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Melvin Seals & JGB at The NorVA – Norfolk, VA

Melvin Seals and JGB the NorVA

One of the perks of being an educator is Spring Break.  Granted, I did spend a good chunk of it grading student assignments, planning lessons, working on my research, and responding to e-mails from students and administrators, but I also did a few things I don’t normally do.  Like a matinee showing of Green Book on a Wednesday.  And the exploration of restaurants I don’t normally go to, like Viking Burger and Chihuahua’s.  And tonight, a midweek show, a rarity during the school year.

Gary, Maggie, and I spent about 45 minutes battling through the rush hour traffic on I-64 and its back roads in Hampton.  This included about 10 minutes stopped at a railroad crossing 0.2 miles from our meeting spot in Norfolk while the freight train ambled its way through.

We met with Mark, Rusty, and Rusty’s friend MJ (who I would send my blog and as a result, be my friend) at Cogan’s Pizza in Ghent, a hip section of Norfolk.  I was psyched to learn they had slices for a dollar.  Coming from New York, I’m a pizza snob, and the slices were a far cry from LaGondola’s (Ramsey, NJ) Tarantella’s (Nyack, NY) or Roma’s (Delancey Street, Lower East Side, NYC), but they were edible just the same.  The calamari and mozzarella sticks our table shared added to the culinary experience.

We arrived at 7:30, the show start time.  Apparently, they took down the sign on the door that said, “No underage drinking or illegal drug use,” thus implying that if you’re of age, you can use illegal drugs. I asked the dude selling merch if there was an opening guest.  He said, “No, just an Evening with Melvin Seals & JGB” (doesn’t that sound like there should be a doily-adorned table with tea and crumpets toward the back?).  Anyway, I said to a nearby Gary, “No Special Guest playing.”  “They’re quite busy,” Gary replied.  Of course, I could come to the conclusion that Melvin Seals & JGB are the special guests, so I yelled, “Special Guest!” a couple of times, much to the entertainment of Mark and Maggie.  Maggie even yelled it toward the end of the night.

Suffice to say, I was blown away by the show.  Melvin Seals is an incredible keyboard player.  Songs I recognized included “They Love Each Other,” “Don’t’ Let Go” (which I had actually heard performed by String Cheese Incident before hearing JGB play it), “Bird Song” (accompanied by one of the female backup singers playing a flute), “Brown-Eyed Woman,” “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” (with a reggae beat), and Maggie’s favorite, “St. Stephen,” which I was hoping would be followed by a transition to “The Eleven,” a la late 60s Dead, but you can’t have everything.  They closed with Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).”  Other covers included what I saw as a tease to Cat Stevens’s “Peace Train” and a nice jam on Van Morrison’s “Moondance.” 

Conversations that occurred: Maggie taking a picture with our friend Morgan, posting it to Facebook, and asking me if she should write “Deadheads Unite” or “Deadheads United.”  Much like I do with my students when they have a writing question, I asked her what message she was trying to convey.  She replied, “we’re united as Deadheads.”  It would be “Deadheads United,” I said.  “When you say ‘Unite’ in that context, you’re giving a command.”  Writing nerds unite!

Morgan hung with us during the set.  She essentially all but held a poster of Donna the Buffalo’s upcoming show in Virginia Beach in trying to convince me to go.  It’s a hard decision between that and Skydog, a rockin’ Allman Brothers tribute, playing a two-minute walk from my house, particularly on a day I’m heading back from a conference in Washington, DC.  But she sent some video links to my Facebook, and I was sold.  Like I tell my students, sometimes the evidence can just speak for itself when you make an argument.

I ran into Chelsea (whom it took me a second to recognize with glasses), Ashley (who had been wrapped in an invisibility cloak the last couple of shows we were at), Keith (who recently informed Facebook of a possible Dead & Company show at the Mothership), and James (lead singer of Blind & Dirty, one of the groups that got me back into the sense).

After the show, we stopped by a 7-11 to get me some caffeine for the drive home.  Maggie saw a Baja jacket, asked us if she thought it would look good on her, and in my mind, there was no better match between woman and jacket.  The rainbows made her wonder if it gave a Gay Pride message.  Gary and I thought, “Well, I wasn’t thinking that, but if it helps…” 

Maggie’s assessment of the show, “Best this year!”   I concur, but next week, it may be topped by Widespread Motherfucking Panic, a Special Guest for the ages.  Stay tuned…

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