Not Joined at the Hipp 

Otis Taylor is an entertaining secret at the Hippodrome.

Otis Taylor plays transcendental blues. It's the kind of music that lulls you into a meditative state and the small crowd at the Hippodrome didn't have a problem with that Friday night. But after a performances of “Ran So Hard,” and “Ten Million Slaves” (from the Michael Mann film “Public Enemies”), Taylor made good on his threat to turn the concert into a “rock ’n’ roll party,” and traded his banjo for a guitar.

Taylor and his compelling band had most of the small audience out of their seats as he sang “Think I Won't” and the rock classic, “Hey Joe.” During the night, the guitarist mentioned the framed photographs of banjo players that line the upstairs hallway of the affiliated neighboring restaurant Mansion Five26, noting that his picture wasn't included.

“Not yet,” he said. “I think most of those guys are dead anyway.”

Taylor was joined by violinist Anne Harris, who dressed in a black body suit and pink tutu, made a spectacle of her self with her high kicks, swaying hips and long braids. She was a beautiful distraction that never seemed out of place. She also plays a mean fiddle.

The band's second set was a little more subdued, with the exception of a performance of "Hambone," featuring Taylor on harmonica as he led a party train around the renovated theater. Speakeasy is the name of a lounge next door to the Hipp, a reference to the hidden nightspots of yesteryear where alcohol was sold illegally and only a chosen few knew about.

Unfortunately, the Hippodrome seems to take this antiquated word-of-mouth marketing ploy to heart, judging by the sparse attendance for Taylor's appearance, and the even smaller crowd on hand for another music-related event at the theater that night. Taylor's six-piece band made up a sizable chunk of the audience for an earlier screening of “Lover's Rock,” a documentary about an offshoot of reggae music made popular by black Brits in the late 1960's.

The screening -- the first of actor and director Tim Reid's monthly movie nights at the venue -- certainly was deserving of more attention than it received Friday night. This was a rare chance to see a unique film, with the director Menelik Shabazz present, that was billed as a look into “the secret world of a generation."

Unfortunately, thanks to nonexistent promotion, that world will remain concealed to most Richmonders.


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