This neighborhood seems to so familiar…

After our show in San Diego, we loaded up the bus and headed north towards San Francisco. For my east coast readers who are geographically challenged on West Coat locations, that’s pretty much the longest drive of this tour. I sat with Amanda in the back lounge of the bus for a few minutes once we were under way, thinking “I’ll stay up for a while and hang out and do some reading.” True to form for most of this tour, I was falling asleep before we were outside the city limits, so I went to bunk.

I woke up somewhere in Northern California on the 405. Coffee was already made (Mars usually wakes up before anyone) and I sat watching the tawny brown hills roll by, and the wind farms with their massive whirling propellers. The bus slowed down for no apparent reason and I looked out to see a large white SUV lying on its side in the left lane, surrounded by CHP cars. Ah, California, you don’t change…

We arrived in SF early, parked outside the club and I got out and did some walking around. It took me about half an hour to realize that I had been in this neighborhood before. Ever do that thing where you walk into a place from a new direction, and you think “This all seems familiar, but completely unfamiliar too….”? Then, suddenly, your perspective shifts and it all snaps into place?

In 1991, my band Five-Eight recorded a full-length album in SF at a studio called Brilliant Studios. We were there for a month and a half in a neighborhood where prostitutes and addicts roamed the streets at all hours of the day and night. It turns out that the club we were playing, The Mezzanine, is either in the exact same space as the building-formerly-known-as-Brilliant-Studios, or is less than a block away.

The area has some new buildings, and there have been some attempts at gentrification, but it’s still a really crappy area. While we were in the club doing soundcheck, someone smashed the window on a club employee named Sarah’s car for really NO REASON. They didn’t steal anything, just wanted to break some glass. Ah, city life.

I wandered off for some brunch at a nearby restaurant and then returned for sound check. The club has some pretty deluxe accommodations, including a stone tiled shower, which I availed myself of. Later, I got to visit with my friend Deanne, her massive pitt bull/Great Dane mix named Jumbo, and also checked out her sisters amazing organization Muttville, a place for old dogs who need to be placed with foster owners or just nurtured through the difficult times at the end of their lives. What an amazing thing they’re doing. If you live in Cali, schedule a visit and maybe take an old dog home. If you don’t, send money. Kibble ain’t cheap.

Back in time to discover that Tu Lan had closed for the day, so we went to a taqueria nearby.

The Mezzanine was packed when I got back to the club. The Alarm were busy bringing The Rock to the faithful. I swear, if there’s any justice in the world, one day it will be possible to walk into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and see Mike Peters’ giant rock and roll heart up there on the wall next to fragments of Pete Townshend’s guitar and chunks of Keith Moon’s waterlogged Rolls Royce.

I didn’t think it was possible, but by the time the Fixx had finished their set, there were MORE people in the club. It was a complete capacity crowd. No more paying customers, no more guests, no more nobody but (god forbid) the Fire Marshall.

We came out and I started playing the intro to “Heartbeat.” Mars began his sax solo and then the whole band came crashing in. Concurrent with this, I felt a rush of warmth over my lower body. I thought… “I don’t think I just pissed myself…” As the song went on, it turned into a burning sensation, heat all over me, and I thought… “Oh, my god… That’s SO HOT…. OH! OH MY GOD!!” The lighting designer had put two spotlights directly behind the drum riser, and they were WAY! TOO! HOT! to be used that close to actual human flesh. By the time we got to the bridge for “Heartbeat,” I was beginning to worry for my safety. I ended up scooting the drum seat as far forward as I could to get away from the heat, but it wasn’t doing much good. By the end of the song, I was pretty certain I had been burned bad enough to leave a lovely red spot.

Once the song ended, I draped a towel over the back of my drum seat, creating a small shade barrier between me and the lights, which lessened my discomfort some, but didn’t mask the burning completely. Other than that, it was my favorite show of the tour. The crowd was really into the show and the sound was fantastic. I don’t know what more I could have asked for.

Afterwards, I said goodnight to my SF friends, climbed back onto the bus, and off we rolled, into the dark.

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