4/5/24: San Pedro, California

I’ve driven Insterstate 40 into Los Angeles around ten times in my life, so few times I can almost remember each instance, but so many that some memories are harder to untangle one from the other. This time, I think I’ll remember it more clearly, because it snowed. The thermometer reading in the car plunged about thirty degrees and there was a huge gray-blue-black swirl of a cloud dominating the sky.

I knew I was close to San Pedro when I saw the huge crane arms from the port. This is such a cool part of LA, with the docks that light up at night. Last night’s show was at the Sardine, a venue that Todd Congelliere from Recess Records opened up since I was here last, which was around 7 or 8 years ago. Todd’s record label released the Big Kitty album, Florence, back in 2012. That was of course a very important thing for me, and so this place and Todd’s support have always meant a lot to me.

Of course, before I had that personal connection to San Pedro I was a Minutemen and Mike Watt fan. In fact, Mike Watt is the inspiration behind writing a tour diary. I used to read his back when I was a teenager, all the particular slang from Pedro that he used making a big impression on me of what this place must be like. Well, after visiting a couple of times, I must say that I haven’t heard anyone speak like Mike Watt, but this place does have a character all its own that I can sense despite the little time I’ve spent here. It feels like a friendlier and humbler part of LA, but still soaked in the sun and beach. Anytime I go to a coastal part of LA I get a certain feeling of ease from the people that I imagine is linked to the proximity of the beaches and sun, and maybe the ultimateness of living on the Pacific Ocean. There’s also a cleanness and consideredness of image that seeps in through the entertainment industry. That’s not a quality held by everyone by any means but I do feel like each place I’ve been so far on this tour has given me a pretty strong individual character, which runs against the narrative of homogenization that tends to dominate my concept of the trajectory of American culture.

So back to the show and the Sardine – I love the size of this place, with very high ceilings, a large, open barroom in front and another, about equally large back room for shows, with a very roomy stage. There were two acts, a band called Play Hooky and one other, whose name I forget. Play Hooky was really fun and catchy, a rock band with some funny songs and occasional surf and punk touches. The bass player was playing through a pretty major foot injury, and had his leg bandaged up and on a scooter. He was just smiling and having a good time despite it all. I enjoyed their set, it was nice and long and gave me some time to chill out a bit.

There were between ten and fifteen people at the show, so it was a fairly empty room. The cold weather may have played a role. It wasn’t, of course, that cold, but for Los Angeles it was unusual. So when I got onstage I said, “It’s great to be here in Fairbanks.” I think it may have produced a chuckle in some souls.

I tried a lot of new stuff at this show, including opening up for myself twice, with two different characters: first, Rolly Lighthouse, who just acts crazy and has an extreme southern accent, and Roy Sessick, a bit of a self-important lounge singer type whose character I’m discovering as I go. I used a cheap Lone Ranger mask with an elastic cord that got stuck between my eyes and the holes in the mask, so I could not see while doing these songs, which made it extra weird. The Roy Sessick songs were sung to backing tracks, and I thought they sounded not too bad for my first ever try. It’s pretty fun to sing like that because it’s so much louder than just guitar and voice.

This show was great, again, despite the small crowd. I’m not too bothered by performing for just a few people, when you can see individuals clearly. I used to be more so of course.

I needed a place to stay and Ryan, who was bartending when I first came in, offered a practice space nearby with a huge couch, where I’m still sitting writing this. This is a really nice practice space, with lots of room, and it’s clean. Amazing.

Today I’m going to visit Luke Pelletier’s garage to film a song or two, then move on to play a house show with the great Dingbat Superminx!

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