Road Blog: Friday February 16, 2018 - San Diego, CA
San Diego, California
February 16, 2018
I normally don't blog about one-off shows but the circumstances around this one are a little unique and a few people have reached out, wondering when the blogs will pick up again. We've got a bunch of shows coming up in March-June so there'll be plenty more! In the meantime….here's how this one came together.
It's been a bitch of winter in Michigan and TrooperGirl22 (my better half) and I have been looking for an excuse to ditch town for some sunshine for a couple months. Last week we finally found a window of a few days where we could get away without major disruptions to jobs, band, and other obligations in frozen Michigan. Southern California has been a favorite area of ours since the early 2000s when we came out to see friends from Michigan who relocated to San Diego and LA. We try to get out here every couple of years and it was time. So I started texting my friends to give them adequate time to prepare their livers and clear their calendars for Hurricane Porter. Within a couple days, my pal Ian Trumbull had a show booked for his band Ypsitucky and an opening slot for me, solo-electric. We landed at LAX on Wednesday night and hit the 405 south.
We set up camp at an AirBB cottage in Carlsbad, about 30 miles north of San Diego. It's a small little village we've spent some time in as my great aunt and uncle lived out their golden years here and we would stop and visit every time through. It's a good blend of townie, California culture without a bunch of tourists (like us) and an amazing beach that stretches for miles along the Pacific Ocean. We took a day to acclimate to the pace, weather, and time-zone, and then drove down to Del Mar to meet our dear friends Jimmy and Kathy for dinner. As we were leaving, and I was in the can, one of the hostesses at the restaurant asked TrooperGirl if I was in Green Day. Apparently, the back kitchen was a-buzz with speculation that Billie Joe Armstrong (BJAofficial) was dining out front. Nope, just a buggy-eyed, greasy-spiky-haired aging punk rocker from Michigan.
Jimmy and Ian used to be in The Deterants, an Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti band that did many shows with my bands in the 90s & 2000s, including the last-ever SlugBug show at Jacoby's German Biergarten in Detroit, ending our run unceremoniously with a fatal shooting in the parking lot during our set. Jimmy would go on to be the first drummer for Clashback, my all-Clash-covers side-project with Chris Hartmann and Craig Nine, before he and Ian moved out here to form The Ghost Town Deputies and eventually branch off into other great, genre-spanning projects on both sides. So – there's a lot of history there, and it's a damn pleasure to see these guys and get caught up.
Yesterday started with breakfast and a stroll around Carlsbad. TrooperGirl stepped into a clothing boutique and I opted to sit on a bench outside to check my phone for updates from Patrick on the Tucos machine back home. I looked over to the smoothie shop next door and did a double take at this dude who I thought for 75% sure was Stephen Pearcy from RATT, eating some frozen yogurt with a lady friend. I once ate a late-night meal at a Big Boy restaurant in Marquette, Michigan at the same time Stephen Pearcy was also eating there, so I guess that makes us pretty much pals, but I wasn't positive, so I did a little research and soon realized that – although the resemblance was very similar – it wasn't him. After a stop into Spin Records, where I found an old Soul Asylum Twin/Tone Records 7" I don't have, and some beach time, we headed back to the cottage to get ready for the show.
We hit San Diego around 7:30 and parked next to the Black Cat Bar. It's a smaller room with a high ceiling, a couple pool tables, and a small balcony. It was a bank for decades before it became a bar, and had that vibe a bit. There are big neon black-cat silhouette lights in the front windows, a great jukebox, and cool retro booths on the side. I ordered drinks and wrote out my set list as Ian and his girlfriend Starlene showed up with big California smiles and hugs. Ian and I talked guitars and got my rig all set up (I used his gear) as Kathy and Jimmy arrived. A couple drinks later and I hit the stage around 9:30. I've never played a whole set solo-electric before, usually opting for an acoustic, but this was a cool, different thing and I enjoyed it. Ian's guitar is this super limited edition Telecaster made from wood excavated from a Northern California railroad bridge. It's light as a feather and plays like a dream. I ran through a Fender Deluxe Reverb blackface amp and a couple cool boutique pedals and felt right at home up there.
Playing solo shows can be such a mixed bag. Occasionally you end up in a "listening" situation where people are engaged and attentive, but usually it's a challenge to rise above the talk and drinks and make any kind of impression at all. I usually go into these gigs expecting the latter but doing my best. Last night was an exception. There was a good crowd and they were drinking and partying, but they were engaged and hollering and cheering throughout the set. It was super fun to have that, and ended up one of the more memorable solo shows I've played.
Up next was Ypsitucky, a 4-piece with Ian on guitar and vocals, plus bass, drums and fiddle. They were tight and comfortable, and in a groove. Ian's songs are fantastic, and since I haven't seen him play in some 17, 18 years, it was a real joy to watch. Super solid set. After them came headliners The Downs Family, a traditional Irish/punk band in the vein of The Pogues. These dudes are clearly well rehearsed and have a ton of gigs under their belts. Super fun set – the highlight for me being their cover of my favorite Pogues song The Body of an American.
After a while we formulated our exit plan, did one last shot, paid our tab, and said our goodbyes, not sure if we'll see these guys again before we had back to Michigan. TrooperGirl got us safely onto the 5 north and back to our cottage in Carlsbad where we crashed pretty hard around 1:45am.
This was the first show I've played in California and it was one to remember. Great friends, great music, a great city and a great room. Thanks for everything Ian, Ypsitucky, The Downs Family, Jimmy & Kathy, Starlene, TrooperGirl. And San Diego!
Thanks for reading!