The city of South Pasadena has passed an ordinance that prohibits smoking cigarettes in any public place--including sidewalks, street corners and parking lots.
Mount Righteous, aghast, became aware of this reality as we pulled into the town late Thursday night. This was after we left Long Beach and went to a bar in Echo Park for a while where we met up with a friend of a friend who was letting us stay at his place in South Pas.
The 11 of us packed tightly onto the floor of the house until morning, at which point our host went with us to breakfast. Soon after, we left for San Diego.
I have an uncle, Bo, who lives in the La Jolla area of northwest San Diego. His house, three blocks from the beach, is in a beautiful neighborhood and we were, once again, feeling quite lucky as we pulled up to his place. The moment we walked in, he met everyone in the band and handed a beer to each of us in sequence, letting us know full well that we were welcome in his home and that he’d do anything for us.
This has proven to be the trend on this tour. I don’t know if it’s good karma, luck or the essential goodness of humans, but we’ve run into nothing but good will, generosity and good fortune thus far (neglecting to mention the stolen trombone, of course.) Everyone we’ve encountered seems to feel inexplicably compelled to nudge us along our way with kind words, charitable acts and unconditional hospitality.
In this spirit, my uncle opened his house to us and invited friends over to come to our show. We left for Chaser’s, a bar and music venue a couple miles northeast of downtown. When I had read about the venue before we left for tour, I found nothing but testimonials of what a miserable ghetto it was in and what a dive it was. Yet, when we arrived, we found that it was nothing of the sort. I think people in San Diego are used to bars being forums for social advancement or novel experiences. Thus, a bar like Chaser’s probably is considered a dive simply because it’s not hip and there’s no DJ or gimmicky décor.
We felt right at home.
We went on at around 11 p.m. and played to an odd assortment of reactions: bemused, bewildered, excited and entranced.
It’s been fun to play every night and begin to see patterns in the reactions we elicit. You’ve got the smileys who just grin irrepressibly the whole show. Then there’s the dancin’ fools who are there to cut a rug. I particularly enjoy the elatedly baffled crowd who can’t seem to convince themselves that they’re seeing what they’re seeing. Of course, there’s the occasional too-cool who doesn’t seem to want to have any fun, but we make special projects of these guys and they usually loosen up. But even if they don’t, they never seem to walk away.
After our set, The Modlins played in their matching gray suits with retro guitars. They were another band with a lot of ‘60s pop influence, and they made no secret about it.
After the show, we headed back to my uncle’s house and stayed up late with him and his friends who had come out to the show. Eventually we all made it to our spots on the floor and slept a short while. Some of us got up early this morning and rode bikes and skateboarded down to the beach where we had brief and invigorating forays into the freezing Pacific.
Somehow, we'd managed to visit San Diego on one of the coldest and rainiest days of the year. Everyone we met seemed shocked at how ugly the weather was and apologized as if it were their fault. But as the day progressed, things started to look better and we drove back to L.A. with good weather and little traffic.
Across Sunset Boulevard from the Silverlake Lounge (where we played our first show in L.A.) is a big hill on which a neighborhood of houses is stacked precariously. Our friend Mike Shapiro’s girlfriend Rachel lives in this neighborhood, and was hosting a barbecue at her house that Mike had put together. We were invited to provide the music for the party.
The house is high on the hill and has an amazing view of downtown Los Angeles, plus the whole Silverlake area and parts of Hollywood. Sitting on the elevated porch, sipping homemade sangria and taking in the view, we talked about how fantastic our tour has been and how we didn’t want it to end. Life felt very good.
More and more people began to arrive to the party and many introductions were made. We made the special acquaintance of one of the roommates at the house, a German-born electronic musician named Flula Borg. He's pitching a reality television show about himself as a German musician struggling in America, and has made pilot episodes and music videos. We decided to collaborate with Flula later in the party.
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We set up our gear on a lower patio and got all the party-goers to come down from the house. We played half of our set to an enthusiastic and decidedly hip L.A. crowd. We then moved the party back into the house where there was some intermission time before Joey, Derek and I played a couple solo songs apiece.
We were glad to be able to play the rest of our set in an indoor situation; it confines the crowd in a space close to us, sounds bigger and better, and the energy resonates and reflects within the room. During the set, someone unleashed a bunch of balloons into the room and there were smiles all around. After our last song, we kept the beat going and Flula joined us for a freestyle rap session. When we were finished, we were called back on to do an encore.
Once we were finished playing, any inhibitions we’d had about being at the party were gone. Another cooler full of beer arrived and we all dispersed into the house and yard, meeting many people and answering a million questions about our band. After a while, we had some acoustic sing-alongs and percussion jams in the living room, followed by rapturously chaotic freestyles in the kitchen, which once again featured Flula.
Eventually the whole band walked down to Sunset to the van and got our stuff. As people set up to get to sleep, Adam and I climbed up on the roof of the house and took in the million city lights that knew no end in our last night in California. --Justin Spike and the rest of Mount Righteous