seemed like a somewhat strange way to phrase her/their ordeal). He said that they wanted to arrange an old Spiritual to convey how they felt about it.

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They then proceeded to play Staying Alive by the Bee Gee’s. They were flawless. Doris and Ty sang most of it, with Nate filling in some of the low parts on the chorus. So much fun, and yes, spiritual in the sense that it got everyone in the crowd moving to the beat and smiling throughout the song.

When they finished, there was another immediate standing ovation. It continued, so eventually, Girlyman was forced to come out yet again. Since they hadn’t prepared for a second encore, they solicited more requests from the audience. Again, dozens of titles were yelled out. They settled on The Shape I Found You In. Ty said it was the first love song she wrote, and she dedicated it to Genevieve who was in the audience.

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This picture of JJ is blurry, but captures her ever-present smile and gives you a glimpse into her wonderful soul:

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Because we got to say hello during intermission, we ran out when the second encore was over, since it’s a long ride back to Fredericksburg. We got to the hotel at 11:45pm.

The Southern is a great place to see a show. They also have excellent food. Unfortunately, even though they’ve been open for over a year (we saw Girlyman there in March 2010), they are still completely disorganized. They couldn’t tell us what time the show started when we called earlier in the day (in fact, they delivered some contradictory answers). Good luck finding out any useful information on their web site either.

Last year we missed most of the opening act because we were leisurely eating their excellent food with no clue that the show had started. We decided not to make the same mistake twice. Instead, we decided to make a new one! Winking smile

We met the same friends that we attended last year’s show with. They are both UVA grads so they are familiar with Charlottesville. We asked them to pick a place to meet for dinner. They gave us three choices and we picked Christian’s Pizza. They mentioned that it was a short walk to The Southern from there.

We showed up early and grabbed a table. After about 20 minutes, I realized that we were in the wrong location. There was no way that the one we were in was a short walk from anywhere other than the other stores in this strip mall. Oops. I called and verified that I was correct.

We headed to the correct one. The best part of the error was that someone was pulling out from the best possible spot near The Southern, just as we pulled up. We still had plenty of time to enjoy the pizza and catch up with our friends for 70 minutes before the show started. Whew.

Girlyman at Southern Cafe

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Another night, another Girlyman concert. This one was in Charlottesville, at the relatively new The Southern Cafe. This used to be Gravity Lounge. It changed hands and was gutted on the inside.

Last night was the final show in the current East Coast tour for Girlyman. I can only imagine how exhausted they were. Thankfully, none of that was projected on the audience, as they performed with incredible energy over two sets.

All of the praise I heaped on them for the show the previous night applied last night. They varied the set list a lot, with at least half of the songs swapped from the night before. Their banter was almost 100% fresh. One of the reasons that this is almost always true for Girlyman is that they feed off the crowd’s reactions. They might start with a seed that they have in mind, or have used in a previous show, but each audience will take them in a completely different direction.

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There were more, and longer tuning songs last night. Not because Ty and Doris had more trouble tuning, but because they got stuck (in the best sense) on a particular theme/interplay and drove a truck through it at every opportunity.

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Girlyman audiences are among the best, at every venue, on a consistent basis. They are true fans who make unreal noise between songs, and are reverently quiet during songs. That’s all you can hope for.

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They played a 45-minute set and took a break to sign merch and mingle with the audience (exactly like they did the night before at Jammin’ Java). They returned for a 70-minute set including a three song encore.

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The first song in the encore was the Girlyman Benediction. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen them do it live, and it was fantastic (as it always is). In addition to their normal antics during the song (e.g., Doris does the belly-rubbing and head-patting motions at one point), adding JJ Jones to the mix (the newest Girlyman) was hysterical. She was balancing drumsticks and water bottles, making it very hard to look anywhere else to see what the rest of them were doing. 🙂

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Next they played the other encore favorite, Son of a Preacher Man, which has also been a while since we’ve seen it. They closed the show with the amazing a cappella number, Up to the Sea (from the new CD) like they did the night before.

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After the show Nate signed their latest CD for our friends. Lois bought one of their Everything’s Easy T-Shirts (for me, since they were out of her size).

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Opening the show was Andy Moore. We missed the beginning of Andy’s set (my rant about that will come in a minute) but caught her last two numbers. She has a beautiful voice and accompanies herself well on an acoustic guitar. Very moving lyrics.

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Lois made up for our guilt of missing her entire set by buying two of her CDs, so we now have a chance to get to know her music better. We also spend a lot of time in Richmond, where she’s based, so we might get to catch one of her shows there.

The Southern Cafe is still relatively new, so it’s important to cut them some slack while they get their sea legs. On the other hand, I’ll still rant a bit in the hopes of sparing someone else what happened to us, and encouraging The Southern to get it together a bit more quickly than they seem to be.

The show was listed for 8pm, with doors opening at 7pm. We wrote in advance because the website is one of the things that hasn’t quite gotten fleshed out yet. They wrote back saying that the opening act would come on at 8pm, with Girlyman hitting the stage at around 8:30pm.

We arrived at 6:20pm, and our guests arrived at 6:30, exactly when we asked them to. The doors to the cafe were already open (very welcome, since it was drizzling outside). We tried multiple times to order dinner, and each time were politely told that they wouldn’t be taking orders until roughly 7pm (fine, that’s when the doors were officially supposed to open).

They did indeed take our order at 7pm. Even though it’s traditional southern style comfort food (I had an amazing pulled pork sandwich with equally amazing sides of mac ‘n cheese and slaw), it took forever to come out. The good news is that the food is good enough so that you should go there for lunch or dinner even if you’re not interested in the music.

Unfortunately, while eating our food (which got to the table at around 7:35), we heard some applause. We ignored it while we ate, but then Lois got curious. She went to check it out, and it turns out that Andy Moore came on at 7:30. No announcement was made in the cafe part that we were sitting in. We wolfed down the rest of the food and caught the end of her set.

Summary: The Southern Cafe is going to be a great venue for both food and music once they get their act together. You should still attend now, because the overall evening was fantastic, but, be aware that things might not be perfectly smooth, or as advertised, for the time being.

Girlyman at Jammin Java

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Last night was our 14th time seeing Girlyman perform. Tonight will be our 15th and I’ll write about that tomorrow. 🙂

From March to October each year, we tend to see Girlyman in bursts, keeping our need/desire in check. Most years, we have a Girly-drought from October to March. It’s a rough patch, aptly named Winter, and we were happy to officially declare our version of Spring last night!

We were pleased and surprised to see Girlyman book Jammin’ Java. For the past two years, they have played The Barns at Wolf Trap this time of the year (on their VA visit). The Barns seats 400 people and Girlyman has sold out both times they’ve appeared there. We love The Barns, but the more intimate, the more we like it.

We’ve been to Jammin’ Java once before, covered in this post. We liked everything about that evening, including the food quality and selection. While that show was reasonably well attended, it didn’t prepare us for trying to accommodate Girlyman’s fans in this smaller venue.

Gone were the tables that were set up near the stage (making it easy to sit up close and still eat comfortably). Instead, they had rows of seats (theater style) from the stage all the way back to the bar area. People sat on the floor (lots of people) wherever there wasn’t a chair. Many more people stood behind the chairs all the way back to the entrance.

Jammin’ Java earned it’s name a few times over last night. First, while waiting for the seating to begin, the smell of their fresh brewed coffees was intoxicating. One of our guests commented to me that he would need to have some as dessert. We did. We got Lattes to go after the show was over and drank them on our way back to Fredericksburg.

Next there’s the intended meaning of Jammin’, the music. Wow, Girlyman was/were their usual extraordinary selves. Finally, people were literally Jammed into every opening, and no one seemed to mind in the least. We were all just happy to be part of the music and the energy (and the comedy) that is Girlyman.

So, why we do go to see groups that we love this many times, and often go out of our way to do it? The easy, obvious answer, which is 100% true is that we want to support (financially and emotionally) the groups that we love. But that’s not the whole answer.

The live experience brings with it a joy that is qualitatively different than listening to the CDs (which is something we also do a lot). With a group that has a large a catalogue like Girlyman, each show has a number of unique elements to it, even on back-to-back nights on the same tour. Then there’s also the inevitable moment of discovery, when they perform something on stage we’ve never heard, or they tell a story and reveal something we were unaware of, and our love of them deepens further.

There were a number of examples last night. We had an opportunity four months ago to tell Ty how much we love the song Could Have Guessed (on the new CD, Everything’s Easy). Last night, before playing it, we got our first shout out from them, as Ty dedicated the song to us. Cool!

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Ty told a story that we hadn’t heard before they played Young James Dean (a song we’ve seen them perform many times). She said she was inspired to write that song when she read The Last Time I Wore a Dress. Lois told me when we left that she wants to read the book.

They played a few songs we hadn’t heard them play live, including one we’ve simply never heard before, because they haven’t recorded it yet. They were:

  • St. Stephen, a song Ty co-wrote with Nate in 2006. I could feel Lois tingling throughout the song, her reaction was that palpable.
  • For the first song in the encore, Doris sang a cover of Loretta Lynn’s Fist City. We love country music, and it was fun to hear Girlyman’s take on this song.
  • They closed the encore with Up to the Sea, a stunning a capella number on the new CD. The music is by Beethoven, Nate wrote the lyrics. The three of them bunched up together and shared one microphone. We’ve listened to the song many times on the CD, but have never seen them perform it. It was magical. You couldn’t hear a rustle (let alone a whisper) in the crowd.

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Girlyman now officially has a fourth member, JJ Jones on the drums. We’ve seen JJ play with Girlyman twice before, but she was actually the full-time drummer for the opening band, Po’ Girl each of those nights, also sitting in with Girlyman.

JJ is an incredible drummer who adds a nice depth/dimension to Girlyman. Many of Girlyman’s songs have a full drum set on the CD version, so it’s quite natural to hear that full sound on stage as well.

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During Young James Dean, JJ was beyond awesome. I am grateful that I know the song so well, because I might have missed it given that I was fixated for much of it on JJ. I wasn’t alone in my awe. The second the song was over, before Ty even thanked the audience for their wild applause, she turned to JJ and introduced her, and said something to effect of “Wow, thanks JJ!”. Thank you indeed!

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JJ also was perfect on the always upbeat Joyful Sign, a song that really benefits from strong drumming. JJ never speaks on stage. Well, she never used to speak on stage. Nate asked her a question last night, which JJ typically answers with a particular drum roll. Last night she said “Yes”. Nate was as flabbergasted as the rest of us. 😉

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The other thing that Girlyman did wisely last night was not have an opening act. While we have discovered some of our favorite bands by accidentally hearing them when they were opening acts, sometimes it’s better to skip it.

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Girlyman was in effect their own opening act. They performed a 45-minute set and then broke for an intermission. They did something we are not accustomed to seeing (even in our few previous 2-set evenings seeing them). They came out during intermission to say hi to the fans and to sign merch and take photos. It’s a wonderful touch, especially for people who need to hit the road the minute the show is over and can’t wait in long lines no matter how badly they want to.

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When they returned to the stage, they played a 70-minute set, including the above-mentioned two-song encore. An absolutely wonderful evening, as I’m sure tonight will be as well. If you’re anywhere within driving distance of Charlottesville, VA, come see the magic at The Southern Cafe.

Here’s our gang (minus us) from last night:

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