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If you look hard enough, you can still find traces of former glory on Grace Street.

Good Times, Bad Bands

My head turned to the screaming and I saw a scuffle. Here I was on Grace Street, at only 8 p.m. and I was witnessing a near fight in front of Twisters. Much better than last weekend, the first time I came down to get an experience of a hot night on Grace.

I hadn't seen a thing that first Saturday. Not a peep. Nary a bum. Only two punked-out girls in front of Twisters wondering, like me, where everyone was. I gave up and went into Ipanema Café, a newer Grace Street establishment, where hipsters clink cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and dine on haute vegan cuisine. The bartender told me I was the fourth person to come in all night.

"Where is the human drama?" I thought as I stirred the ashtray. Where were the flashing blue lights? The drunk and laughing bar-hoppers? What happened to Kinko's? How would I write a story enticing people to a street of shoddy construction and flying trash?

The street where Springsteen rocked Richmond and XXX movies kept Puritans up at night with worry now, once the sun goes down, amounts to little more than a bar, a club and a tame strip joint.

Even the blight of the '80s and '90s is on the decline. With VCU keeping watch, the filth is a little less filthy, and the decay a little less smelly. The writing is not on the wall. There's less graffiti and more handsome storefronts. Even the decrepit old Jade Elephant building is getting a face-lift.

I was too early to expect much when I arrived the next Friday, but the scuffle in front of the hardcore show gave me hope for later as I made my way back into Ipanema to meet the photographer. We hung out for a while, then took a walk.

Grace Street was still abnormally quiet, but I was relieved to be panhandled three times (and spit at once) before we checked in on Twisters.

Manager Jerry Burd told us to hang back from the stage since the hardcore kids were getting aggressive. This was the only action we'd seen all night, so we dove in anyway.

Not for faint-hearted, the hardcore dancing was a full-on brawl of flying bodies, with kicks and punches doled out as fast as the lead singer screamed his lyrics. Finally, some entertainment.

Sweaty and tired, we decided to call it a night, convinced you can still find some fun on Grace Street. Even if it means listening to Pitboss

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