Tuesday, July 14, 2009

our rock&roll night

we took nicholas to his 1st rock&roll show at the greek amphitheater in berkeley. we knew it was going to be a long night because it was a 3 band bill. the headliner was death cab for cutie, and it was our 2nd time seeing the band at the greek. opening for death cab was andrew bird and ra ra riot. don't know either performers very well but what i've heard from riot i like a lot. bird was a dylan-esque singer-songwriter whose compositions might be deep and compelling but performed live on stage i found rather boring.

perhaps it was just me because the crowd went nuts for bird. riot opened the show and we got there just after they took the stage. navigating the crowd and finding a spot on the green located above the stone steps -- yep, the venue modelled after its namesake is a beautifully carved stone seats terraced up to a sloping green grass. at the greek there really is no bad seat. however, anna discovered that the ridge of green located center of the stage and is at the very top of the amphitheater is the best seat because the vista not only afforded an unimpeded view of the stage but also the gorgeously wooded uc berkeley campus and the sf bay beyond and the skyline of sf herself. you can take that view with you to the grave.

i liked riot a lot and thought that their mix of electronic effects, low-fi guitar and violins matched the vocalist's timber just nicely. plus ra ra riot is just simply a cool name, and in an indie scene with great bands many of those bands have suck-ass names, such as grizzly bear, crystal antlers, and deerhunter, all very good bands but how come such goofy names? have all the good ones been taken?

at any rate, people arrive at concerts late and really begin to fill up the venue. by the time death cab started the place was very crowded. the kids directly behind us decided it was time to hit the pipe and they hit it hard like mike tyson in his prime meting the punch that delivered the k.o. and leaving for dead his opponent on the mat. each time one of the kids, and i'm guessing that they were indeed kids around 16 or 17, coughed the smoke was hacked directly on us. normally i'd get pissed, especially when my son is present, but we were at a rock show and where else can one openly smoke dope than at a rock show? i've long given up my own chemical life, but hey, i'm no preacher. however, i could only take so much smoke but before i could even think about telling them to go smoke that shit somewhere else they left and never came back. we are living in strange days, brothers and sisters, when the crowd at a rock&roll show in berkeley, california comments on the excessive pot smoking. when those kids got up and left everyone around us breathed in deeply the cool, lightly redwood-scented, bay air and said, holy shit i think i've got a contact high.

now, nicholas i think had a great time. death cab was in good form if only the bass was cranked up a bit too high and that their wonderful song, 'i will possess your heart', which i always think of as slightly psychedelic beginning with a long deep groove from the bass as the guitars come in with much distortion and feedback, was played with more pop and less hallucinogenic. still, it was getting late and each time a song ended nicholas would ask, is it time to go home? we told him rock&rollers stay up late and cheer the band by clapping your hands and screaming as loud as you can. for the encore nicholas met that challenge with yells so strident that you could hear him above the noise of the crowd and the band.

our night turned out even stranger than taking nicholas to his first rock&roll show. what is rock&roll without a little chaos anyway. when we entered emeryville, the home of pixar studios and the public market where we always stop to eat indian food whenever we're in the bay area [it is a ritual we've been making for years and like most rituals i can't remember when we started doing it], our pilot's warning light for the left front tire turned on. we stopped to put air in it at a gas station and also buy a cheap tire gauge. nicholas is always taking our tire gauges and plays with them. then he loses them. no biggie but when we parked on university ave just inside berkeley campus the light turned on again. i wondered if we hit anything and had more than just a slow leak.

sure enough after the show we threaded our way among the thousands of concert-goers to our car. it was overcast, it even rained a bit when bird was playing, and so it was very dark. the campus is very green with many redwoods. at night it can seem a bit spooky. nicholas thought there were bears in the woods. he was very tired and wanted nothing but to go home. however, my suspicion was right about the tire having more than a slow leak. it was flatter than flat. a pain in the ass for sure but we had a spud for a spare and a jack and tire iron. i suck at mechanical things, i can barely screw in a light bulb, seriously, not out of stupidity or passive-aggressive behavior because i really don't want to work with my hands, but like a person with learning disabilities i simply am unable to work with my hands. perhaps mechanical abilities are related to math and i suck at math. abstract thinking, such as theoretical or philosophical texts, i can follow fairly well. science i can understand too, physics for example, but the math underpinning all that abstration, the equations necessary for physics, and i'm like a 2-year-old trying to open a jar of mayo.

i get the car jacked-up anyhow and manage to get most of the lug nuts off. except for one. some new and newer vehicles have a locking lug nut designed as a theft deterrent. a special key is needed to unlock the locking lug nut. and that key was in a dresser drawer at home. we didn't even have our cell phone with us. nicholas is starting to cry and we were faced with the prospect of either sleeping in our car or combing the midnight streets of berkeley not looking for an angry fix but a motel or hotel. at the moment a young, very nice campus police officer drives by, stops and asks us if we need any help. we explain our dilemma to him and he suggests either calling a tow truck, and that was out of the question because no garage was open that late on saturday night and having it towed back to sac would've been improbably expensive, or finding a place to kip for the night. he suggests the durant hotel not more than a 10 minute walk away. i ask if he could draw us a map and he said he'd drive us there.

getting nicholas into the cop car took some doing. he was terrified and screamed and tried to run away. we had to grab him to get him into the car as he made a horrible bellow. we wondered what the witnesses thought as there were still many people leaving the campus after the show. the sight of a 4-year-old child dragged screaming into a police car is not, i think, a typical display.

at any rate, once inside the car nicholas took it in as the adventure it indeed was. the police officer is an incredibly kind man who even went inside the hotel to make sure we got a room then went back to our car to put his card on the window with a note to campus traffic enforcement to not cite our vehicle. the hotel durant is located right off telegraph ave and just round the corner and then some to moe's, my favorite bookstore. i didn't know that during the night as i was stressed and completely discombobulated. but in the morning i recognized my surroundings. we decided to take the amtrak train back to sac, retrieve the lug nut key borrow anna's mother's car and drive back to berkeley for our car. tho it was bad luck to get a flat without the proper equipment to fix it each stage of our adventure worked out smoothly and uneventfully. in the space of 24 hrs we traveled to and from the bay area, counting the train ride, 5 times. i'm still recovering from our adventures.

what i learned from that night is rock&roll is and is supposed to be wild and chaotic. that you are never to young or old to rock. and that rock&roll will, i hope, never die. but let these adventures be smooth, please, for when you are in your 40s rock&roll is more comfortable when you can afford it and put it on your credit card.


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