I couldn't shake the thought, "If this is the very last time we play SLO Brew, I want to go BIG. BIGGER THAN BIG!"
Big energy. Big hair. Big solos. Big gratitude. Big attitude. Dancing. Mosh pits. Memories. By now, you know SLO Brew is moving this summer...and with that transition...the music will likely cease.
This is why I wanted that epic night--Friday the 13th, 2015--to burn into my 27-year old brain permanently. Considering the fact that one female audience member (on acid, we later found) crawled on stage and flashed her boobs to the entire crowd ... I think it is safe to say that the show will be remembered vividly by every 14-year-old boy in attendance.
Boobs aside, It was the best lineup I could have ever asked for.
Accompanied by Long Beach heartthrobs Tijuana Panthers (I literally squealed at the thought of sharing the stage with my longtime faves), King Walrus (the most dance-able band in SLO), and Ventura's Massenger (pulsing rock energy with incredible tortured-yet-poppy female vox), I knew deep down in my gut it would be one to write home about.
Indeed, at the end of the all ages show, a drunk teenager actually walked up to me in a fit of passion and confusion. "Where....is....the teardrop emoji?" she mumbled, shoving her iPhone into my face. Yes, it was that kind of night!
But let's not skip too far ahead.
I can't remember the last time I loaded my gear into SLO Brew with such glee. While the TJ Panthers sound checked (I'm just a creature of the niggggggghhhhht!), my Magazine Dirty bandmates reassured me, "Hey! We could be playing SLO Brew again before the summer is through."
Yes, this was possibly true. But what if we didn't? I didn't want to let my 17-year-old self down.
I was going to leave it all on stage.
Why the big dramatic feelings? Yes, I was on my period. I also had a long history with the place.
Playing SLO Brew is a big deal for someone who (mostly) grew up in rural Atascadero.
It almost seemed an impossible thought for an awkward 13-year-old girl playing guitar in her barn.
I remembered our SLO Brew CD release in 2013--the moment when the entire crowd put on their Magazine Dirty "Go Ape" monkey masks in unison. It took my breath away.
I remembered my first time playing that stage with my bluegrass trio, when I put on a local music collaboration with Swap! Zine and Twang and Bang records. I was living in SLO for the first time in my life, and I was invested in the music scene immediately. I wanted to be part of it, but I also had no idea what I was doing (Basically, exactly the same as now).
I thought about the camaraderie I felt playing with our friends' bands over the past few years: American Dirt, King Walrus, Deadvolts. The college kids would melt away at these shows. It felt like "our town," if only for a 2 minute song.
I remembered being a teenager and seeing big bands who were en route from the Bay Area to L.A. How sublime it was for them to stop for our po dunk patch of earth. From that young vantage point, looking up, the stage looked larger, the musicians more Godlike.
Looking out at the empty SLO Brew dance floor as we backlined our gear on stage, I felt comfortable, playful, at ease. I was struck by my usual snarl of thoughts:
1) I love using monitors! How luxurious!
2) Kip, you rock my world! ..... even if you just knocked over my guitar. Because I just knocked it over like two seconds ago, too. And I probably will knock it over again before I play.
3) Knocked it over again. Damn it! Better re-tune real quick. Gross, Curtis' blood is still all over my strings from the last show! Oh well...
4) Hope I can scarf some food...mmmm...maybe pizza?...before King Walrus starts...!
5) This is exactly where I want to be.
I can already hear the peanut gallery now. Shut your holes.
SLO Brew is not "intimate," and it's not "underground."
But that's not what this venue is about.
It's an institution.
There are rules, but there is also glory.
Me? I love the fact that you can stand outside the alley and hear the show as it echos through the city's epicenter. I love the fact that there is a dance floor and people do dance, not just nod their heads numbly.
I love that people don't go to SLO Brew to simply get drunk. It's not booze with a side of music. It's music with a side of booze, if you want it. There is an understanding that everyone who is there probably wants to be there.
Someone procured tickets.
There was excited chatter as you stood in line.
The show date was actually on your calender.
You actually looked forward to it.
SLO Brew gives off that old fashioned feeling of, "we're going to a concert, honey! Put on your dancing shoes and look alive!"
I love that. Especially since we don't have a respectable "honky tonk" in town.
And for all of these reasons, I bought the single most ridiculous dress to wear on stage for my "final" SLO Brew performance. I stopped by Retrofit and asked owner and pal Katie: "Got anything sparkly?"
By now, she knows to point me toward the good, extra-crazy stuff.
There was indeed a dress she had been hiding in the back for years. A bright red dress. Covered in sequins. Strapless. Plunging sweetheart neckline. Blinding shimmer. Totally 80s. I brought it home and hacked it so it would be short enough to free my dance moves.
It had the subtly of a disco ball.
And suddenly, my insides matched my outsides.
The show itself was a whirlwind of movement, sass, camaraderie, sweat, beer, joy, and creative abandon. I felt like every song we played was slower than usual... But it wasn't our drummer slowing down. It was my mind. It was slowing down in order to capture it all. I tried as hard as I could.
I found myself looking out into the crowd and seeing the individual faces of my friends. Muscle memory kicked in as my hands did what they did and my body was allowed to sway in every direction at once.
We switched instruments, allowed the role of "lead singer" to effortlessly roll from one voice to the next. I slithered all the way to the razor's edge of the stage and yelled directly into the faces of the young teenage girls who had gathered there, mouths agape.
After the show, Chad from TJ Panthers commented on our "awesome energy." I smiled and said: "Humor. Energy. Together, that's all you need!" At that moment, I meant it, through and through.
A fan slapped $40 in my palm and told me to buy a round of drinks for the band (sorry any band mates reading this that did not get a drink...).
Young ladies came up to me in droves, most wearing high-wasted cut-off Mom jeans and vintage T-shirts, iphones at the ready.
We exchanged sincere conversation. Even if they were brief, frantic encounters where we screamed nice things at each other over the loud music, it felt good.
I recognized in their eyes and eagerness and an excitement. There was an open door they saw before them and they wanted to walk through it. I told them they could strut through it if they wanted to.
They had so many questions for me:
When did you start playing?!
Where are you from?
Where DID YOU GET THAT DRESS?!!!!!!!!!!!
One girl told me she wanted to pick up a guitar and start a band, too.
I threw my head back and closed my eyes. I put my hand on her slender shoulders and shook them.
"That's all I ever wanted to hear," I said.
One more lady with a guitar.
I hope, for her sake, that she does put her money where her mouth is.
And when she's ready, that she has a place to play.