(I also posted this on the Convention thread, but since it covers a lot more than the convention, here is the separate thread on it. I hope that's OK.)
I'm still reeling from the Madeira's 5-day California tour - so much was packed into those five days, it's a bit overwhelming. But here are some comments and memories - sorry for the excessive length! I don't blame you if you don't read it, but I tried to break it up into different days, so you can just read the parts you might be interested in:
Wednesday, August 8th:
The rest of my band arrived to San Francisco late Tuesday, and picked me up around Noon on Wednesday. We spent the afternoon at Ferenc's gorgeous home in Marin County, squeezing in a practice in his garage, just to shake off the cobwebs. Headed down to the Elbo Room in the Mission section of SF, where we were playing with two non-surf bands that night: the Hampton Wicks, a pretty authentic mid-'60s garage band, who went on first, and the headliner Cellar Doors, who played a mix of '60s garage, late-'80s/early-'90s UK alternative stuff like Jesus & the Mary Chain and Stone Roses, and even stuff like the Pixies. Both bands were just phenomenal, and it was a really fun night - though each band seemed to have its own fans, and they didn't seem to stick around for the other bands, preferring to be in the downstairs bar instead. A bit of a shame, really. Fortunately, we had the SF surf fans turn out in good numbers and we had probably 40+ people there during our set, quite respectable for a Wednesday night. It was great to see two of the Deadbeats again, and of course Ferenc and Danny were there, too, as well as Steve of the TomorrowMen, Lorenzo and his g-friend Anne, Bruce of the Reef Riders, William of the Illuminoids (who drove 6-hours one way from Oregon to see our set, and then turned around and drove home!), and a bunch of other people. This was our full-on show, only the hard-rocking stuff, no ballads, and I think the soundman got into the spirit of things a bit too much, as he cranked the PA! (It wasn't my fault, honest - I was using Danny's brownface Bandmaster and only had it on 5!) All in all, it was just a great night, we played surprisingly well, the other bands were hot, good turnout, and the only downside was that we did a terrible job selling merch, which was going to be a key component of us being able to come close to breaking even for the tour, so we decided to really pay much closer attention to that at subsequent shows, which we did, with great results. Are we really musicians or just t-shirt salesmen??? It seems more and more like the latter....
Thursday, August 9th:
Thursday was a day of rest - sort of like slowly climbing up to the top of the rollercoaster, serene and peaceful until the insanity starts, which it did on Thursday night and did not let up until we got home. Dane and Todd decided to go hiking in some of the beautiful areas of Marin County, while Patrick and I stayed behind to enjoy Ferenc's hospitality. Around 5:30 we headed down to Forbidden Island in Alameda for the show. Our first time there, and what a great place! We set up the gear for the TomorrowMen set, and after some excitement when the plug for Ferenc's Vibroverb fell off and us electrical geniuses wiring it back on wrong (thank God Danny arrived when he did!), we had some pizza and got ready to play. The TomorrowMen went on first, playing an acoustic set for the first time ever, and man, it was SO GREAT! I know it was a big experiment for them, but I thought the experiment was a complete success. Hearing all those tracks on acoustic guitars really brought out the Latin vibe in so many of the songs, which frankly I had never noticed before. But all of a sudden it was like I was hearing the songs for the first time, and like they were being played by some Mexican band! I just loved it. I hope they do it again in the future. The band played great, too, and it was just a fantastic set. By the time we were ready to go on, the club had really filled out (not difficult, it's a small place, probably about 60 people there), and the audience seemed primed and ready to go. We also experimented a bit, and played a very quiet set, concentrating mostly on our mellower stuff - the opposite of the night before. They said it couldn't be done - the Madeira quiet?? Unthinkable! But it worked! Honestly, think that was one of my favorite shows we ever played. It was truly enjoyable to play more melodically and with more feel, instead of just blasting the audience away. And the vibe in the club was fantastic, the audience greeting us very enthusiastically. As soon as we were finished, we were nearly mobbed by all the people wanting to buy our merch and getting signatures. Pretty amazing. Danny and Ferenc were extremely helpful with all this, too, walking around the club with our merch and kinda forcing people to buy it! You guys are the BEST! We definitely made up for the slow sales the night before. Anyway, I will always have very special memories of that night, and thanks to Ferenc and Danny for making it happen. They really treated us so well those two days, lending us all their gear, making sure everything was right, etc., we are truly grateful. But now it was time to set off on our own, and around 11:30 pm we drove off south, to get a jump start on the long trip down to San Diego the next day and hopefully avoid the really bad rush-hour gridlock around LA.
Friday, August 10th:
We drove for a couple of hours and crashed in a motel off rt. 5. Four guys per room, two guys per bed - ah, the glamour of rock'n'roll! I didn't get much sleep, but we had to leave by 9 am in the morning, so were up at 8 or earlier, with Todd driving our Ford Flex the entire way (he actually likes to drive and doesn't seem to get tired out by it in the least - he's inhuman!). Fortunately we had the time to stop in on Jeff's BBQ party, and we spent about an hour there, getting to meet Los Venturas for the first time, who proved to be really great guys, and seeing so many old friends: Josh and JonPaul, Jeremy of Aqualads and Fady from North Carolina, three-fourths of the Exotics, Gary of the Intoxicators, Jamie of the Mystery Men and Bob from Atlanta, and a few others who are escaping me right now. It really was quite a surf party! We had some great food, and got back on the road, thinking we had about an hour and a half or two hours at the most from Anaheim to San Diego. Three hours later, we finally made it. (I don't know how you SoCal people live with all this traffic!) We checked into a Motel 6 by the airport, again four guys per room, and relaxed for an hour before heading to the show.
Once we arrived, both El Ray & the Secret Samurai were already there. Jeremy and Fady were there, much to my surprise, and also Ran was there, and it was so great to see him, Ryan and Steve again. We slowly met the four El Rays, too, and then it was time for them to go on. My expectations were pretty high, but they completely obliterated them. I've been a fan of El Ray since probably '01 or '02, shortly after the release of their debut album Shoot from the Hip, and have kept up with the band ever since, getting all their subsequent releases, all of which I love. Getting a chance to play with El Ray was one of the most exciting things about this California tour. And though I was tired as hell, having gotten about 3 hours of sleep the night before, their set just blew me away from the first second, with El Firetone's introduction: "This is a terrible story of being stuck in an elevator - it's called Stuck in an Elevator!!" Classic! They played a simply awesome set that night, top notch musicianship AND showmanship, and I felt reenergized. They turned out to be unbelievably nice people, too, and it was a true pleasure to chat with them both that night and the subsequent two days. Probably the highlight of their Friday's set was "Space Car 2001", which is simply an epic song. I'd say probably one of the very best songs from post-2000 surf music in general. The Secret Samurai went on next, and more than held their own, which is really saying something! Ryan's tone was HUGE. His guitar playing continues to improve by leaps and bounds, and it was already scary good five years ago! He's really developed a very personal style within the broader surf parameters, nobody plays like Ryan. The last time i saw them play was two years ago when the Cossacks played with them in SD, and this time they sounded overall more solid, more energetic, tighter, and with higher-level of musicianship, including Steve whose bass playing was aggressive and impressive at this show. They played a bunch of new songs, too, which sounded great. The next album should be a really good one! Finally we went on, and proceeded to do what we do. Ryan warned me while we were planning the show to try to keep the volume under control at the club, so we threw in a bunch of slower tracks in the setlist, but it turned out that the audience, possibly primed by the high-energy sets by El Ray and the Secret Samurai, didn't seem to be in the mood for the mellow stuff. So we changed things a bit on the fly and gave them what they wanted. It was a great show in the end, with a surprisingly good turnout, and the club owner was very happy at the end of the night, which is always a good thing.
Saturday, August 11th:
We finally got to bed around 2 am again, and slept until about 9 am. This was the day of the Convention, and it was going to be a very long day - we definitely needed some rest to survive! By the time everybody showered and we got packed up, it was 11 am, and it took us two and a half hours to make it to Los Alamitos - way too long! So, sadly, we missed all the early Convention stuff, the jam, the Ninth Wave and the Intoxicators, but by the time we got there, the club was packed and hopping! No surprise, since the Exotics were playing and sounding just unbelievably good! We played two shows with them in mid-June in Chicago and Milwaukee, and I was just blown away, but it sounded to my ears like they brought it all up a few more notches for the convention! We got to catch about 15-20 minutes of their set, and also started setting up our merch table. Everywhere I looked there were familiar faces, and some of them started coming up and saying hi. Honestly, the next four or so hours are simply a blur. I just went talking from one person to another, catching up with old friends, helping run the merch table, and trying to squeeze in some band viewing whenever I could. I saw the Nocturnes blow the roof off with Baha-Ree-Bah and Third Star to the Left (one of the moments of the day for me: young Maxx turning to me and saying, they're playing a Space Cossacks' song! LOL! I corrected him on that one...); Paul Johnson with his team of ringers (Dusty, Matt Quilter, Ron Eglit) slaying the audience with many of his own classics; Los Ventures plying their oh-so-cool Euro-suave-spy grooves, and El Ray blowing everyone away with Spacecar 2001. Unfortunately, I couldn't really concentrate on El Ray's set, since we were going on after them and I had to get ready, but I caught the first part at least. I have to say that I was extremely happy with our set at the convention. We played as well as we ever have, and I could tell the whole band was really feeling it. Opening with Eddie & the Showmen's Far Away Places went down exactly as we hoped it would, and everything after that was just a blur. Thank you all who were there for giving us such a great reception! The only bummer for me is that I was not warmed up enough to play Mar Gaya as the second song in the set, and was definitely struggling with the double-picking - damn! Well, live and learn. The rest of it all seemed just fine. And it was an unbelievable thrill to see Mr. Paul Johnson himself right in front of the stage during our last few songs, and to have him greet me coming off the stage and lay some massive compliment on me - I was so out of my mind and hyper at that point that I don't even remember what it was - but whatever it was, it was incredible to hear it from him! Feeling a great sense of accomplishment, I was able to just relax - only to have my mind blown away by Jon & the Nightriders. I caught the great majority of their set, and though I've seen them play in this and other lineups on multiple occasions, there's no doubt in my mind that this was BY FAR the best I've ever seen them play! They brought it 150%! The old songs sounded as vital as the day they first recorded them, and the few new songs they threw in, including a great version of Bali Hai, were all seriously hot. May there be a new recording soon! Just the PERFECT way to wrap up the convention. (BTW, most bands, including J&TN and us, acknowledged Baja Marty's spirit, which definitely seemed palpable in the room. It was very emotional at moments, and you saw a lot of fists being raised in the air in his honor and memory, both by the musicians and the audience members. I have no doubt that Marty was there that day with us - and I'd like to think he truly dug what he saw!)
And that was it. We all had to get out of there in a hurry once the clock struck 8 pm, since the club turned up hip-hop and dance music, which is a very effective way to get rid of a bunch of surf nuts in a hurry! Ferenc, Danny, Dusty and the Madeira went for some incredible Jewish deli food nearby, which was really nice. The Madeira decamped to our motel room at Don's Turf Motel to change before heading out to the Doll Hut to see the Disasternauts, the Tequila Worms and Slacktone. We only caught a few songs by the Disasternauts, but they were kicking serious ass!! Gary is such an amazing guitarist, and I was blown away by how great of a job JonPaul did on bass, given that the band is based in Florida and JonPaul, well, is not! For the next couple of hours I ended up mostly talking to people again rather than watching bands, but I could hear both the Tequila Worms and Slacktone quite clearly outside, and they were both hot! In particular, I have to say that I think that was the best I've ever heard Slacktone sound. They may as well have introduced their set with the following: "So, all you guys that played the convention, you think you're hot stuff, yeah? Well, watch THIS!" They took everybody to school, and demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are still simply at the very top of the heap. It was a humbling experience. I did get to go inside and watch a few songs full-on, including an astonishing version of Bells of St. Kahuna, plus a few songs at the very end. It was just a thrill. After it was all over, we finally got to bed at 2 am again, ears ringing like the bells of St. Kahuna!
Sunday, August 12th:
Got off to a bit a late start - what's new - but we were really trying to make it down to the HB pier by 11 am. We left Don's at 10:20 am, and stopped by McDonald's for some grub. It took us another forty minutes afterwards to make about 10-12 miles! G@#-D@#$ SoCal! I could never get used to that. the end result is that we missed most of the Los Venturas' set, which was a bummer. We settled in afterwards and got to see another fantastic set by El Ray, and then see the Intoxicators for the first time ever - man, I really enjoyed those guys! Though Gary was having some tuning issues with his guitar (as was El Firetone, come to think of it - the beach air was a bit hard on guitars), he still completely delivered and I was left really impressed by his playing. A s#!+ hot guitarist, and a great band in general! I have their two CDs, and there are many excellent tracks on both, I highly recommend them! It was our turn next, and we decided not to play dress up, for better or worse. It was definitely more comfortable. It was such a fun show for us. Very relaxed, great vibes, both due to the surroundings and all the friends in attendance. It was a perfect way to cap it all off. The Ninth Wave went on after us, to a growing audience which seemed really into them, finally followed by Exotics, who again stepped up to the occasion and showed they truly are a world-class band. If there was any doubt in anybody's mind before the pier show, there was none afterwards. They sounded huge, playing deeply in the pocket and showing absolute mastery of trad surf . These guys don't play trad surf, they are trad-surf! It just pours out of them.
A bunch of us gathered at Don the Beachcomber's afterwards, and after a big satisfying meal, Patrick, Dane and I were truly honored to play first with Maxx Kominsky, jamming on DD's The Victor and the Wedge, and then being invited back up by Paul Johnson for Mr. Moto and Squad Car. What a way to wrap these five days! Paul was incredibly kind, and, as always, a true gentleman. What a pleasure and privilege to get to play with himl He is always so generous with him time and his compliments, and his continued involvement in modern surf music is deeply appreciated by many of us younger punks.
Unfortunately, we had to get up at 5 am the next morning to make our flights at LAX, so we had to cut the night short and return. After packing everything, I was asleep by 10 pm - but woke up at 3 am, and lay there for the next two hours with various events of the past five days running through my head, like somebody had pushed a random memory play button in my head. The funny thing is that I didn't even mind! I was just lying there with a huge grin, reliving all the great moments, especially from Saturday and Sunday. It was simply a very special few days, that I will never forget.
Thanks so much to Jeff for doing an AMAZING job this year! He seemed much more relaxed and confident, and it was really nice to see him like that, enjoying himself. I think he's got this thing figured out by now. Thanks also to all the other people that made this all happen: Kristena, JonPaul, Craig, Linda & John, Matt and Dusty for their amazing gear, and everybody else who was involved and gave of their time. Thanks also to Ferenc, Danny and Ryan for making the first three shows of our mini-tour so fantastic! I surely hope to see everybody again next year! I'll add at the end that the thing that I will probably remember the most from this convention is the amazingly deep feeling of camraderie and friendship. It was everywhere. So many hugs, so many smiles, so much laughter, tons of joy. That's probably the best way to describe this whole event for me: just incredibly joyful. Despite the occasional squabbling on the forum, we DO really have a special thing going on in this community. I've grown deeply fond of many people in this scene, and I cannot wait to see you all again. The one thing that kept this convention from being basically perfect was the absence of Brian Neal, which I personally (and many others, I know) very much felt. The two of us attended last year's convention together, and I really missed him this time around. I know that it was pretty hard for him to not be there this year (I believe the first one he had to miss), and here's very much hoping that this will be the only one he'll ever miss!—
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