The west coast of North America has a very particular smell in the mornings. I first caught it in Vancouver, way back in 1985. It’s a fresh, spicy, sweet smell, and knew it throughout my time staying in Capitola in the 90’s – it was there again in San Francisco this year. Blind me, I would know I was on the USA west coast.
I was glad of this friendly smell because the first day was a bit of a mess. We arrived early around 6AM, and found our ride had the wrong day, and so the first of a number of ‘just get yourselves there’. OK no problem. Then the hotel had a 3PM check in. Only 9 hours to kill in the Tenderloin, and unless you’re interested in making some kind of social statement, 9 hours of exhausted jet lagged stumbling around tent piss city was a grand ‘hi there & fuck you’. Eventually we found a cafe in SOMA that was cool with three huddled lumps nursing a coffee and we gave Josh Cheon a phone.
Poor Josh had just flown in from Germany. He tried hard to keep our spirits up, but was even more buggered than we were, so was obviously relieved to escape off to work. Thankfully the hotel relented and gave us rooms at 1pm.
There are some hot showers that are life defining.
I think this experience may have soured my feelings about San Francisco, but frankly the charm has died. Whatever cultural history it enjoyed, it now feels morose, burdened with bankers and wankers, and begging to stage a remake of They Live. The city was infested with body snatchers attending a Salesforce conference, I mean infested, every second person seemed to be wearing corporate dog tags leading them to speeches on Making People Buy More Shit Online. I heard they even had an ocean liner in the harbour to hold more of them.
Day 2 was better in many ways, a few hours sleep will grant that. I walked Market rather than Mission, and got around to the unpronounceable Embarcadero. There was something on which involved swathes of people milling about in matching corporate T shirts, things like GIANT FINANCE COMPANY – WINNING IN 2015. The whole place seems to be an endless logo branded game show.
The Elbo Room is often a jazz joint, it looked old, very wooden, like most interesting things in San Francisco it’s about to be torn down to make room for apartments. This being the first gig things were a little messy, actually let’s be honest it was pretty near a cluster fuck. The idea that you can organise your music gear to be there in each city is a curious one (hey, you might even call it disruptive) with a very small margin for error, and we were straight into Murphy’s Law here – the nicest possible people had brought things we couldn’t use and it was a mad panic to replace things by the 9pm opening. Video projection is an art, and the guy trying to get our image up was definitely a member of the abstract experimental version of that art, but hey, it got up, we got up, and while this was probably the shakiest show we did, it seemed alright by the audience.
Once grand moment was when a text came back stage from Stewart’s missus The Video Projector just fell from the ceiling. Yes, it had, and missed smashing her head by about a foot. Thing is, it wasn’t our projector. I guess I should light a candle for that.
We’d programmed a main set, and then an encore. We’re not used to encores, and it felt weird putting it there, but even then I wondered whether we needed something after the encore. Just in case I put Kittenette, although neither of us expected to need it.
We needed it. Not that we’d practised it.
That night I lay awake in bed listening to somebody yelling at somebody at great length. I think man #1 was caught breaking into a car by man #2 and was getting some tough love, but it was equally likely that it was about weed. Everything in that parking lot was loudly about weed.
The next morning it was off to Los Angeles. At some point during the taxi ride the hotel decided to charge everyone’s rooms to the credit card we had supplied in case of damage. On Trip Advisor there is a line of people that had the same experience.
Civic Centre Motor Inn, San Francisco. Dodgy. Watch your credit card.