Experimentalist Podcast Writing Submission: Entry 009 / by Brandon Mitchell

"Nothing is like being alone and experiencing things. You can't immediately share that experience so you have to internalize it. It fills you with realness that you can't turn into a joke or an anecdote. It allows you to live." -- Ogle B Straight

I kind of wish I was playing right now. Instead of me sitting here listening. But no it’s great. Knowing that I’ve recorded this. However it is. Whatever it sounds like. I still put all of this together. I’m sure it’s easy for some and a pain in the ass for others. In the words of the spectacularly wonderful Lloyd Christmas -- I like it a lot.

A few wonderful things have been said over the past few weeks about the last couple episodes. I’m glad that it’s getting closer and closer to what I want to share. You gotta have an idea then look around at what you have and then use that to try to say what that idea is. First you gotta start to speak. You have to hear how far off from your own idea you are. The next part can get scary. You gotta sit there and deal with those differences. Then you start making decisions. Change some things, get better at things. Get closer to the original idea. I’ll often discover some interesting mistakes in myself. The things I’m afraid people will hear, those are the things I try to dwell on the longest. It may cause a little anxiety, but that shit don’t last. Anxiety always changes into something else. Bring on that change.

IT’S A BIT ODD going out by yourself. It feels like you have on a disguise. Feels like you’re in the way. Almost like a child, lost for a moment away from his mom.
    So, I went out to go to this WRIR party at The Renaissance Ballroom downtown Richmond. I caught the news about it on Facebook after working many hours converting video footage to Final Cut Pro. That process being tedious, solitary, at times frustrating, and seemingly never ending except for the time coming where my computer runs out of hard drive space. After I was finishing that for the day, I saw this post from a great Richmond musician and looper Dave Watkins. This WRIR event is not to be missed. It takes place in this 5 or 6 story building that’s part fancy event rooms and part condo/apartments. I know the RVA people will know all this, but I just want to get a little description in there for the out of town listeners. There are bands set up all over the place in all these different rooms. The ballroom has a big stage, lights, stairs that go up to a balcony where I think you can smoke indoors if you want to. Some of the smaller rooms are just the bands, no chairs or anything, you just stand or sit on the floor. It’s a cool local event. One that I don’t want to miss and it would be perfect after a day of transferring files and managing workflow.
    So, I get my things together and head downtown. I know it’s going to be packed around the Renaissance so I park several blocks away to save time instead of circling the building multiple times and ultimately coming to the conclusion that I’ve got to park several blocks away. On the walk over, I realize that it’s windy and cold as balls. I should have grabbed some gloves. Oh well.
    I’m approaching the building and remember that there’s a back door. Since it’s so cold I figure I’ll try that. I get to the door just as a man about my age wearing a nice suit looking very respectable is exiting. He holds the door for me. We exchange that passing nod that seems to say, “Hi. Howya doin’? Good? Good. Well. . .Take it easy.” I’m in and out of the wind and the place is quiet. This party is probably on the 3rd floor, but I assumed there would be people about. There would be some muffled noise coming through the floors. Some clues to lead me to this pretty big event.
    I’m moving slowly through the hall toward a giant staircase and the door behind me opens back up in a hurry. The man I just passed starts speaking in a loud, somewhat confident tone. “Oh, I have to set the alarm.” I nod again as if to say, “Okay.” He leaves again.
    I go to the third floor. It seems like the right place, but it’s locked. The lights are off. Nothing’s there. I try the 2nd floor. Those doors are open, but still no sign of an event. I start to feel as if I’m trespassing and then faintly in the distance I hear a beeping sound. It sounds like it’s coming from inside the walls or the floor. Is that the alarm that the guy set? What was he setting an alarm for? This is a condo too so shouldn’t it be open at all hours? Maybe it’s secured by an alarm at night unless you have a code to get in? But, more importantly, where’s this freaking party? What am I doing by myself wandering this empty building?
    I know that for a real person this would be easy to figure out - just get out the phone, check Facebook, find out if I came down here on the wrong day which I probably did, but I just got a new phone and I haven’t put in my password to Facebook so I can’t do that option. But, I can go online. I do that, google everything, for a few minutes even everything I’m looking at online is giving me information about this party: Where it’s at - here! What time - should be now. But, no date. What the funk fest? But, I do eventually find it and yeah...it’s tomorrow. I’m there about to go back out into the cold for another 15 minute walk thinking, “This is me. This is the type of thing that I do. Especially when I don’t have another person to check my situation for me. Someone to know what’s happening and helping me make sure I’m heading in the direction that I mean to. But, that’s just the thing. I can’t have that all the time. That life babysitter that I need to run my ideas past before I actually do them. And I can’t just sit around comfortable in my home avoiding making the mistakes that I for some reason naturally make.”
    Thoughts like these keep coming as I’m walking, almost with purpose, back to my car. Trying to appreciate the chill in air as it freezes my nose and lips. Trying at all costs to enjoy myself.  

LATER I FIND myself at Balliceaux before NO BS Brass Band is going to perform. Balliceaux is another hybrid location. Half restaurant - the front half - and the back half is a small music venue. Fits maybe around 100 people. The back half is closed for now. They won’t let people back there until show time. The bar up front is crowded just enough to where I would have to squeeze between people and their conversation to order a drink. So, for a while I hang back feeling a little out of place. Where do you stand in a place like this when you’re alone? Everyone in here has at least one other person they’re with. As the minutes move on, more groups start to arrive. The restaurant portion is getting packed with people and they keep getting taller and taller and louder. The wait staff is still trying to serve people who came in to eat and it seems like I’m the guy who’s always in their path. I’ve got no group, no conversation going to help me ignore these people trying to work and do their job, why am I even here? Oh yeah, to see this band.
    They are popular and this is what happens. The crowd is building. The band members stroll by every once in a while. Some other loner pushing through the crowd, like the waiters, head sort of down, horn case on their back, just trying to get through to do their thing, their job. No one seems to notice them even though they have gathered here to see them.
    I watch them go up the stairs into the back area where we are not allowed and for a second it seems like the coolest thing in the world. No ID, no money exchanging hands, no getting a black sharpie smiley face on the back of their hand, just a nod like the one I gave to that stranger in the Renaissance and they get through.
    At this point I move on through up to the bar and order a Bells Two-Hearted Ale and then continue to the front of the line. Standing there and waiting to get let in. Surrounded by strangers. Some of them alone like me and on their phones. I could get on mine too. Just peruse the internet or text a friend. Actually, I do shoot a text to Karsh McCabe. It says, “Word up.” He responds, “How’s it going?” I say, “Good. Weird. Good.” He says, “Yeah. Good. Damnit. Good.” It’s all an attempt to seem as though I’m not alone. I’m connecting with someone or something out there, but standing there and listening and looking and waiting to be let in to see this sweet band. . .it’s all pretty fun. Having someone or a group of people to share the night with. . .that’s awesome, but that’s also something else. Man, I’m still trying to process it. Just going out and doing something solo, it’s worth doing, just to see who you are and what you notice.
    The last thing to mention, I don’t know how I feel about it exactly. There was this moment as I was leaving the place where I ran into some truly great people that I respect. Reggie Pace and Lauren Serpa. A power couple in the Richmond scene. I don’t know them so well, personally at least. I just respect the shit out of them and just passing by saying ‘hey’ I opened up into a gush-fest of pure love and praise all in the matter of 30 seconds. It was a geyser of adulation dumping on their face. It was most likely a bi-product of being by myself, surrounded by so many people talking and being sociable and me just inundated with my own thoughts all night. Not that I didn’t mean the things I said, it was just a humorous outpouring that happened and then I ran the fuck out of there back into the cold for another long walk.
    And oh yeah, I had forgot where I parked, so the walk was really long and really damn cold.