You may recall that the Underside went into hiatus so I could put my limited creative energies into a thing called the Smithfield Sunday Session podcast. Marvelous fun it was, too, but we decided to wrap it up before our audience lost interest and moved on. My parents can be so fickle. So rather than deprive the internet of my inane ramblings, I thought I'd fire up the old blog again to have a bit of a natter about a little tour I recently underwent. I'll be drawing this story out into far more installments than it warrants...
Following the release of a new album, an old fashioned road trip seemed like just the ticket. I decided on the West Coast quite arbitrarily, but it turned out to be an excellent choice- warm weather, friendly people, and without a driver's license between us, an interstate bus service that allowed us to live like transients for a few days (you really must try it). My traveling companion would be the drummer and good mate referred to elsewhere in this blog as "The Attorney".
Our little adventure starts at LA international airport. It's one of the world's largest, which we discovered when our local contact kept us waiting long enough to explore all of it. What I don't know about Californian baggage carousels isn't worth knowing! (What I do know isn't of any great value either, actually.) Our man eventually turned up and took us on an historic tour of the city. It was like seeing into the past! Forget your Roman ruins and Ancient Greek what-have-yous, the streets of LA are steeped in rich history, and I know all of it- like where the Ding Dong club used to be, and where that guy who was in that movie died. What I didn't realize was that an hour spent living in the past was perfect preparation for our destination: the El Patio Inn.
I'm well aware that calling it "THE El Patio Inn" can't be right, but I find it somehow satisfying, so I'm sticking with it. The El Patio is a classic. A brown and tan fantasy. The management are to be commended for recreating 1975 with such startling accuracy. It reminded me slightly of the depressing motels from childhood road trips, combined with the setting for a low-budget murder mystery. In fact, scenes from David Lynch's "Lost Highway" (about a jazz saxophonist…) were shot there. We had some time before soundcheck, so I had some drugs delivered and murdered a prostitute. Just seemed like the thing to do.
The setting for the LA gig was the estimable Vitello's. A nondescript two-level affair, it hides on a leafy suburban street, far away from the prying eyes of potential jazz audiences. Downstairs, a comfortable Italian restaurant; upstairs, a comfortable and well-appointed jazz club. We had managed to assemble a killer group of musicians, so the gig was a gas; audience was welcoming and enthusiastic, and we hung with some lovely local folk.
Duties done, the Attorney and I were directed to a local bar to see out the evening. Called the Peppermint Club, or the Starlight Lounge, or something similarly unlikely, it was a textbook LA dive: indescribably dingy, with broken pool table, hot/surly bartender, old scrubbers in miniskirts, several possible Bukowskis... In short- heaven. We drank cheap American beer until the mists descended, then apparently made our way back to the El Patio.
Our flight the following day wasn't until evening, so we spent the day confounding the skeptics- by walking and taking public transportation! The mile walk to the nearest cafe felt like crossing the desert to some breakfast burrito-serving oasis; and when we told of our bus and train route to the airport, locals looked at us like we'd discovered some abandoned tunnel built by escaping prisoners-of-war. Eventually we escaped from LA , but not before receiving some reviews of the previous night's performance. They were uniformly glowing, although that turned out to be due to LA's record levels of Japanese radiation. Next, exciting Portland!