In the parlance of their parents’ times, they are “waiting for a miracle.” A good number of the young people loitering in front of the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond, Va., tonight are sitting patiently in their tie-dyed shirts or apron tops, holding one finger in the air. At a sporting event, this gesture would mean “We’re No. 1” or perhaps “Hot dog over here,” but in this context it signifies “I had neither the means nor the foresight to purchase a ticket to this event, and it would greatly benefit your karma should you deign to give or sell me one.” Elsewhere, some gyrating young women are honing their Hula Hoop skills, much to the distraction of the venue’s security guards, who completely ignore the flagrant scalping going on underneath their noses.
Inside, the theater is more opulent than P. Diddy’s bathroom, resplendent with heavy maroon curtains and gilded doodads sticking out from every wall. A curious haze hangs over the proceedings, especially curious since the Carpenter Center is a nonsmoking venue and no fog machines appear to be in use. Gentle people and fellow travelers greet one another in the aisles, exchanging hugs and sharing memories of summer festivals. A battalion of home tapers is bivouacked in the balcony; newsletters on chairs make reverent references to mystical crap such as the “djembe birds of the borderline.”