For The Most Part

For the most part, I can say that I am happy with my life. But, there’s that qualifier, ‘For the most part…’ I know I have many friends who, if I needed to call on at 3am to help with any sort of situation, those friends would be there to help and/or rescue me. I know that is no small thing, and I am lucky in that respect. Thinking back, I don’t really know if my dad had friends like that whom he could call on in a pinch. He had dozens of coworkers he shared time with, but it wasn’t until he met his second wife that he found a friend, a true confidant and someone he knew he could trust implicitly. As tumultuous as my relationship was with my dad during those last five years of his life, I was happy he found someone.

Last month, my dear friend Steve Schneider posted this on his Facebook page:

‘Some of the finest, most attractive people I know are not only single, but quite despondent and disillusioned over it. And they have a right to be. I just don’t get this world sometimes.’

After reading it, I wrote the following reply in less than a minute:

I’m not despondent, but I am now resigned and accepting of the fact that coupledom probably won’t happen for me. Do I wish it were in the cards? Yes, but I also would rather be single than be in a relationship that was toxic or unrewarding. Disillusioned? Yeah, that fits most days.

And don’t tell me ‘There’s someone for everyone.’ That’s not true, as much as I would like to believe it.

I thought that was the end of it, but soon after I hit ‘Post’ I kept thinking of other things to say on the topic. I have never been one to wish that my life were different. Times may get tough and there may be some hard days, but more often than not, I am very happy with my life. I work from home, which I like, and I do my best to go out to shows and movies, if for no other reason than to avoid becoming a hermit. So, I really hope this doesn’t read like I am whining or complaining about the current state of things, because I am not. It’s more or less a recent observation that I have come to see very clearly.

I used to be so optimistic when it came to relationships and dating. All through my twenties if a relationship crashed and burned, I would take stock, but I always thought, eventually I would find ‘the person I’m supposed to be with.’ I know now that whole mentality is a myth.

At one point, a long time ago, I thought I had hit the jackpot. She was smart, gorgeous, kind, and upon seeing her for the first time she literally stopped me in my tracks, to the point where my internal dialogue while I made small talk was ‘Don’t be an idiot. Don’t fuck this up….don’t be an idiot.’ We lived in different cities, but my confidence in the belief that she was ‘The One’ had me ready to move to where she was, give up television and red meat. If that’s what it took, I was willing to do that.

That chapter never happened. She decided, when I finally asked her directly, that we were best as ‘never lovers, ever friends’ (although she didn’t quote that lyric directly, that’s how I processed it, because music lyrics are my filter for dealing with real life). The end of that fantasy, and that’s all it ever really was, a fantasy, was when my optimism disappeared. I no longer sought out relationships, telling myself, ‘If it happens, it happens,’ but truthfully having no enthusiasm for opening myself up like that again for fear of getting hurt. The real pain of that relationship not working out shaped every future decision I made.

I crafted that reply to Steve’s post on Facebook almost as a defense. No I am not nor have I ever been despondent about the current state of my social life, but yes, disillusioned fits, and that emotion is tied primarily to not having someone in my life that I can tell anything and everything to, from the big hopes and dreams to the little daily minutia that we deal with every day. I’ve never had that relationship where I see someone every day and know I can trust them to ‘have my back’ when necessary. That’s what I feel like I am missing, and while I like my life, I do get incredibly lonely.

I had a medical scare last fall, and it was while I was processing the myriad of possible outcomes, all the while keeping up a brave public face, that I found myself ready to scream. I was brutally honest about things with my core group of friends that I have known for almost 30 years, but that was all done on the phone or text. It was necessary and appreciated, and I do love my friends, but when I would try to sleep at night, it was during those hours where I literally ached for someone.

I know that if things on this front are going to change, I have to be the one to change them. I say that also knowing that my time is pretty much accounted for between a 40-hour work week and being a caretaker for my mom. That’s the priority now. I understand and accept that. I am used to the routine and, more often that not I don’t mind it.

The likelihood of me being single for the remainder of my life is probably very high, and, as I have said before in other posts on this blog, most of the time, that’s a proposition that I am perfectly content with. But on those rare nights when I feel alone, the emptiness of singledom hits hard, and it hurts.

Why am I writing this? I’m not sure. I just know that my visceral reaction and immediate response to what I read on Steve’s page broke a dam that led to me writing out nine pages in hurried longhand as I tried to process why exactly I feel the way I do.

One Christmas, when that core group of high school friends would gather every year to exchange gifts, drink and play board games until dawn, the then new girlfriend of one of my best friends opened the gift I bought her. She opened it and was astonished that I had gotten ‘the right gift’ after only having her as the newest member of our ‘group’ for a few months.

‘You are going to be someone’s perfect boyfriend one day,’ she said as she hugged me.

‘I know,’ I said matter of factly.

One day.


John Cleese Taunts Richmond a Second Time [11.10.17]

I’ll be honest; when tickets went on sale in June for an appearance by John Cleese that included a screening of the film ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ I was on the fence. I had seen Cleese along with fellow Python member Eric Idle in 2015, performing together and answering questions in what became a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. And tickets for The Holy Grail evening were close to $100 face value (over $100 with fees), so I was not certain that the evening would be worth it.

But the more I thought about it I told myself, ‘Remember back in 2004 when you were stunned that Eric Idle stopped in RVA on his solo tour? And you were floored that any member of Python would bother to stop in Richmond for any length of time?’ So the fact that a) John Cleese would be coming to the city where I live for the second time in two years, and b) He’ll be dead soon (as he admitted on stage) led me to buy a ticket for a film that I already own and have seen over one hundred times.

I thought I bought my ticket to see John, and trust me, he was great, but the true star and biggest surprise of the evening was the 4K Ultra-HD Digital Transfer of the film. I seriously doubt that the film looked that clean and vibrant when it premiered in 1975. I sat there in my fourth-row center seat completely in awe of how truly beautiful this film now is as a piece of ‘cinema.’ Yes, it’s silly, yes it’s absurd and yes the ending is horrible, but it is now truly majestic in its depiction of the times of King Arthur and his ‘English Kni-iiiiiiiiigh-its’

Soon after the film concluded, the house lights rose and Cleese’s daughter Camila walked onstage and announced that the interviewers on the previous leg of the tour were far too nice, so she was brought along to ‘get the dirt.’ She welcomed her dad and Cleese promptly announced that the movie we had all just seen wasn’t nearly as good as its followup, ‘Life of Brian.’ He’s right, ‘Brian’ is a better film, it was just a surprise to hear the star attraction admitting as much.

Over the next hour, Cleese lovingly berated all other members of Python. At one point he cracked himself up almost to the point of choking while telling the audience ‘You [Americans] elected someone [to the presidency] who has never read a book!!’ After collecting himself, he finished the thought, adding, ‘Now, if we’d written that ten years ago, Hollywood would’ve said ‘Yeah it’s funny, but it’s not believable.’

The kindest most sincere words of the evening were, not surprisingly said about his former writing partner in Python, Graham Chapman, whom Cleese said ‘became totally divorced from reality around 1968 and never returned.’ But, he said, Chapman’s greatest asset was as a sounding board and that ‘if Graham laughed, I knew I had something that would make the audience laugh.’ After that comment, the two Cleese’s left the stage while a film clip from Chapman’s 1989 memorial service was shown, where Cleese delivered a truly uproarious and fitting eulogy.

The 2014 Monty Python Reunion was momentous, and I’m very glad it stayed in England and didn’t have a US leg. That brief run of shows was a lovely way for them to make up and say ‘Thank you’ and ‘Goodbye’ at the same time. Michael Palin prefers to make travel programs, Terry Gilliam is a director, Terry Jones is ill and silenced by dementia, it’s possible though unlikely that Eric Idle would tour the US again, so this tour by Cleese, even though most of the evening was spent watching a film, was a way for Richmond’s Monty Python fans to say ‘Thank you’ to John and his comrades for for almost fifty years of laughs, which made for a truly wonderful evening.


Foo Fighters Rock RVA

For the last ten years at least, perhaps longer, I have heard many very smart people who work in the music business proclaim with certainty that ‘Rock Music Is Dead!’ It had been replaced by ultra-slick, auto-tuned productions that strived for perfection, but in that pursuit had lost its soul.

‘Rock is dead. The passion is gone. It will never be the same.’

Dave Grohl and his band Foo Fighters obviously never got the message because, on Saturday night they offered a three-hour set of blistering hard rock as testament that Rock and Roll is Alive and Well!

It was something quite wonderful to behold.

Photo by author

Supporting their latest effort, ‘Concrete and Gold’, which was represented well in the evening’s set list, the band took the nearly sold out Richmond Coliseum crowd on a trip through the band’s 20+ year career, playing some songs that had not been played live in a very long time, along with the ones you expect to hear, and even a few that even surprised Dave and the band.


‘I say tonight we play songs from every album…so there ain’t much time for talkin’,’ Dave announced to the crowd three songs in. In fact, the songs didn’t stop and Dave didn’t say ‘Hi’ to the audience until they were done playing ten straight songs, almost nonstop. This was my first Foo Fighters show, so while I had seen Dave interviewed and seen some performances on television, I did not know that he basically turns into Animal from the Muppets on stage; a frantic head banging, hair flying maniac.

The featured songs from the new record translate to the stage well, especially ‘Run’ and ‘The Sky Is a Neighborhood’, the latter of which heavily features a trio of female lead singers, brought along on tour to add harmony vocals. I am happy to see on subsequent shows that most of the new material is still being played, although the title track, which was part of an epic 45 minute encore, as of this writing, has not been played since making its live debut Saturday.

Photo courtesy of Brian Hall

Another moment that appears to be a ‘Richmond Exclusive’, since we were the first arena stop on the tour, is drummer Taylor Hawkins’ lead vocal spotlight on a cover of Queen’s ‘I’m In Love With My Car.’ Dave asked the crowd if they liked the song being part of the show, saying they added it since the song inspired Hawkins to be a drummer and a singer. It was a neat moment, but with such a large catalog, I am sure most fans would have rather heard another deep cut from the Foos as opposed to a cover.

After the band left the stage the first time, we all knew they were coming back for an encore. There was a camera backstage that showed Dave urging the crowd to get louder and putting up one finger as if to ask ‘You wanna hear one more?’ Then he put up two, then three and eventually five fingers before finally taking the stage again to play what would indeed be an unforgettable encore.

When the Foo Fighters first hit the scene in the mid-nineties, I liked them, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I liked their songs when I heard them on the radio or when I saw a video on MTV (Although I did get sick of ‘Big Me’ when it seemed to be coming out of every radio speaker), but I didn’t own any records by them. Then I saw the documentary ‘Sound City’ in which Dave chronicles the history of the infamous LA recording studio, and soon after I saw that, I watched the HBO series ‘Sonic Highways’, which featured the band visiting eight US cities and writing and recording a song in each city. It was after that series concluded that I immediately bought the ‘Sonic Highways’ record and made it a point that, the next time Foo Fighters were anywhere close, I would check them out.

I mention all of this because, even though I have delved into the back catalog of the band, ‘Sonic Highways’ remains my favorite and, while I did not expect to hear a majority of that record on Saturday, I was ecstatic to hear two songs specifically. ‘Something From Nothing’, which kicks off the ‘Sonic Highways’ record was featured early in the set (and that song was when I took my glasses off, stowed them away in my pocket and decided to headbang like I was eighteen again, at least for a few songs).


As headbanging almost always is for me, it was a very cathartic moment.


Later, in the midst of that long encore, after already playing four songs and blowing past the 11:30pm noise ordinance curfew, there was a pause on stage and then Dave said, ‘Watch this! I’m gonna surprise the band!’ He then tore into the opening riff to ‘Congregation’ which is, without question my favorite song from the ‘Sonic Highways’ project, and it may be my favorite song by the band, period. The band quickly joined in, and we were off on one of my favorite concert moments in a very long time. 

The Congregation (Courtesy of Brian Hall)

To me, the song crystalizes how music can be at times as moving and as important as one’s religion or faith. I’ve always had a problem with ‘organized religion’, and some may find it offensive to compare such a secular activity to a religion, or use the word ‘faith’ when talking of music, but in my life, in some of my darkest hours, music has been the one thing that has kept me afloat and helped me see that, even when I was in seemingly insurmountable pain, I could get through it. 
Some lyrics:

Send in the congregation

Open your eyes, step in the light

A jukebox generation

Just as you were

And you need blind faith

No false hope

Do you have blind faith?

No false hope

Where is your blind faith?

No false hope

Open your eyes, open your eyes

Step into the light

Open your eyes, step into the light

I’m grateful they played ‘Congregation’, and I’m now aware that Richmond really did get a very special show. The following night, the encore was much shorter, and ‘Congregation’ has not been played. If this show ends up being the only show where it’s performed (along with probably Nashville, the city that inspired it), then I count myself lucky to have been there. 

Seeing the hordes of sweaty fans on the floor, sharing the experience of this show, it reminded me again that Rock is not dead, and, if you catch the right moment, you can even see Rock thrive in 2017.

The Foo Fighters rocked, and they rocked hard for three hours, and in doing so, they singlehandedly restored my faith in the power of Rock, and the power of music.

So, if they play anywhere close to where you live…GO! You won’t be sorry!


Setlist from



I’ll Stick Around

Learn to Fly

The Pretender

The Sky Is a Neighborhood

Something From Nothing



(Extended outro; with drum solo at the end)

Sunday Rain

My Hero

These Days

Let It Die

(First time live since 4/ 3/12)

All My Life

Enough Space

White Limo


Times Like These

(Solo into full band)


Make It Right

I’m in Love With My Car

(Queen cover) (Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals)

Skin and Bones

Jump / Fat Bottomed Girls

(Played during band intros)

Monkey Wrench

Best of You


Dirty Water

This Is a Call

La Dee Da


(First time in the US since 5/ 7/14)


Concrete and Gold

(Live debut)


 Thank you for reading


‘The Last Five Years’ at TheatreLab is Mesmerizing; Not To Be Missed

This weekend I had the pleasure of witnessing a bit of magic right here in town at Richmond’s TheatreLab Basement.

Production Photography by Tom Topinka

Christie Jackson and Alexander Sapp as Cathy and Jamie [Production Photography by Tom Topinka courtesy of TheatreLab’s Facebook page]

Jason Robert Brown’s musical ‘The Last Five Years’ is one of the most unique pieces of theatre to be produced in the last twenty years. Instead of lavish sets and a ‘cast of thousands,’ the play is simply a series of monologues-in-song, alternately performed by the play’s only two characters, Jamie and Cathy. In this production, which is a partnership between TheatreLab and Yes, And! Entertainment, ambitious young writer Jamie is portrayed by Alexander Sapp, while Christie Jackson is struggling actress Cathy.


What sets this work apart from your usual ‘boy meets girl’ musical is that the characters tell the story of their relationship from meeting to marriage to divorce, but they tell it from opposite ends. The very first number, ‘Still Hurting’ shows Cathy at the end of the relationship, in pain and in pieces. That Jackson is able to immediately grab the audience and hold them in her hand as she crumbles in front of them is awe inspiring. Lest you think it’s a complete downer, the very next song ‘Shiksa Goddess’ brings us Jamie just as he’s met Cathy. Sapp bounces along the minimal stage, smiling ear to ear, possessed with the youthful exuberance that the potential of a new relationship brings. Throughout the show, each person tells their story from their point of view with almost no interaction with the other performer.

The Basement performance space is very intimate: about 40 seats, a barren wood plank stage with two benches. Even though the space is sparse, the audience is captivated by a fantastic piano and string ensemble (directed by John-Stuart Faquet), a masterful score, nuanced stage direction from Chelsea Burke, expert lighting, and most importantly, two stupendous actors who move from joy and humor to heartbreak and sadness with a smooth effortlessness that is a wonder to witness.

I urge you to go see this show. You’ll be supporting great local theatre, you’ll see a truly mesmerizing performance, and, as you watch Jamie and Cathy on the carousel that is their relationship, you’ll undoubtedly see a bit of yourself in those two characters.

This engagement will sell out, so I advise you to purchase your seats before they’re all gone. The run resumes Thursday September 28 and plays every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night through October 14, Now EXTENDED thru Saturday October 28! All shows start at 8pm, seats are general admission and are $30.


Don’t miss it, because I assure you, this production will be talked about long after the final bows have been taken. It is that good, and it is that memorable, so go…be ‘a part of that.’

Adam Ant Reminds Us ‘Ridicule Is Nothing To Be Scared Of’

Wednesday night (09.20), Adam Ant brought his ‘ANTHEMS’ Tour to The National, and as promised, the evening was a wonderful flashback to the 80’s and the early days of MTV. More than that, though, the night was a testament to a performer who has survived the height of 80’s success (and excess), battled mental illness, and come out the other side. Perhaps he was surprised to find his fans were waiting for him when he returned to the recording studio after a 17 year hiatus in 2013? Whatever the reason, this tour is a celebratory nod to the past, and it’s also undeniable proof that Ant (real name Stuart Goddard) still has ‘It’; that star quality charisma that demands you watch him (and only him) as he commands the stage. 

Wearing a cowboy hat in lieu of his trademark pirate garb, and clad head to toe in black leather, Ant opened the show with a song originally only available on the cassette version of 1980’s ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’, the punk-tinged ‘Beat My Guest’, played at such a fast tempo that it was almost a thrash number, daring a mosh pit to materialize. For the first twenty minutes, each song came without a break for a breath; ‘Vive Le Rock’, ‘Dog Eat Dog’, ‘Friend of Foe.’ It wasn’t until about the sixth or seventh song in the set when Ant stopped to say ‘Hello Richmond’ and acknowledge the crowd, mainly so everyone onstage and in attendance could catch their breath.


The biggest cheers of the night came when the two biggest US singles were featured toward the end of the set, ‘Strip’ and ‘Goody Two Shoes’, which were both MTV staples throughout the early 80’s, and a blistering version of ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’; but as the opening number proved, Ant isn’t adverse to throwing in a deep cut (‘Greta X; ‘B-Side Baby’) to keep things interesting for the longtime diehard fans.


As Goddard approaches his sixty-third birthday, he appears the happiest and healthiest of his entire career, which is a wonderful triumph. I admit that I bought a ticket to this show only because the tour was called ‘Anthems’ and I knew I would hear ‘the old songs,’ but after seeing Adam Ant in concert one time, I will see him next time and every time he’s nearby, even if the setlist is full of songs I don’t know. In this age of carbon copy bands, it was a pleasure to witness a pop pioneer proving he’s still at the top of his game, a bit older and a lot wiser.


Set list (courtesy of

Beat My Guest

Vive Le Rock

Dog Eat Dog

Apollo 9

Friend or Foe


Room at the Top

Desperate But Not Serious



Young Parisians

Prince Charming

Gotta Be a Sin

Puss ‘n Boots

Can’t Set Rules About Love

Christian D’or


Kings of the Wild Frontier

Greta X

B-Side Baby

Stand and Deliver


Goody Two Shoes

Lady/Fall In

Red Scab

Physical (You’re So)



‘Food, Clothing, & Shelter’ a Wonderful Surprise 

‘We know…it’s a show.’ 

Richmond writer Bo Wilson’s latest creation, ‘Food, Clothing, & Shelter’ is anything but the ‘typical theatre going experience.’ For starters, it’s staged at The Firehouse Theatre, a local space that I have always had a soft spot for because it is able to be funky, inviting and intimate all at once, which suits this production perfectly. As you enter the building and grab a program, you are greeted by ‘circus freaks’— A man with a boa constrictor around his neck, a woman doing hula hoop tricks and a man offering a game of three card monte. Within seconds, you know that this will not be a ‘typical’ evening. It’s an exercise in ‘Immersion Theatre’ where the audience and cast have the chance to interact. For some theatergoers, this may seem awkward or uncomfortable. Even if you fall into that category, don’t let that stop you from seeing this show while you can.   

It’s 1927 and as the play opens, The Yankee Doodle Circus Train has derailed and left its passengers stranded in the very small town of Vinton, Indiana. Over three scenes, the circus folk interact with the townspeople in hopes of obtaining food, clothing and shelter for the penniless troop.

The results are at times hilarious, sweet, and deeply moving.

The cast, which includes Kirk Morton, Frank Creasy, Foster Solomon, Keisha Wallace, Rebecca Turner and Donna Marie Miller along with many other ‘roustabouts’, is able to convey in three scenes how we are all more alike than we are different and, no matter if you’re from Small Town, America or a passenger on The Circus Train, all of us are, in our unique way, freaks, trying to find our way and gain acceptance.
I could write a lot more about this play, but I don’t want to give anything away and, more importantly, I want you to go see it! I will simply say that I did not have any idea what to expect as I walked in, and by the time of the final bows, I was deeply moved, knowing I had seen something that I will carry with me for a very long time.


You can see eveing shows at 7:30 on Wednesday, September 13 thru Friday, September 15 and then your last chance to catch it is a Sunday matinee at 3:00pm on the 17th. You might be hesitant, because it’s different, but trust me. Go see this show.

You can thank me later.


Happily, forever a freak….


Old Friends

I have been lucky to have had a group of friends that I have kept in touch with for over 25 years. At some point in the mid-1990s, the group was named ‘The Hearts Club’ because a rotating group of us would meet at my house in Midlothian to play Hearts. That group always included Patrick, Kurt, Tony and myself. Sometimes Jenne and Becca would join in. I remember one all night Hearts contest where, instead of the usual ‘penny/nickel pot’,  we bet ‘care packages’ instead (since Kurt, Jenne, Becca and Tony were in their freshman year of college; I think I still owe Becca about a dozen or so care packages from that evening!). 
When Patrick announced in the spring that he was getting married, I was thrilled – happy for him and his bride Cecelia, but equally happy at the prospect of seeing friends I had not seen for far too long. It seemed the last few times members of ‘The Hearts Club’ had gathered, it was for a funeral, so I could not wait to be able to gather, drink and laugh.


The bride was beautiful. The groom was handsome. The preacher quoted Jackie Wilson (!) and compared the groom to an ‘erotic leaping gazelle.’ The transportation was free. The bar was open (!), the food outstanding…but most of all, being able to catch up with the people that I count as my dearest friends, who have come to my rescue on more than one occasion, and with whom I have spent many an hour lost in conversation over thousands of cups of diner coffee, that was what made this weekend one that will be remembered for a very long time.


Here are some pictures. To Tony, Jesi, Josh and Justin, who were not able to attend: You were missed and thought of throughout the evening.

The Happy Couple: Cecelia & Patrick


Mother of the groom, Pauline, and Patrick

Kurt and Patrick

The author

Matty K. and John P. A seating snafu combined them into one ‘person’: Matt Powers

Having a free night with little to do, Obama showed up, pictured here with Kurt and Valeria

Ethan, 44, Kerry, Sean and myself

All smiles: Matty, Becca and me

The Gang: Front (L to R): Valeria, Becca, Jenne, Kerry; Back (L to R): Sean, Me, Kurt, Patrick, John, Matty, Ethan


All of those pictures were taken at the reception, which took place at the very cool and funky antique store Material Culture. As the clock struck 11pm, the entire group, all at varying levels of inebriation, boarded a trolley back to the hotel and then within thirty minutes, the After Party began in Becca and Matty’s hotel room. The pictures below were taken there. Please note all were (at least somewhat) Intoxicated. Including the photographer.  

Kerry, in, as Ethan described, ‘full sleepover mode.’

Patrick and Jenne, holding a blurry bag of chips

I think at this point, Patrick had no idea where he was or what he was saying.

On three, everyone LEAN!!!

It was a wonderful, memorable weekend. Here’s hoping it’s not too long before we all gather again, to smile, drink and laugh. 
Love always,  Barry