Neurosis, Earth, Saviors
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA
Dec. 31st, 2007
We made the long drive from San Diego on the 30th, landing triumphantly on Divisadero and Oak at the boutique hotel, The Metro. It was nice. Reminded me of the apartment I had in Denver off of 17th and Washington, without the 7-11 next door in perpetual states of armed robbery. Why rob a 7-11 anyway? They don’t keep that much cash on hand. You’d think a better target would be a large grocery store or a Costco with the amount of cash they keep about. I mean the place was nice, with 1920’s construction and walking distance to Haite, which means walking distance to Amoeba Records. I scored several quality used records there; Marvin Gaye What’s Going On, The Dramatics, Very Best of the Dramatics, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Inner Mounting Flame and Weather Report, Heavy Weather. They had the live Swans record that is now out of print, kicking myself for not picking that one up but I was on an R&B search at the time.
That night we visited City Lights and I was at once loss and in awe. This North Beach historical site had me popping boners left and right. A whole section devoted to anarchist literature! We found some great children’s books for my nephew for a late X-Mas gift. One by Ralph Steadman titled little.com and one by a monk named Thich Nhat Hanh called the Coconut Monk. Its about a cat who is imprisoned with his best friend, a mouse, and refuses to eat him as they are both starving in protest of the war (Vietnam). I also picked up Delillo’s White Noise, Gibson’s All Tomorrows Parties and Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49. I did have my eye on that graphic novel, World War Z, next time I suppose. Plus the 2nd installment of the Sandman book is available. Damn, going to have to get a new library card…
We had several drinks at Vesuvios. Ami took a nice picture of the bathroom that was decorated in Fernet-Branca. For those unfamiliar with this faintly licorice-tasting digestif, its power is in the herbs ( myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and saffron). Apparently. For whatever reason, it helps tame those post 2am hiccups. The ones that lead to all those drunken tactics like upside down water drinking or uvula tickling—you know the drill. Fernet is a San Francisco treat but you can always stoke a bar keep by asking for a shot at last call just about anywhere west of Aurora, CO.
On the 31st we caught a cab to the Tenderloin. The Great American Music hall is a beautiful theater, flat floor with a wraparound balcony, gilded columns, painted ceiling, lots of red paint. Quite remarkable. Lots of beards and folks dressed in black, I purchased a nice Neurosis hoody and blended in quickly. We settled at a nice table upstairs and watched the fans roll in. Saviors were up first. This bay area stoner rock outfit mashed through a set of Iommi worship, pausing at one time to note, “Uh, this is amazing.” I think he was enamored with the fact he was opening for a cult fav and Bay Area legends.
Earth played next. While I love their interpretation of Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western doom drone, it put us and a few other patrons in a foul mood. Making us wait till midnight for the headliner had its appeal but everyone had a feeling that Neurosis was deserving of more than 1.5 hours of rocking.
The folks at the GAMH had set up a long net intestine of black and red balloons, stretched and thick from balcony post to balcony post over the floor crowd. At several minutes to midnight we were handed some cheap champagne and commenced in the countdown. They couldn’t quite effectively pull the ripcord on the balloon gut to release them all simultaneously into the foaming, clawing crowd underneath, so it lost some of its coolness. After nary a balloon was rent to pieces our long awaited apocalypse maitre-de began the gallows orchestra. I thought they were good recorded. Steve Albini has worked with them for years and I’d always marveled at their skill in the studio setting. People, they sound tenfold better live. Doing every little effect live and more. I said hello to Josh Graham, who does visuals for the band but also moonlights as the guitarist for Red Sparrows. I hate to say it but his projector show for Neurosis is better than the one he does for Red Sparrows, but maybe that is because he is at the helm without a guitar. The show was epic, crushingly heavy and they played my favorite song off the new record, “Hidden Faces.”
We left before the end of the set so we could ensure a cab back to our hotel. We walked north on O’Farrell and a black sedan pulled up. This asshole wanted to charge us 20 bucks for a 12-dollar cab ride. The wife talked him down; I kept a silent vigil, winking when I was satisfied with the transaction. Or maybe I wasn’t winking and my right eye was lazy from too many champagne’s of beer. Nevertheless we successfully made our way back to the Metro and woke up at 6am to head back to Diego. Along the way we hit a huge bank of fog (central valley) then a giant, 70mph dust storm just before entering the Angeles Pass.