When people think of California, they think of something like SNL’s The Californians… a bunch of woven patio furniture lounging, iced-tea-drinking, bottled blonde, surfer types. And of course lots of gay orgies, vegetarians, and PETA protesters forcing tourists to smoke pot and listen to lectures by Noam Chomsky. Then, there’s Bakersfield. This is the real California. It’s a large agricultural town with an infrastructure not updated since the ’60s and maybe a rolling meth lab or three. This is the side of California that passed Proposition 8. This is the bulk of the Golden State. It was about time we played a show outside our Occupy Oakland and Hollyweird bubbles.
We rolled into Bakersfield after a five hour drive at about four o’clock. The temperature outside was above 100° and climbing, well above some Bay Area pussies’ comfort zone. On our way in, what few people were in downtown were evidence of the city’s lack of support for the homeless, drug addicted and schizophrenic. Hey, maybe this place is more like the Bay Area than I thought!
Jerry’s Pizza and Pub was not a name that held promise as a venue, nor did their missives about maybe not having enough microphones for vocals and kick drums; guitar cabs were on their own. Despite that, the venue in the basement of the pizza place was pretty cool, what with it’s two gigantic fans on stage (insert rim shot, here). The room had a wide but low stage, a good square room for some moshing, and a back area for our costumed conversions. The pizza was like that shit Mama Celeste microwave pizza in flavor, but, like, good? Point being, if you’re asked to play Jerry’s Pizza and Pub, and you’ve still got the spirit of a punk, it’s way better than it sounds.
I’m used to seeing murals with civil right’s heroes, space-monkeys playing turntables, and D&D monsters by Skinner all over Oakland. Bakersfield murals celebrate temperance, because Prohibition was a great idea. Again, this is REAL California, which is a lot more like Texas than anyone who didn’t grow up here would ever realize.
Our van was protected by the saddest taxidermy lion in the saddest strip mall natural history museum that ever sadded some sad.
The show began pretty slow. I guess a lot of people had wanted to play, so the promoter added a few bands that were splitting sets. People had shown up, but they didn’t move much for what they were watching. Something about SoCal is that you can’t have a show with less than six bands. It just… doesn’t… happen. Not to dismiss anyone’s chance to play a show, but my personal opinion is that if you can’t even get your whole line-up to the show, you ought to just cancel your appearance.
We were having a good time, though, just drinking some brews and shooting the shit with people. Backstage, things got ugly, as some bastard decided to crash the party.
Zom-Bestial went on and got the crowd moving. They made a big mistake though, which was to ask for more vocals. I’m not sure they understood that there was no monitors functioning by the time they went on, so the sound dude just turned up the vocals in the mix. I may have enjoyed their set more had the vocals not been the only thing I could hear.
I have a policy of very rarely ever asking for anything more or less from monitors. That is, lest there be a monitor guy and something is so egregious it’s actually hurting my ears. More often than not, unless you hear complaints from the audience, the sound guy has it sounding good from his vantage point… the audience. If you can’t hear yourself playing or singing, that’s what muscle memory and practice are for.
Goreshack went on next and I was impressed. They had their tones dialed in and the emphasis was on having a good time with the crowd, passing out inflatable beach balls and tons of Gatorade.
If you’re unfamiliar, as I was until recently, their gimmick is kinda like some murderous dudes who live in a mysterious place festooned with monsters. They incorporate surf-type elements into their songs along with crossover-mosh riffing and have cheeky, horror-filled lyrics. Hmmm… sounds familiar. No wonder I totally enjoyed it. I wanna get these dudes to Oakland post haste.
It was time to get our crew up and get on stage. Goreshack were kind enough to lend us their cabs so our usually long set-up was mercifully shortened. We exited and re-entered through the crowd and the blood spewing began in earnest.
Through the set, the stage and the crowd blurred. By the end we had about 15-30 people on stage with us pogo-ing, moshing, and taking over the one microphone that didn’t get smashed half-way through for some bad ass karaoke. It was general madness and a fucking blast; the people of Bakersfield brought it. Justin from Goreshack stepped up and helped us bring our monster show to life. There was a only a couple times I had to kick a fool or two for thinking they should help us fight a giant, foam robot, or that our amps should be knocked to the ground. I’ll take that over a crowd of simpering wimps any day. Rock and / or fucking roll.
A local was kind enough to invite us and the entire show to his house for an after party. I, wimping the fuck out after driving all day, went right to bed. A few of us partied with the locals and the other bands. It was a swinging time in Bako. Also, there were wild packs of chihuahuas roaming the streets. Not relevant, but bizarre and worth mentioning.
The central valley of California might be laden with hicks and rednecks who think Obama was born in Kenya, but there’s also a bunch of other cool people who just wanna rock the fuck out and have a good time. And we’re glad to party with ’em. Bakersfield, we shall return.