Our Last Gig: Redwood Bar
March 28, 2014
We drive back down Grand Avenue yet again, slow now, creeping along city block like chickenhawks scanning the talent for that telltale bulge beneath mini skirt and fishnet.
The night’s warm, and the lights above stare down on shabby city sidewalks: casting halos of promise and hope, ultimately outnumbered by the expanses of darkness.
But it’s in those deep pockets of blackness that any proper city holds its nighttime treasures.
We’ve seen pharmaceuticals, outlawed since 1979, on sale by the dozen.
Albino Capuchin monkeys on leash?
A rusted tincture of chloroform, along with expired Girl Scout Cookies (Tagalongs!)?
Anything for a price!
Ah, but we’re not in the market, not yet anyway, for the hidden sweets of the city.
Tonight, we seek the ultimate prize: cheap curbside parking!
It’s no fucking use, and we resign ourselves to handing over fifteen bucks for the honor of parking in downtown LA on a Saturday night.
What the hell have they done to this town?
Was it really that long ago when Los Angeles was a scary fun ghost town on the weekends or any night after 8?
When the streets were wide open, shadowy playgrounds for the punks and bums,
the true princes of L.A.!
We could park on the goddamned sidewalk in front of Al’s Bar, and while the night away.
And only then, after a night of after-hours drinking and stumbling back to the car, would we feel that sweet tinge of danger.
The city would be even more quiet in the early morning hours, and long shadows would suddenly appear across our path.
And that tingle on the back of the neck, someone behind you now, only added to the excitement of the night.
But there seemed to be an unspoken agreement between punkers and homeless crackheads on those streets.
And they shuffled along at a respectful distance in our wake, slow and grumpy as any proper Hollywood zombies.
But now, oh brother, have things changed.
Downtown LA is a wonderland of restaurants and clubs now, lighting up the night with cheerful abandon.
Tonight the streets are alive with light and sound–the sound of young people …
As we herd into Casey’s Pub we’re assaulted by the whoo! and Har! of a dozen freshly minted adults.
Their youthful enthusiasm and cheerfulness grates on us immediately.
I can now appreciate the Grinch casting a disgusted glance down at the cheerful fucking carolers of Whooville…bah!
I hate to do it, to fall back on the dreaded H word-hipsters!— when bitch-moaning over another memory shattered.
After all, weren’t we just as guilty of crashing some grumpy old drunks’ soaked reverie on some night 3 decades ago?
Were we any less happy and loud, just to be drinking ironically in the shadows of darkened office buildings?
A few Guinness and snacks put us back in a proper mood, and we even start to enjoy the company of these noisy children drunk off their asses.
Perhaps it was just low blood sugar that had us in a bad mood.
Gotta watch the diet, gramps!
On the way out, we walk the cool gray slabs of sidewalk toward the Redwood.
But this time, I can see the packs of youngsters giving an occasional glance back, up and away from the smartphones they use to plead with any Uber driver to come rescue them: They’re looking back at us.
They pull skirts down a few millimeters and pick up their pace, and it hits us then:
We are the zombies now!
Now we’re the creepy old men wandering the city streets, our punker casual outfits resembling nothing less than the glad rags that usually come with a hot meal and a bus voucher on Thanksgiving Day.
And as we round Hill Street and walk up to the welcoming buzz of the club, we congratulate each other on graduating to the other side of the cage bars:
Animals all, after all, of the zoo.
The ship is a-rocking tonight at the Redwood, we’ve got a full crew on hand, the sails are full and the barrels are full of grog and…..
ah fuck it, that’s about all the nautical crap left in the tank, alright?
Let’s just say it is a grand time aboard!
There is a confused lull as we try to sort out amps and tangled cords, for tonight is gonna be a crowded one up yonder.
But downbeat comes and off we go, 3 rival guitar amps joined in sonic sheet, not one man onstage willing to turn down!
It’s a rare treat to bring up some gentlemen from our past:
Mike Eldred’s up there now, along with Larry Kelley in fine form.
Maria comes up for Cheap, and we begin to look even more like a Southern Rock band: Go Jim Dandy! indeed!
And of course, our Euro-man Jay Lansford has been hogging the right side of the stage all night, adding outrageous harmonic riffs to anything that comes across his path!
We’re having a great time now, playing loud and sloppy.
But it is a bittersweet tour that has Jay here with us tonight.
Just a week before we said farewell to Jay’s lovely mother Sharon.
Sharon who always loved to come to the gigs and cheer her son on, and us as well when we were lucky enough to be in one of Jay’s countless acts.
And it wasn’t just a rare field trip out for her to see the band as it was, honestly, for most of our Mom’s.
Sharon really knew the music, and wouldn’t hesitate to tell you when you were a little flat or a guitar was out of tune.
She’d seen us do the song before after all, and do it better!
So we would always try just a little harder, stand up straighter and play a little better when Sharon was on the barstool, watching.
And as with any funeral, any news of a Mom leaving us, we all can’t help but take that moment to reflect upon our own losses.
Our own Moms’ absence.
It hits me that we’ve all lost those dear creatures that loved us, and that love we often took for granted if even earned undeservedly.
What else is it we share, beside the years of laughs and music?
We’re Dads ourselves now, and that parenthood bonds us even closer than the years in van and club.
We’re going into the last song of the night now.
I look over to my right and then my left, and see us all up there:
Holding guitars, lost in a shared moment: Motherless.
It’s well after 2:30 am when we finally get out of the bar.
All the last call drinks have been downed, the amps and guitars have been hustled out to the sidewalk.
And it seems, finally, the city is ours once again.
It’s quiet and cool, the sidewalks free of the high heeled hordes.
There are no lines of people within their red velvet corrals, no more towncars prowling downtown for drunken sorority sisters on their way to Canters.
It’s 2 shades darker now, and that much more calm, just as we’d have it.
We say low goodbyes to each other there on the sidewalk, and go our separate ways for the night.
Walking alone now to the parking lot, guitar case in hand, the old thrill comes back.
Fine hairs on the neck stiffen as shadows appear on the sidewalk.
But tonight, we’re not scared. Not in the least.
We have, each of us, someone watching over us.
Thanks for photos: Martin Wong @ www.giantrobot.com