Yesterday we played in Charlottesville, Virginia at a café venue called Twisted Tea Branch Bazaar. The night was definitely a strange one, and had a very peculiar energy to it from the get go. It started off with finding the tea room. The shop is tucked away like a tree house in the middle of downtown Charlottesville. It doesn’t look like anything special from the outside; Just a door with a sign stating that there is a tea house up a few flights of stairs. When we got to the top floor, we entered into a richly decorated other worldly flat. There was a large, life size textured sculpture of a tree with tiny tea cups and other charms hidden in its’ nooks. The rooms had tapestries on the walls, indian rugs on the floor, and booths with silk pillows. The space extended a ways back and had a few different smaller rooms with darker, moodier lighting that invited one to hide away for awhile. It smelled like herb blends and incense.
After loading in all of our gear, we had an hour or so to roam around. I decided to get a little fresh air, and take advantage of Charlotteville’s downtown restaurant scene. I found this little side street with a French restaurant called Fleurie. It looked way too fancy for a person who hadn’t had a proper shower in days- but I decided to go in anyway. All I wanted was a glass of wine, and a little bit of quiet away from everything. The bartender, Erin, ended up treating me to much more than that. I ordered a glass of too-expensive-but-worth-it cabernet franc, and she asked me what I’d like for dinner. I told her that I wished I could have dinner there-but that the wine was already not really in my budget, and that I'd have to pass. We kept talking about grapes, and life, and she ended up sending out three courses of mouth wateringly delicious French-italian dinner, on the house. I don’t know why, but this struck me as so incredibly kind. I was sitting next to a man who was studying for his sommelier 3 exam, and he shared some Nebbiolo (Italian grape harvested in the fog of autumn) from Virginia of all places. It was such an unexpected, and totally random beginning to an even odder evening.
The first person to play was this musician who goes by Ken’s Last Ever Radio Extravaganza. Ken has a quiet demeanor, and a very mysteriously calm stage presence. His music is all done on his laptop- and he weaves together different samples of indian chants, pop tunes, sounds of rivers, and nostalgic ragtime in a languid improvisational fashion. Everyone sat on the floor, with tea cups of hot cinnamon blends and listened. Throughout the music, Ken spoke in a soft, hypnotic voice about deep philosophical and personal subjects. By the end of his set, I felt kind of like I had been lilted into some sort of trance like state. Which is a very weird way to go into playing loud rock music, but we did it anyway. After we played, a duo of musicians- Max Katz and Jarod Hood- played a heavy almost metal set with looped guitar, drums, occasional vocals and flute.
The evening, with all of its wine, and weird trance inducing spells kind of left me dizzy. That was, until we realized the van had broken a major brake line and we were stranded in a load-in-only tow zone. Nothing wakes me up quite like car problems. It ended up all working out fine. We towed the van to an auto mechanic lot. The kind guys who towed us let us ride in the van while it was being towed, as long as we kept our heads down so the small town cops couldn’t see us. The cops actually rolled up as we were pulling into the lot, and there was a brief moment where I was convinced that we were going to be arrested and that tour would be canceled because of jail. This was all just paranoia, though, and we got three short hours of sleep in the back of the broken van.
Everything got fixed, about a million dollars later, and we are headed to Norfolk. A huge thanks to the sound guy Joseph, the barristas, the brilliant musicians we played with, and to Erin-my fairy godmother of wine and pesto painted heirloom tomatoes.