Musings and Eats with Mikey

Musing #79
June 20, 2011, 6:36 pm
Filed under: Music, Musing

“the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” – Mark Twain

So I have returned from a short trip to San Francisco.  The main purpose of the trip was the Asian Man Records 15 Year Anniversary Festival, a celebration of a record label that has been very important to the underground music scene during the past two decades.  I took the trip with my good friends Stu and Grant.  While we were up there, we also had some time to explore the city and hang out with some old friends.

We rolled into town, over the Bay Bridge, around 10pm, and made our way to the Bernal Heights neighborhood, the place where we would be staying for the next few days.  After we got settled, we went out to a local bar called Knockout to have a few drinks and catch some live music.  Of particular interest was a singer/songwriter named St. Christopher, from Lincoln Nebraska.  He played some aggressive blues rock with a stomp box (sort of in the vein of Mike Ness).  His songs were very typical, but his showmanship was great, and it made for an entertaining night.  The next morning, we got up, ate some breakfast, and then went for a hike up Bernal Hill.  When we reached the peak, we could see the entire city.  It was pretty epic.

After the hike, we meet with our old friend Matt and headed for the Sutra Bath House Ruins.  From what I understand, Sutra Bath House was a giant public swimming pool that was destroyed in the earlier 20th century by either a fire or earthquake (don’t remember exactly).  The ruins of the bath house remain and you can walk around on them.  It was a pretty cool little adventure of exploration.

That night we attended the first of three shows that we planned to attend which were part of the festival (I think there were a total of 10 shows).  Our old friend Mike met up with us and we headed to Slims, the venue.  Now Mike, Matt, and Grant used to play in a band with me back in high school called Better Off Dead.  We used to all go to shows together all the time back in those days (listening to Asian Man Records bands and such).  This was the first time we had gotten together in the same place in nearly 10 years, so it was pretty cool little reunion of our own, and it was kind of a funny how after about an hour together, it felt like no time had passed.  That night’s show was the biggest of all the shows, because Mike Park was able to get the infamous Slapstick to reunite for this one night only.  But first the show start with one of Mike Park’s bands, The Chinkees.  Back in the day, The Chinkees only played 5 shows in America (most of their shows were overseas in Asia for some reason) and we were all lucky enough to attend one of those five shows.  Anyway, it was fun to see the band again, with their organ driven punk ska sound.  Halfway through the set, a drunken Matt Skiba (singer of Alkaline Trio) got up on stage and danced with Mike Park through a cover of Operation Ivy’s “Bankshot”.  The band sounded pretty good for not having played in 9 or so years, but it was clear that they had not played these songs in a long time.  Next up was Mu330, who have been defunct for the past 5 or so years.  We had seen these guys a number of times back in the day, and that night they sound tighter then ever as they played through a set of fan favorites.  It was a lot of fun seeing them again.   Next up was the band that everyone had come to see, Slapstick.  Slapstick, from Chicago, existed from about 1993-1996, and members of the band have gone on to be in bands like Alkaline Trio (Dan Andriano) and the Lawrence Arms (Brendan Kelly).  Like many in attendance that night, the band had broken up before I had ever had a chance to see them, so this was a real treat.  After a short wait, the band took the stage and ripped right into their first song.  The band sounded tight, with very minimal mistakes.  Clearly they had rehearsed for this reunion and were taking it seriously (even if Brendan Kelly, the singer, kept making fun of how immature the lyrics to the songs were).  The show went off without a hitch, with the exception of a drunken Matt Skiba stumbling on stage and saying a few inappropriate things (see below), and the band played the majority of their 25 song discography.  All in all, it was an awesome night, getting to see bands I used to love as a teen and getting to hang with the friends I used to go to show with back in those days.

Slapstick – drunken Matt Skiba/ 74 Fullerton

After staying up all night the night before, we got moving around 11am and had a little breakfast at the Squat and Gobble (I recommend the chorizo burrito).  After eating, Grant and I ventured to the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate park to check a new exhibition on Picasso.  It was a very nice and expansive exhibit, with over 110 pieces that ranged through all different parts of Picasso’s career.  I’m glad I got to see it, and it gave me an excuse to go hang out in Golden Gate park.  After a light dinner of sushi, we headed to Thee Parkside to see Slow Gherkin play a reunion show.  When we got to the show, Monkey was just finishing their set.  Next up was Unsteady from San Diego (I believe this was a reunion for them, but I don’t know enough about them to confirm this).  They were alright, their songs all kind of sound the same to me, but they did play the one song of theirs that I really like (“Bad Attitude”).  After Unsteady finished, Buck O Nine took the stage.  Another band I used to listen to back in the day, and it was fun seeing them play.  After that, Slow Gherkin got ready to play.  Now back in high school, we used to see Slow Gherkin every time they came town (they are from Santa Cruz, but Orange County sort of became a second home to them).  They broke up about ten years ago and I have missed them, as they used to put on the most energetic live show of any band I have seen.  They blasted on to the stage with “Slaughterhouse” and the crowd went crazy.  Suddenly I was thrown back into a moment, something I hadn’t seen or felt in a long time, like seeing an old friend for the first time in a long time.  It was like it was ten years earlier, nothing had changed.  There is just a certain energy that this band brings to the live show that makes you have to dance and just have a great time.  So that is what I did.  I loved it.  Seeing Slow Gherkin again just brought me back to a special place and feeling that has long since been gone, and I am grateful to have been able to experience it one last time.

Slow Gherkin – How Now Lowbrow at the reunion show

The next morning we got up and went to the Bottom of the Hill for the only matinee show of the festival.  The Broadways (Brendan and Rob’s band after Slapstick) were playing their one and only reunion show.  Before they took the stage, there were three surprise openers, but we only got to see the last one, which was Bomb the Music Industry!.  Unfortunately the sound mix for them was terrible and made the band sound horrible (when in fact they are a pretty good band).  The Broadways then took the stage to play some political punk rock that hasn’t been heard live in years.  Most of the show Brendan was laughing at the fact that when they actually were a band nobody cared about them and that this was probably the biggest crowded they had ever drawn.  Regardless of how small their following was, or still is, the kids who came out to see the show loved it.  Though the band did not sound quite as rehearsed as Slapstick, they still played pretty good and it was great getting a chance to finally see them.  After the show we had a good pasta dinner at Emmy’s and then took it easy for the rest of the night, as we were pretty burnt out at that point.

The next morning we began on our journey home.  On the way down, we stopped at the Winchester Mystery House (which was interesting, despite our lame tour guide Nick) and Casa de Frutas.  After some horrendous traffic in LA, we made it home around 7:30.  All in all, a pretty good little trip.


1 Comment so far
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I really enjoyed this story Mike, and hope to take a trip with friends to visit a pal out in San Francisco one day.

Comment by James Andersen

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