Blog on the Tracks goes on tour

Last updated 09:11 28/05/2012

My thanks to last week's guest-bloggers - winners of the Right This Blog! round for 2012; we may do it again near the end of the year. I always try to pick a range of topics/writers - the main criterion for a winner is to pick something I probably wouldn't write about. I enjoyed last week's posts and I'm sure you did too. If you didn't - the good news is I'm back. If that's not good news - tough.

But actually I'm not back as such - I told you all I was leaving on a jet plane and I'm still away. It's my first trip across the equator, my first visit to America. And I'm away for another couple of weeks. I'm going to do my best to blog each day from the land of cheap gas and $13 bottles of gin. But I guess there's a chance I might miss a day or two - it may be that I turn my nose up at having to order a caramel macchiato or whatever it is they serve in place of coffee at Starbucks in order to nab the free wifi. It maybe because of the $13 bottles of gin. But I'll do my best to turn up here for you each day.

And if I get to some gigs here I'll be sure to let you know - that's certainly part of the plan.

I timed the Right This Blog! round this year to coincide with my holiday - to give me a flying start, as it were. But I don't really like having a complete holiday; writing, for me, is about turning up. And though it is nice to have a week off now and then I am going to carry on with Blog on the Tracks from America.

If you'd like a few travel-related stories I can sidestep the usual subject a wee bit, sure. But this is a music blog - and that's always been my aim, so that will be the focus still.

We arrived last week, landing in San Francisco before travelling up to a wonderful place called Stinson Beach. We were only there for a couple of nights - but it's a wee paradise of a place. My only reference was that it's where the Sharon Stone-character has a beach house in Basic Instinct. And musicians Jerry Garcia and Steve Miller were born in Stinson.Stinson Beach

I felt I recognised the final part of the drive from a car-chase scene in Basic Instinct. It's not the scene that people usually remember from that film. But then, everything in America is reminiscent of something from a movie. Everything I've seen so far, anyway.

I got to hear American Woman by The Guess Who - on an oldies station - while driving toward Nevada City from Stinson. It felt right. And good. Same with hearing Born To Be Wild and Hendrix's Stone Free and Carole King's I Feel the Earth Move. I doubt I would have noticed these songs if I had been driving around New Zealand - but it served to remind me that so much of the music that has had an impact on my life has come from America. Obviously there's plenty from other countries as well, but in terms of the music that I was first turned on to - well it was blues and jazz and the American pop and rock bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s as well as the British Invasion bands, English pop acts that took American R'n'B and resold it to the United States.

I visited three houses in Stinson Beach - each place had (at least) half a dozen Grateful Dead albums. More than I've seen in any house in New Zealand. I guess they're there in place of any Dave Dobbyn or Fat Freddy's Drop albums - or Black Seeds or Neil Finn or whatever I tend to find in Kiwi homes.

There was a rumour that Phil Lesh of the Dead owned the place directly across from where we were staying in Stinson. And then that was advanced to Lesh selling the house on to his band-mate Mickey Hart. I didn't want to go over and knock on the door - so I did the logical thing, I played my copy of The Grateful Dead's Without a Net loudly with the windows didn't do much - but I've always really loved that album at any rate.

The local bookstore carries copies of Lesh's autobiography and Mickey Hart's Planet Drum book. But that didn't really help. It's just an observation.Grateful Dead

The spirit of the Grateful Dead is strong around these parts - this week I'll be exploring San Francisco, after skipping out on a train, then rental car, almost as soon as we arrived last weekend. So I'll get to do the Haight-Ashbury thing. And see some bands; hopefully get to The Fillmore and maybe this Biscuits and Blues club. Also The Regency Ballroom maybe.

From there we'll go to Las Vegas.

So I'm asking for your tips of music-related things to do and see (and obviously hear) in either San Francisco or Las Vegas. Sure, I can Google a few things - and I have already. But I'm curious to know about any must-see/must-hear music adventures you know of in these parts.

I like America, the parts I've seen so far.

Wandering around a small town I found Bob Dylan's Dylan album from 1973, Neil Young's Time Fades Away from the same year and R.E.M.'s debut full-lengther, Murmur (made a decade after the Neil Young and Dylan albums). All on vinyl, in great condition - total spend was less than $30.

I've never heard Dylan or Time Fades Away. Even if they're awful at least I have them - they are the only records by Bob and Neil respectively that I've not yet heard. They've always been on "the list".

And if that wasn't decent enough - I was waiting outside a shop while Katy was making a purchase and Oscar was making friends with everyone he could when I heard and observed the following exchange take place:

Young guy in car stops in street: "Hey, how you doing?"
Older guy carrying wine box across the road: "Great, just great, how about you?"
Young guy: "Oh, great man. Just great."Nevada City
Older guy: "Well that's great. Hey, say is that your car?"
Young guy: "Nah! It's my mom's!"
Older guy: "Sweet. Good enough."
Younger guy: "I know, right?"
Older guy
: "I didn't even know you could drive!"
Younger guy: "Actually, you know what; turns out I'm pretty good."
Older guy: "Sweet!"
Younger guy:
"Yeah, real good. It's easy. Who knew?"
Older guy: "Well that's just great."
Younger guy: "Hey listen, I better get on now..."
Older guy: "Well, good, you go on..."
Younger guy: "It was great to see you though."
Older guy: "Yeah, you too man. You take care now."

I really like this place.

So, what should I be doing/seeing/hearing that is music-related specifically in San Fran and Vegas? Obviously a trip to Amoeba Records is on the cards...but what else?

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Si   #1   09:27 am May 28 2012

Not really music related at all, but I've heard this place is worth a visit in San Fran...

Shaniqua   #2   09:30 am May 28 2012

Go see a Sonny & the Sunsets ensemble show

boilup44   #3   09:43 am May 28 2012

Saw Kyuss Lives! at Regency Ballroom last year fantastic venue like Wellington Town Hall cut in half. Weird thing was how well behaved the audience were compared to NZ concert goers. You will only want to go to Haight-Ashbury once, strange vibe, full of dreadheaded ferals begging for change. On a side note be sure to go to Liguria Bakery in the North Beach. The foccacia is insane and will be the highlight of your SFO visit

rob   #4   09:47 am May 28 2012

Amoeba Records in San Franscico.... Like a giant Real Groovy Records.... not the cheapest, but an amazing range....

Ken   #5   10:09 am May 28 2012

Have no fear, "Time Fades Away" is brilliant. And completely unavailable on CD of course.

Jed   #6   10:30 am May 28 2012

San Fran is great, Las Vegas is plastic. Not sure if it's still playing, but when I went to Vegas five years ago I saw the cirque du solei Beatles' show "Love," which is simply outstanding. I highly recommend it.

Jacob   #7   11:24 am May 28 2012

Ah San Francisco! I lived there for some of my teens, and have very fond (rose tinted?) memories. I visited again a few years ago and really loved Berkeley. The benefits of the big population in terms of record stores, live shows, bars, etc, but without the pressure and rush of downtown San Fran.

I completely agree about music feeling “right” when it’s near its origin. Things that simply don’t fit with New Zealand take on and added dimension. I sometimes wonder if our subconscious have been corrupted by films in this regard, that we place music with certain images because of how we are shown them. It would be disappointing if that is the case, and I like to think that it’s not... but it really does sometimes feel we are just a porous receptacle for other people ideas.

viffer   #8   11:30 am May 28 2012

@ Si #1 - yes, indeedy - the Winchester house is very worth visiting, especially if you get the weird tour guide we had. I'm fairly convinced he wasn't doing it deliberately, but when prattling off the rote spiel for each room or feature he took us to, he placed pauses and stresses on odd syllables, and his infection rose and fell very oddly, giving the whole thing a very surreal sound which matched the surreal house. If you asked him a questio though, he answered in a normal conversational voice, and was very knowledgeable and helpful. Just wish we'd timed our visit to San Jose better; most things were closed when we were there.

San Francisco is great! We've been there twice in the last few years, both at Christmas time - oh, sorry; *Holiday* time. (We said "Merry Christmas" to the tram ticket dude, and he corrected us over our political incorrectness with a very pointed "Happy Holidays").

Andrew   #9   11:39 am May 28 2012

Lily of the West is worth having Dylan alone.

Sizzla   #10   12:29 pm May 28 2012

You should head across the bay to Berkeley.

Berkeley is one of the maddest places I've ever been. It seems like every single person on the streets is on drugs or mentally ill or both. Whatever it is there's a whole lot of shouting going on.

And you could check out 924 Gilman Street while you're there:

Maybe not the type of music you'd necessarily like but an interesting venue with quite a bit of history behind it now. It would be a good way to get an insight into the whole Bay-area punk scene.

Oh and definitely grap a copy of Maximumrocknroll just for giggles:

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