Night at Johnny Brenda’s

February 11, 2009

  The Morning Benders

Monday night I went to see Dawn Landes, The Submarines and The Morning Benders at Johnny Brenda’s in fishtown with D. I have to admit I hadn’t been “out” to see a show in months and months (Bubble House doesn’t count). And this was so last minute. And so much appreciated.

There is something to be said for a smaller venue. I typically cannot tolerate bigger places like the Tower (though i will be going to see Ray LaMontagne there in April), and massive headliners at places like the Spectrum or the Vet (note the use of obsolete terms here– both stadiums have either been renamed or demolished–that’s how long it’s been since I’ve been there) are completely out of the question.

I’m a Khyber girl. A Tin Angel girl. And now a Johnny Brenda’s girl. I like intimacy. Atmosphere. I like old city buildings with brick interior and romantic red velvet seats. Hardwood floors that lead to curtained back rooms with sofas for kissing. I like the smallness of a crowd that huddles around a bar drinking local beer next to the stage. I like a balcony. And the flicker of a dim blue light. And in a perfect world, if the experience of going “out” is to be truly amazing, I also need there to be good company and good music.

Monday night was it.

D was dreamy. The visuals were charming. The music was fantastic.

I am a poor critic of talent and sound. But Dawn Landes has one of those balmy, little girl voices that when paired with the harsher strum of a guitar (that she’s playing) make you want to gush with emotion. Quite beautiful, smooth, yet at times quirky delivery. And what is it about a woman in a little vintage red dress and strappy heels, playing a guitar that’s just so damn sexy? No doubt the image triggers my previous life. You see, I was a lounge singer that only wrote one hit tune and sadly performed a washed up show to a washed up audience night after night at some rundown bar in Center City. When I see women performers like Landes, it summons that old life of mine and makes me appreciate how hard the girl is working.

The Submarines were great as well. I was mesmerized by Blake Hazard’s ubiquitous smile. And gosh, she’s so bouncy and blond. Not to mention quite talented. Beautiful, tinny voice. Thing is, she was the band’s only source of energy (except the drummer, to an extent, who reminded me a bit of Animal from the Muppets. No joke). She’s bouncing around, smiling, cracking all these jokes, and yet her hubby never makes eye contact with her or cracks a smile. He’s just slumped over his guitar with this angst-ridden expression of deep preoccupation. Like, just do your job, honey and leave me alone. It made for a nice yin and yang. But I couldn’t help wonder how the hell she gets a rise out of this guy when they’re in bed at night (they are husband and wife). I imagine she’s the one on top.

I guess what felt best was that I was OK to watch the show and be silent. I’m not typically one to enjoy sitting (or standing, in this case) along side someone, facing out, watching something else that’s going on– a show, a band, a movie, a reading, staring at the decor on the walls… Someone did a study once and determined that men talk this way; side by side, facing something else (like someone else working), whereas women talk to each other face to face. I definitely feel the need to talk and listen and have that sort of exchange, face to face. But this was new and different and nice and comfy. I actually liked having someone by my side so that my senses were free to focus on the surround.

Anyway, the night was wonderful. It’s good to know that I am still seeing and experiencing the newness of life, still turned on by little things. I hope to never be desensitized. So many people I know have faded away. I did that for years, they say. It bores me now, they say. I just think of Blake Hazard’s smile and Dawn Landes’ voice and brushing indiscriminately against D’s blue jeans with my hip and I am awash with giddiness and life.

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