Christmas Eve will find you

How’s this for a Christmas miracle? Last Friday, almost four months after the True Love Coffeehouse closed its doors, nearly 80 people gathered for the fourth annual True Love Christmas Eve show with Anton Barbeau and Kepi. The musical tradition (popular with families and even more popular with people escaping their families) found a home at Mother India, located at 1030 J Street.

The restaurant, which will host eight more “True Love in Exile” shows in January, is still getting its bearings as a live-music venue. Heat was lacking, and performers and spectators alike complained about the cold, when not complaining about what their parents had given them for Christmas. To avoid the harshness of Mother India’s fluorescent-lighting scheme, there were no lights on at all—apart from some Christmas lights strung around the stage. This looked festive but made reading the menu a challenge and led some would-be attendees to believe the place was closed. The restaurant also had only one harried waitress and no counter service for the standing-room-only crowd, which drastically lengthened the wait for the offerings on the special late-night menu: samosa platters, naan, wraps and chai.

The food was well worth it, however. The most expensive thing on the menu, a platter of delicious potato-filled samosas covered with spicy chana masala, was $4. Many items were only $2. Mother India could seriously challenge the night-owl eateries in this town, provided it brings in some help for that poor waitress!

But enough about the venue. What about the oft-mentioned true meaning of Christmas? In between jumping up and down for warmth, and playing tunes like “Please Sir I’ve Got a Wooden Leg” and “The Banana Song,” Barbeau did his best to spread the gospel onstage. “From what I hear,” he said, “Jesus was this kind of hippie guy who was like, ‘Love everybody, and oh, by the way, have some bread and fish.’” This summary was followed by an admission of his strong distaste for “The Christmas Shoes,” that maudlin carol about the child who wants new shoes for his dying mother so she’ll look pretty when she meets Jesus. In the endearingly incoherent style typical of his mid-set lectures, Barbeau capped off this religious exploration with “If you don’t call yourselves Christians, it’s because you’re not!”

Kepi and his country-rock band, the Haints, avoided the Jesus topic altogether by playing an original carol about Christmas on Mars, alongside Haints singles and Kepi standards. Kepi confessed that the band hadn’t played a show in six months, but this wasn’t evident in its sound. (A tribute to talented musicianship, or another Christmas miracle?)

By show’s end, it was clear that the true meaning of Christmas has less to do with wacky carols, delicious samosas or biblical paraphrasing than it does with coming together to celebrate the network of friends, family and artists who inspire you all year long. And even when Christmas, like your favorite coffeehouse, has passed, that spirit can be rekindled with a song, your friends and True Love.