The evening began inside Comfort, a familiar restaurant that rests at the intersection of North Jefferson and Broad Street. The sun would not be setting for at least another hour and there was only a slight suggestion of the inundation of people that would soon descend onto the streets and sidewalks beyond the large windows of the restaurant. Soon, the slow trickle of pedestrian traffic would collectively progress into the busiest night of the month for the restaurants and galleries of downtown.
Over the last decade, the First Fridays Art Walk has grown to become one of the most prominent art and cultural events in Richmond. Originally comprised of nine venues in Downtown Richmond, First Fridays now champions over 30 diverse venues ranging from art galleries, incredible dining, and musical performances. The Art Walk is an occasion for routine celebration and the festive atmosphere truly encapsulates the energy of the city.
Outside of a gallery, a jazz quartet plays for a growing audience as the sound of a trumpet blares into the night. Later in the evening, the pedestrian traffic at the Art Walk begins to noticeably subside and we head over to the Camel [a local restaurant and music venue] to catch the closing set from Black Girls. Maintaining a First Friday residency at the venue, Black Girls are one of Richmond’s most popular bands and manages to infuse elements of Southern rock and funk into their high-energy sets.
Before taking the stage, Stephen Farris, the bands drummer, backing vocalist, and lyricist took a moment to sit down with us and talk about his experiences playing in Black Girls:
How long has the band been playing together?
This winter it will be two years as far as being together as Black Girls, but a few of us have been playing together in Richmond since 2007. We all have lived together in one house or another over the years. I feel that this is our main attribute as a band; being friends already has lead to an easier creative process.
Do you feel like the audience reciprocates the energy that you all give while performing?
Playing in Richmond is nice because every time we play, people show up, dance, and have a good time. When this happens, it really sets the pace for us. I just started noticing that within the past couple of months. It’s still strange but obviously flattering that people have listened to our CD or have been to enough of our shows to learn the lyrics and actually want to sing-along.
Was there ever a moment when you all realized your growing popularity within Richmond?
What really helped was not long after we started playing shows around Richmond, Chris Bopst from Balliceaux [a Richmond restaurant and music venue] was the first music booker to give us a chance. We were probably terrible at the time but at least earnest. He maybe saw something in us, and then we were voted “Best Band in Richmond” in Style Weekly’s annual Best Of issue. After that, we started having a variety of age groups attend our shows and we became exposed us to a greater number of people.
Are there any bands that you all collectively look up to?
Since we were all good friends from the beginning, we were all listening to a lot of the same music that influenced our song writing. We are spreading our interest now and getting more into soul and funk inspired artists. We’ve always accredited Steely Dan as the first band that we put on and we all said that we should try to do something like that –not that we’ve been able to achieve that.
The conclusion of the Black Girls set was a great ending to an eventful night. First Fridays is held every first Friday of the month and for more information on the event, please visit the First Fridays website as well as the monthly Richmond event’s Facebook page. Also, “Like” Black Girls Facebook page to keep updated on upcoming shows and releases.
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