Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Los Angeles

I woke around eight am and there was no sign or signal from the DIS guys yet. They weren’t knocking on the door and I hadn’t got any message from them. I didn’t have any internet on my phone though so I guess messaging me would have been hard since Kyle didn’t have my phone number. I head downstairs to the reception area in search of coffee, which I’d been told yesterday would be available. And it was. The only trouble was it tasted like water and had was a mild shade of brown in colour. I poured myself a styrofoam cup of the piss and went outside to look around. I parked myself on a bench on a lawn out the back the hotel that stood beside the Oakland estuary. Quite a nice view and peaceful just being sat there on my own. The coffee got thrown after a couple of sips though. I love weak American coffee but this stuff was taking the piss.

I walked back along the water in search of a Starbucks or anything that would serve me something that at least pretended to have been infused with a coffee bean but found nothing and headed back. Still no sign of the DIS guys. I stand there looking at the tiny pool in front of the hotel, it has to be the least inviting tub I’ve ever seen. It’s tiny, you could swim the length of it in a few strokes and it’s about as deep as a puddle. “No Diving” a sign says on the wall beside it. I’m not sure if that’s a joke or not. I can’t help thinking back to the holiday we just had and how even Polly would have had a hard time entertaining herself in this thing. As I’m stood there looking at it some hungover looking lady comes stoating across to me and seems to be asking me why the back light on her car keeps flashing. I tell her I’m no mechanic and woefully ill equipped to help her in such matters. She walks off saying she’ll just get in the thing and drive it, talking to herself the whole way to her car. On the way back up to the room some skinny, disheveled young guy with a big scar across his eyebrow asks me if I’m from the metal festival in town and asks me how many people were at it. I tell him that I was there yesterday and that it was good fun. He smiles, a little guilt in it, and says, “Nah man, I’m just needing to sell some weed”. I tell him I’m sure he’ll find some customers there.

The DIS guys turn up in the van around nine. Henry, the cheeky looking guitarist, looks hungover to piss, he’s still smiling though. The van is a long minibus although there are eleven of us travelling in it and there is barely any room for all of our gear and cases. It takes us a good while to cram everything into the van although it’s on the point of bursting, there are guitar cases under feet and drums in the aisles. Everything packed and us with it, like a can of sardines, Kyle asks where Bruce, the other guitarist is. He was sleeping here apparently. Kyle calls him and I can tell there is some grumbling going on. Bruce appears about five minutes later carrying two guitar cases, a bag, a pair of sunglasses and what is obviously a stinker of a hangover. When he approaches the open side door of the van he barrels into Kyle who sat nearest, “What happened to my warning? You were supposed to call when you were on your way!” He’s seems pretty pissed, maybe a bit embarrassed. Then he grunts, “Pack my shit in the van and I’ll be back in a minute”. Kyle looks at him and there is silence for a few seconds, and then simply says, almost laughing, “No”. “Alright I’ll be back in a minute”, Bruce mumbles and walks off. The van bursts into laughter at that. Jon, the singer, is a jovial big guy, full of bluster and a bit of a comic by the impression I get, “What the fuck? Who the fuck does he thing he is, Bruce Trump?!” Again more laughter. Takes me back to the Speedhorn days the way these guys take the piss out of each other. Fuck knows how we’re getting Bruce’s guitars in the van though.

When he comes back a few minutes later carrying another smaller bag the tone has changed a little and we help him tetris his stuff into the van. He turns to us and apologies for being late. We head off onto the highway, or freeway, or whatever the fuck it is, and begin the six hour journey to Los Angeles. Within five minutes exited and stopped in a parking lot because Henry needs to get out and puke. As he’s doing so Bruce moves up front, pinching Henry’s shotgun position. When Henry comes back he’s smiling but that soon dilutes when he sees Bruce in his seat. They bicker over that for a while as we drive off, Henry finally concluding, “Well alright man, if you want me to be sick in here then it’s up to you”. Five minutes later he’s chugging a huge quart of Coors Lite. I’m really starting to like these guys.

We pull up again a while later for a breakfast/lunch stop at a Denny’s. When we get out of the van I ask Henry if he’s feeling better now. “Ah yeah dude, now I’m drunk again”, he says, looking totally chuffed. There is something about that grin on his podgy latino face that just makes you want to laugh. I love people who are as chuffed as he is. The eleven of us sit down to some pretty standard Denny’s grub, but the girl serving us is great, running around taking the eleven of us on, sharing in the banter with us the whole time. It’s nice sitting down to eat with the guys, feels like a proper breaking of the ice since last night there wasn’t really much chance for that. I met Kyle last week in LA so we’ve had a but of contact but the other guys I had no idea about. When we leave Denny’s Kyle takes over the wheel and Shaun the drummer takes his seat in the back next to Henry. A while down the road Henry starts mumbling that he’s lost the top from his beer bottle and they start looking around for it, Shaun helping him. Shaun looks up at Henry as he’s helping him rummage around on the floor and laughs, “Dude! Your eyes aren’t even open!” The whole van erupts into laughter, except Bruce, who sat up front with his cap over his face, trying to sleep.

We arrive in Los Angeles a few hours, and a few stops later and head to Shaun’s house in the valley. It’s around five pm and we don’t have to be at the venue until nine. The plan is to hang around here for a way and relax before heading off. Shaun has a really nice house on a quiet street, he even has a pool in the back. He tells us that he shares it with his dad but it’s a pretty good setup they have going on here. Andy, Johan and I feel the need to stretch our legs so we decide to take a walk and grab some beers and snacks. We walk for quite a way along Oxnard eventually stopping at a liquor store. It’s nice with the walk. I grab a six pack of Session IPA and a three pack of kecks, since I’d miscalculated how many I’d need and was almost out. Never ceases to amaze me, how items of consumption seamlessly cross barriers between different outlets in the US. You can buy booze at the chemist, kecks at the liquor store, and guns at the clothes store. Weird fucking country.

We head back to Shaun’s place and find the two Jon’s on their way out to buy some weed. Our Jon says he’ll meet us later. We head inside and see the other guys out back lounging around at a table by the pool. I walk through the living room to make my out to the backyard and find a heavy set woman sat on a sofa looking at the tv. I say hello to her, but she just stares at me. I repeat myself but still get nothing back. She has a weird look on her face, kind of feel like I’m in a Lynch film for a second. I realise that the woman is Shaun’s dad. She finally gives me a welcoming smile and I carry on through to the patio. The pool is covered, which is a little disappointing, but it’s getting dark anyway and it’s not all that warm if I’m being realistic. There is a definite drop in temperature here when the sun goes down. I sit down to a beer and spot Johan coming through the living room. He walks straight into the screen door, bang, right in the fucking coupon. I stifle a scream of laughter as he staggers back a little stunned, “It was closed”, is all he can muster. Given the go ahead of Johan himself smiling, I burst out laughing. The screen door has proper come of it’s rails though, it’s just kinda hanging there. Right fucking brass. Shaun and his dad assist him as he puts the thing back in place.

Kyle’s girlfriend Adrienne is here and she’s telling us all the fires up in NoCal. Her hometown Santa Rosa has been all over the news and it’s devastating hearing her tell us about how her family and their homes have been fucked by it. She had a motorbike shop up there and she lost a few bikes. And plenty of others have lost their homes, and their lives. The scenes on the news are a fucking horror show. I came pretty close up to it last week, when me, Jen and Polly were driving from Orange County over to Joshua Tree. There was a brush fire there we got caught right in the middle of it. The interstate we were on was closed down and we ended up getting sucked right into it. Needing to fill the car with petrol we had no choice but to stop at a gas station. As Jen was inside paying for the gas, I was stood there filling the car up whilst the sky above was black and there were ashes falling on the car roof. The staff from the garage came and told us we had to get out and by the time we exited the place the fire was in the fields opposite us. It was truly fucking bizarre. They were evacuating people from the town as well as animals from the local zoo. It was a tough fucking task hiding my fear from Polly who was sat in the back wondering what the fuck was going on.

After a couple of beers and taste of rum that Henry has pulled from Shaun’s garage we head off to the gig. First we have to swing by DIS’s practice space, which is in a huge complex of practice rooms owned by former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland. Kyle tells me it’s the biggest practice room complex in LA. There are about four or five floors of rooms and there must be about fifty or so rooms per floor. Anyway, after loading the gear into a couple of cars we head off to the gig. We take a lift in Shaun’s SUV, white knuckling it at times as he tears up the road. Just seems to be the way they drive over here but there are points along the journey where I can feel my arsehole properly tensing up. The tension is tamed at least by the chat we have with Shaun as he drives, telling us about his job and his family situation with his dad and his own kid, who he gets to see at weekends. He seems like a really good guy and it’s nice chatting about our kids and stuff, even if I’m sat there at times hoping to fuck I’ll see mine again.

We get to the venue which is in a residential area of Pasadena. The place is an old barbershop that has been converted into a punk compound. The actual shop space now acts as the gig room, which is pretty tiny with only the floor for a stage. In the backyard area they have a hangout area where bands are selling merch, with another little room between the yard and gig room where a record player is spinning and punks are smoking weed. I wonder how the hell they get away with putting gigs on here, since there are houses just behind the place but Gerzain tells me the first band is already playing and amazingly you can’t hear a peep. Some pretty bizarre sound insulation going on there.

Our good friend Cooky, a fellow expat and former cog in the Boston Indian Queen scene is here. He’s been here for a couple of hours apparently, sat in his car looking at his phone. He didn’t expect to arrive so early and says that the area is a bit sketchy. It’s great to see his big friendly face as always anyway. He helps us load the gear in and when we’re done he drives me, Andy and Johan to get some food. Jon stays by the merch, having a drink and chatting away. The short trip and meal with Cooky gives us a bit of a chance to catch up. As we’re sat there finishing up the last of our food at the Panda Express, another old friend, Joe, texts me and says he’s heading to the venue, says he’ll be there in five minutes. I’m pretty surprised since he was going to a wedding today and I didn’t think he’d make it, or that this would really be his scene. Not wanting to leave him there stranded we head off to meet him outside the venue.

When we get back Joe is waiting around outside. You would never know that the place was a punk venue since there is no sign on the completely anonymous door with white paint peeling off it. Joe meets us with that same old, mellow smile of his, the New Yorker in him smothered by years of the easy going Californian lifestyle. We all hang outside chatting for a little while until three punks walk up to us and start enthusiastically telling us how much they like the band. Tell us they’ve driven over from Compton. They almost seem a bit star struck, which feels pretty weird for us. Joe just stands there smiling broadly. We decide to head into the backyard of the gig and hang out there instead. As soon as I walk in I clock Jon’s smile, it’s almost screaming at me with excitement. He comes up to me, “That’s Pinkerton, right?” referring to Joe. By which he means the Weezer record which Joe recorded. Jon is almost hopping with excitement, “He came in a while ago asking for you, and I told him you’d gone for food. I hope I didn’t sound like an asshole!” Jon has been waiting to meet my friend Joe for a long time and can barely contain himself. For all of Joe’s status in the music business, at least to those in the know, he’s the sweetest, most humble guy you could meet. He’d met Jen long before I met him when he recorded and mixed a couple of Speedhorn records. I’ll never forget the first meeting with him at the studio, “So who’s the guy who’s together with Jen from Misdemeanor?” When I told him that that was me he hugged me and said, “Your girlfriend's band rules man!” I’ve had a great affection for the guy ever since.

I spend most of the next couple of hours chatting with him over a couple of beers. He shows me a couple of pics of Polly from when he took the girls out for some sushi last night on what was their last night of holiday before heading home today, tells me he had a great time hanging out with them. I see Jon tentatively inching his way towards us through the crowd, rubbing his hands with glee. “I’m really sorry, but I’ve been dying to meet you”, he tells Joe and the next thing he has his camera out and shunts it at me. I take a pic of them, Joe grinning, Jon with gaping open mouth pointing at him. Jon settles down a little and we stand around telling stories for a while before Jon starts grilling him on all the records he worked on. “Sorry, but am I right, did you work on Action is Go by Fu Manchu?” Joe tells him he worked in both that and King of the Road, at which Jon turns his back and strides away a couple of feet before stopping and standing there with his back to us, “Jag orrrrrkaaaaar inte!” he screams. I give Joe a look to assure him this is standard fare with the tit.

As the night creeps along and our scheduled eleven pm slot time becomes a thing of distant memory I can tell Joe is starting to become a little pensive of the time, I know he’s up early tomorrow. I tell him it’s okay if he has to go but he says he’ll stick around for a few songs at least. It’s almost one by the time we’re ready to start. I give him a hug and tell him I’ll catch him next time and when the feedback comes on the small room fills up like a decompression tank and I see Joe no more.

The gig is an absolute blast. There is barely any room to move and I have Gerzain, our good friend who has booked the show practically hanging on my back the entire show. What can you say, from playing a huge stage yesterday to eight hundred people to playing a tiny room of one hundred and twenty, packed to the walls, today. I know which of these two scenarios I prefer. Andy seems to be having a shit time of it for some reason though, I can’t figure that one out. Half way through the set I shout over to him, “Andy, smile for fuck sakes!” but he just shakes his head. The crazier the crowd get the more the gloom lifts on his face though and we power through the rest of the set. By the time we end with This is the End, Gerzain is beyond me and in a pile with a bunch of other, Cooky amongst them, screaming along with Johan to the choruses. Andy has cheered up enough to even play an extra song, even if Jon almost fucks it by shouting over to him about not fucking it up, since Andy has had a couple of whoopsies with this song the last couple of shows, but Andy barrels through it and it’s a great end to the gig. When we’re done Andy tells me that he’s stretched something in his back at the start of the set and he’s been in pain with it the whole time. I feel pretty bad for telling him to smile now. Poor Tallsy, he’s had some grief with his back through drumming all these years.

We hang out for a while, taking photos with chuffed punks and signing records. But as nice as it is hanging out, time is running away with us. It’s almost two and we still have to take the gear back to the studio before driving an hour or so over to Bruce’s place where we’re sleeping tonight. His place is about halfway to the show in Tijuana tomorrow, which is decent, but it’s still going to be fuck knows o’clock by the time we get to bed. Bruce had been hyping up hard rock karaoke at his place to me yesterday, can’t see that happening somehow. We pack the gear into the cars and me and Jon take a ride with Jon DIS and Bruce. Straight away Bruce starts lobbying to head back to his place direct, since the car is full with stuff that is coming with us tomorrow anyway but it turns out that Jon has the keys to the practice space and the other guys can’t get in. Bummed out, they head off in the direction of the practice space, Jon driving fast as fuck saying he needs weed. He doesn’t drink and he’s dying to get back to Bruce’s place for a smoke.

After dropping the gear we head off down the highway to Bruce’s place. Not long into the journey we hit stand still traffic on the interstate. Even at this fucking time of the morning there’s no escaping it. Seems like there’s been an accident and the cops have closed all the lanes. We’re right at the front of it though so by the time Jon, our Jon, has gotten out and taken a gigantic piss on the side of the road, much to the amusement of Jon DIS, Big Jon, and Bruce, we’re moving again as soon as the police have cleared the road. As we fly along the highway Jon and I chat away in the back, Jon laughing hysterically at times, and it’s almost five by the time we get back to Bruce’s place. Which is fucking huge. I find the first available spot and lay myself down in it. I’m glad we’re not leaving until early afternoon tomorrow.

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