It was a Saturday that Magnolia Jackson Pickett Burnside won't forget.
The robust Richmond emcee and comedienne, known as one of the producers of local burlesque show The Revue, not only was going to see her beloved Cher perform for the fifth time -- but also was finally going to meet the diva in person.
The concert was March 25 in Maryland at the new MGM National Harbor, where Cher has been holding a residency when not working Las Vegas. It was Burnside's 32nd birthday last week, she says, so this was a present to herself.
Cher fandom runs in her family, she says.
"Cher was my first concert. When I was 13, my mother took me to see her on the Believe tour at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater," she recalls. "My grandparents are Cher fans, my mother is, my father's parents saw Sonny and Cher in concert ... it's in my blood."
But this time was different. In addition to her early ticket purchase of eighth row seats, Burnside spent extra money for a meet-and-greet opportunity afterward. "I debated for about 20 minutes. Then I thought: 'It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's only money, I'll just jack up my credit card. Who cares?'"
After what she calls an amazing concert -- which featured about 11 or 12 costume changes and "Cher riding out on a giant animatronic elephant while singing" --- Richmond's legendary emcee started getting nervous.
Burnside had come fully prepared, dressed in her outfit based on "Auntie Mame," Cher's favorite film and one she'd hoped to remake. "My name comes from 'Mame,'" Burnside explains. "The main character marries a guy named Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside. So my outfit I wore was modeled after an outfit that Rosalind Russell wore in the movie."
Burnside, along with about 30 other people, was now backstage.
"I figured after the show I would look busted as hell with all the sweating," she says. Also she worried, as anyone might, that her celebrity crush would disappoint her.
Burnside recalls what happened next with the fine-detailed clarity of a religious experience:
"I stepped into the doorframe. I looked at Cher, she looked at me -- even though she was still taking a picture with somebody else -- and she just kinda smirked and tilted her head.
That's the image that's set into my head, that I amused her [laughs].
Then it was an absolute whirlwind. I went up and held both her hands, told her I was Magnolia Jackson Pickett Burnside. She literally cackled and tossed her hair back like Cher does. She was very amused.
We took the photo and she said my last name again. I said, "You really have to do the remake of 'Auntie Mame.'" And she said, "I'm just too old" and giggled. Then I said, "No! Never!" and just walked out.
It was literally like 25 seconds.
Burnside says the best part about the whole thing was that Cher was so warm, kind and human -- that she more than delivered. "It was like I was seeing an old friend," she recalls.
Before finishing her story, Burnside says she also ran into Cher's good friend, Paulette, backstage, who often handles social media duties for the celebrity. Burnside says that Paulette once responded to her on Instagram regarding a strange request.
"I told her I'm that crazy drag queen who has the reoccurring dream about finding Cher's wig closet," she says. "And she just laughed and said she remembered."
After the whirlwind encounter was finally over, Burnside says she went outside and cried for 20 minutes.
"I was in absolute ecstasy," she says.
Renovations are starting on the old Sea Dream Leather building, or the Bernie Building as people now call it -- located at 3300 W. Broad St.
Co-owner David Morrison says that he and partner Robert Olson have found the building an ideal base of operation with plenty of space to offer. So they've created the concept of the Highpoint, a place where creative professionals can maintain a space and grow within the city.
But will the famous Bernie Sanders mural painted almost a year ago by local artist Mickael Broth remain?
"Funny you should ask. Yes, but it will likely need to be repainted as there is going to be a bit of repointing and brick repair -- but Bernie stays," says Morrison. "From the rendering that was done way before the mural it doesn't look like it, but there are still a lot of people that love it and it has sort of become part of our identity and there is a certain anti-establishment kinship. I kind of feel like it is as relevant now as it was when we put it up."
As noted in a press release, the Highpoint is an 18,000-square-foot Art Moderne structure "that has been designed with a variety of spaces to fit the needs of creative professionals ranging from artists to architectural firms. With the help of 510 Architects and DCP Construction Partners, owners Robert Olson and David Morrison are working to complete construction for full opening the fall of 2017."
Monthly rent will range from about $1.10 per square foot for larger spaces to $1.55 per square foot for smaller units, according to a release. There will also be short-term rentals available.
Sometimes, all it takes is an idea to supplement change within a creative community. In 2015, a group of individuals set out to create an opportunity to incorporate a more inclusive feeling to their local music scene. As inspired by Philadelphia’s similar efforts the year prior, the first annual First Time’s The Charm RVA took place and a new tradition was born.
FTTC RVA is an event that’s focused to encourage anyone that feels they are marginally represented within the local music scene to change that by forming new bands with other like-minded aspiring musicians. In many cases, these new bands are the first bands that any of the participants have ever been a part of.
In the third incarnation, the collective known as Elbow Room is ready to celebrate this year’s FTTC RVA and they want to invite every interested party to join them Saturday, March 25 at Gallery 5 to meet one another.
If any interested bands can answer “yes” to any of the following questions: Does your band include any of the following: women, people of color, queer and/or trans folks, or someone who is differently abled in any way? Then Gallery 5 will be the place to fulfill your desires of forming your dream band.
In past incarnations of FTTC RVA, groups like the twee pop of Atta Girl, the queercore power-violence of Fetish Gear, the ambient avant garde Tavishi and several others have grown from this event to become regular performing acts around town. The band you form on Saturday could easily grow to become another mainstay. This is the perfect opportunity to break down any existing barriers within the music scene with the hopes of creating a more inclusive community where all artists can find a space to spread their creativity.
The meet a bandmate event will be held at Gallery5, 200 W. Marshall St. on Saturday, May 25 at 2 p.m. This summer, the third annual FTTC RVA event will be hosted at Strange Matter on Saturday, June 24.
Fans of that gospel-yeh yeh sound rejoice.
Washington's The Make-Up is reuniting again, and they'll be performing a show at Strange Matter on April 22 (The Day of the Earth) with several guests to be announced.
I heard about the possibility of this show awhile back from Steady Sounds' Marty Key, who was instrumental in setting it up with friend and frequent guest deejay, Ian Svenonious, the lead singer for the Make-Up.
Known as one of the most interesting and stylish figures in rock, Svenonious is also a published author and television host; there's an exhibit by artist Frances Stark involving his book "Censorship Now" at the current Whitney Biennial in New York (Here's an interesting recent interview with him about what he's learned from rock and roll.)
Tickets for what will surely be a joyous celebration go on sale Monday, March 20 at noon and will be $13 in advance and $15 day of show, if any are left.
Ask Ian MacKaye, he’ll tell you: There was a time in the mid-‘90s when Richmond was known primarily for instrumental "math rock" bands.
Always a silly term, math rock simply meant musicians who could play their instruments well and move with honed precision through various time signatures, often within the space of one song. Somewhere along the way, it took on a negative connotation akin to heavy metal guitar wankery -- which I suppose is only negative depending on your taste.
Yet some of Richmond’s so-called math rock bands were true originals, capable of drawing from a palette of textural moods, often dark and violent. One of the best back then was a power trio in the truest sense, King Sour, who will be reuniting for the first time in 20 years on April 12 at Hardywood to perform with Dumb Waiter (RVA), Brain Tentacles (Chicago,RVA) and Paint Store (RVA).
The trio features local artist Austin Fitch on guitar, who used to resemble a young Bobby DeNiro sweating hate in “Taxi Driver," musical wunderkind Tom Peloso on bass, who found success as a member of Modest Mouse, and drummer Matt Boyle, who leads the charge by beating the hell out of a small kit.
King Sour delivered an explosive live show, from regional bars and house parties to tours of the U.S. and Canada, that always seemed to build steadily from smoking embers to a three-alarm blaze. They released a 7-inch (“Jonie Loves Choochie”) in 1992 and two albums, “Nipple” (1994) and “Instrumentally Retarded” (1997), before going their separate ways.
“We have worked on trying to put a reunion together for years,” says Fitch, before heading to a bartending gig at McCormark's Irish Pub. “Between Tom on the road with Modest Mouse and kids and jobs it never manifested. Now it looks like Glacial Pace is going to re-release both the King Sour records. We also may be doing some shows with Modest Mouse this spring and summer to help promote it. That lit a fire under us to make it happen.”
Dumb Waiter, Brain Tentacles, King Sour and Paint Store perform at Hardywood: Middle Earth, next to Hardywood Park Craft Brewery at 2410 Ownby Lane on Wednesday, April 12 from 7 to 10 p.m. Cost is $8.
Veteran New York comedian Todd Barry has an entertaining new book about to come out, an occasionally snort-worthy diary of sorts, “Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg: One Comedian’s Tour of Not-Quite-the-Biggest Cities in the World.”
Known for his dry, chafing sense of humor and near-perfect timing, Barry documents his 2015 stand-up tour performing before small but enthusiastic crowds in mostly secondary markets: Bs and Cs, maybe a few Ds.
On page 61 you’ll find his chapter on Richmond, which is centered on a memorable show he performed at Gallery5 in Jackson Ward.
Barry sticks to the gritty details, noting that he was performing at a “cool little space” and staying at the nearby Richmond Marriott, which has a sports bar that boasts the world’s largest television set (“I stole a glance at it,” he writes. “Extremely large television set!”).
He gets into Richmond the night before his show and wanders around a bit -- first trying to get into a burlesque show free at Gallery5, a standard showbiz courtesy for performers, he notes. But he quickly realizes that the door person, who works for the burlesque group, doesn’t know who he is.
Rather than raise a stink, he shuffles over to nearby Saison, which “has a great adult-hipster (as opposed to PBR hipster) gastropub vibe,” he writes. A noted music fan and former musician, Barry then takes a trip to GwarBar but leaves before getting a drink because it was too loud.
About Gwar, he thinks to himself:
“I saw them when we were both booked at the same festival in Austin. They were really good musicians and their show was nuts, but as a performer all I could think was, You go through all the trouble to tour, and you perform anonymously? Like you’re public and anonymous at the same time?”
The next day, Barry and a comedian friend take a hot tip and peruse the fine homes along Monument Avenue. He finds the houses beautiful and then Googles the area when he gets back to the hotel, realizing he could afford a place 10 times the size of his New York Apartment.
“If only I wanted to move to Richmond,” he writes, it would give him a good story for his next late-night talk show appearance.
“So Todd, you live in New York right? Or did you move to L.A.?”
“Neither, Jimmy Fallon. I actually have homes in Richmond and Asheville.”
“Really, you don’t even keep a crash pad in New York?”
“No, Jimmy, I took the money I would spend on rent and use it to pay off two mortgages.”
“Wow. Two mortgages.”
“Yes, Jimmy. And both houses are mansions.”
“Wow again. How do you get to your gigs?”
“Well Jimmy, I’ll tell you [lowers voice] but its got to be a secret . . . both cities have airports.”
If you were at the Gallery5 show, you know that Barry talked more about Monument Avenue, and also dealt with a heckler who had to be kicked out of the building -- who gets brief mention as the “jerk” in the chapter. Barry has little patience for people who shout things at his shows. He does like it, however, when they yell, “You suck!” as they’re being escorted out.
After his set, he goes to meet up with his friend Hannibal Buress, a comedian who was playing a larger gig in Richmond that same evening.
Barry ends up leaving because, once again, the music was too loud.
The book will be released on March 14 and available at your book seller of choice, most likely. You can pre-order it here.
Story has been updated to correct spelling for the name, Hannibal Buress and another type-o.
Looking for something different for your hump day? The Chicago troupe, Manual Cinema, has got you covered . . . especially if you're a fan of puppets. Or live movies.
A 2016 Drama Desk Award-nominee, Manual Cinema is a performance collective, design studio and film/video production company that presents brilliant, cinematic puppet shows that can be downright spooky, or the New York Times put it, "phantasms to die for."
With stories that are told non-verbally, the group transforms the experience of cinema and makes a true hybrid with theater as a cast of six puppeteers use hundreds of paper puppets, seven overhead projectors, two cameras, and three screens to create a live “movie” in front of the audience.
Just check out this behind-the-scenes video for yourself:
Here's a little bit about the show, Mementos Mori, they will be performing this Wednesday, March 1 at the University of Richmond.
When Death takes an unexpected holiday, an elderly film projectionist finds a new lease on life; a ghost explores the afterlife with her iPhone; a 7-year-old girl discovers her own mortality. In Manual Cinema’s most ambitious show to date, a cast of six puppeteers use hundreds of paper puppets, seven overhead projectors, two cameras, and three screens to create a live “movie” . . . Accompanied by four musicians and live sound effects, the result is a rich mosaic of cinematic storytelling. Mementos Mori is a lively, beguiling meditation on death and dying.
Manual Cinema performs Wednesday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Alice Jepson Theatre. Tickets range from $17 to $34 (adults). Go here to learn more or buy tickets.
Legendary British singer and songwriter Elvis Costello is returning to Richmond with his band, the Imposters, for the Imperial Bedroom and other Chambers tour on Tuesday, June 20 at the Classic Amphitheater at the Richmond Raceway Complex.
Tickets go on sale Friday, March 10 at 10 a.m. and you buy them here.
Also announced today were the first two acts of the Friday Cheers line-up this summer: Funk legend Lee Fields performs with locals, Kings, on Friday, May 5 for $5. That should be a nice one.
And on Friday, May 12, the Bay Area newschool funk of Con Brio performs with the more global dance groovers, Red Baraat. Also $5.
Inimitable crooner and New Orleans legend, Aaron Neville, will be performing at the Tin Pan on Saturday, June 17 at 8 p.m. for what is sure to be a highlight of the summer concert season.
Tickets are $79.95 or $84.95 at the door and can be purchased here.
Neville rarely plays intimate venues this size anymore, if you're wondering why the steep price. Also if you're wondering whether it will be worth it -- just listen to his big hit again (he still sounds like this):
From the press release:
Aaron Neville’s incredible career has seen him move seamlessly back and forth between solo work and his role in the Neville Brothers, known as the “First Family of New Orleans Music.” His first hit single was the landmark “Tell It Like It Is,” which held the number one spot on the R&B charts for five weeks in 1967. He went on to win GRAMMY Awards for his triple-platinum 1989 collaboration with Linda Ronstadt, Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind, and reached the country charts with the title track of “The Grand Tour” in 1993.
His latest release, "Apache," is a solo album that makes the case for Aaron Neville as the most holistic of soul men. It is hard R&B that matches anything the Neville Brothers ever recorded for true grit, while still allowing plenty of space for a singer who is arguably the most distinctive vocal stylist on the planet to tell it like it is. Apache also reflects Neville’s social and spiritual concerns, marking only the second time in his fifty-six-year recording career that he has cowritten nearly an entire album’s worth of material. The words are straight out of a poetry journal he began keeping in the 1970s.
“The voice of Aaron Neville is the greatest export of New Orleans.”—Guardian
“The man still sings like an angel who’s swallowed a wah-wah pedal. It’s that blend of unforced sweetness, honesty and melodic sensibility that still makes his music so believable after a career spanning more than five decades.”—NPR
The giant rings along the river are from a Denver-based artist. The forthcoming Maggie Walker statue is by a Maryland artist. And the emancipation proclamation statue coming to Brown’s Island is by an Oregon-based artist. (Side note: all white men.)
Every time a new public art project comes to town, folks are upset if it’s not by a Richmond artist. But, as public arts coordinator Ellyn Parker said at a Thursday Public Arts Commission meeting: “A local artist can't get the commission, if no local artist applies.”
To that end, Parker is encouraging local applications for an upcoming work to be installed front and center at the Hull Street Library, where a bush and sign now stand.
There are two informational meetings happening Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. and March 4 at 1 p.m. where artists can learn more about the project and how to apply. The allocation is $51,000 for the art, Parker says.
The official request for proposals will be posted after the meetings, but Parker shared this draft language with Style.
This Call for Artists requests proposals for original or existing artwork to be located in small plaza area in front of the Hull Street Library. The artwork should strengthen the identity of the library as a community asset and also help to create a sense of place. The location for the art work will be visible to library patrons, pedestrians and automobiles so the piece should be iconic and engaging, while considering that it is located in neighborhood library that is well utilized by both families and elderly residents and therefore should be a piece that can be relatable to all ages. The artwork needs to consider durability and weather and be suitable for longevity. This location is suitable for a sculpture, installation or other integrated piece of art that will complement the space. Electrical connection is available and a lighted piece of artwork is highly desired. No murals or paintings will be considered as appropriate submissions.
Commission members would also have you know that the bush being removed is quite small. “This is not an historic bush,” joked one member on Thursday.
Have at it, Richmond artists.