USA Edition: San Francisco
For as long as I have been interested in playing music, I’ve always dreamt of visiting San Francisco. Up until three months ago, I thought it would definitely be at least three years until I got there. So that said, when I landed in the airport, I was walking around like I was in a dream. From the fresh and organic breeze coming off San Francisco Bay, I must admit I’d been away from the sea for three weeks and it was driving me a little crazy. Rolling around the airport to the baggage carousel, I had to keep pinching myself to ensure that this was in fact real.
Driving through the city to our hotel, which was situated on Lombard Street, the home of the crookest street in the world, I was astounded by the vintage architecture and the well-kept garden boxes that complemented the house fronts. Painted in bright and vibrant shades of yellow, blue, orange, purple and nearly every other colour you can imagine, it was like the culture and architecture hadn’t moved a day out of the sixties.
When you think of San Francisco, it is steeped with so much music history that it takes a while to get your head around. To start off with, ‘(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay’, a seminal classic ’60s tune, was written by Otis Redding in Sausalito, which is the town across the Bay over the Golden Gate Bridge. Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin all lived in Haight-Ashbury at one point or another during the ’60s and ’70s, and I wouldn’t mind hedging a bet that Bob Dylan was involved in that folk rock scene as well.
Heading down to Fisherman’s Wharf on my first night was an experience; it was like the Waterfront in Geelong, except lots more activity throughout the day. Tarantino’s was the restaurant of choice that night and I would highly recommend the penne pasta with fresh clams and local seafood. An absolutely exquisite dish and well worth getting your chops around. I know I harped on about it before, but having lived by the ocean for 23 years of my life, three weeks without it does bring some heavy withdrawal symptoms along with it.
Cruising around San Fran, or ‘Frisco’ as Jack Kerouac affectionately knows it, is quite an experience because it has a different artistic culture to any town in Australia. Ask anyone that’s been there, it’s quite a hard to define experience to other people. One of the coolest methods of transport is the Cable Cars that run from Fisherman’s Wharf to Market Street, the centre of the shopping district in Frisco. Sitting on the outside facing the street is quite a surreal experience as you bump up and down the hills.
There are not really many gigs at night throughout the venues across town which was quite a culture shock compared to Nashville and Austin where it was everywhere you looked and you couldn’t really escape it if you tried. Heading along to The Fillmore on Thursday night to see Robert Earl Keen and trekking to Golden Gate Park for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass over the weekend definitely made up for the lack of gigs during the week.
The Fillmore is one of those venues that you just definitely have to experience for yourself. Opened in the ’60s, literally everybody has played there. Throughout the walls leading into the venue you can see classic images and posters of the day from John Lee Hooker to Santana, The Black Keys to Gomez. My favourite image throughout the venue, however, was The Who and Pete Townshend throwing his guitar up in the air: the shot is taken from the back of the stage and encapsulates the vibe of the evening and just how many people were there for that famous gig.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass should probably have its own Night Vibe Column because it is literally bigger than Ben Hur, with in excess of 500k people attending over the weekend. To be fair, there was so much to check out in San Fran that I only headed along to the festival on the Friday, but seeing Hurray for the Riff Raff and Conor Oberst (formerly of Bright Eyes) was awesome. If you don’t have your tickets to QMF yet, Hurray for the Riff Raff are definitely evidence enough that you should get on that right now!
By Tex Miller thenightvibe.com.au