Thursday, 9 February 2017

ALI AZIMI & THE NEED - US and Canada tour 2016, part 2: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Election Day

Thursday 3 November (Los Angeles to San Francisco, CA)

"That's a big Twinkie."

Most of the day spent on the I-5 driving to San Francisco, listening to a hair metal station on the satellite radio ("You got the rhythm, you got the speed / Mama's little baby likes it short and sweet…").  I spent a good deal of the journey sat on the seat at the back of the car with my headphones in, enjoying some ‘me’ time and watching the pretty landscapes go past.   We were originally going to be staying with one of Ali’s friends, but Ali decided we would plump for a hotel instead (hooray!) so we eventually pulled up at the Hilton Concord.  Atherton and I checked into room 516, and chilled out for a bit.

In the evening we went to a party hosted by the wonderful Nazy Kaviani, the founder and executive director of the Diaspora Arts Connection who were putting us on on Saturday.  Nazy and her organisation do some great work to bring diverse cultural and ethnic groups together in the San Francisco Bay area, and its something that she is really passionate about. It was an absolute pleasure to talk to her about her work, and the people she surrounds herself with to work on these events are just enthusiastic and fun to be around. I was introduced to the ‘Persian Lady’ (a cocktail involving vodka, pomegranate juice, and something else I can’t remember…), and a lovely lady named Yasaman who works for NASA!  We all had a fantastic time, and as is practically inevitable whenever a bunch of musicians get together on the need, eventually we started jamming.  Someone definitely played the Faramaz Aslani song we had played in DC, and I have a memory of playing ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Hotel California’, and a couple of Ali tracks accompanied by some of my bandmates and the assembled party-goers.  I think I had the piano room to myself a little later and entertained myself with a little gentle Bon Jovi…!  It was a properly lovely night, and definitely a highlight of the trip.

A lot of love in the room. 

Friday 4 November (Day off, San Francisco, CA)

I was up first and tried the hotel breakfast.  I managed to destroy the waffle iron by forgetting to oil it up first.  Whoops.  They made me one in the kitchen instead!  The boys were all broken by the party.  I refused to admit defeat and ordered myself a ‘Persian Lady’ while Atherton and Sully lounged in the Jacuzzi.  We headed off to the lunch at the curiously named ‘Claim Jumper’, which did Atherton and I no favours whatsoever – I felt almost as bad as I had after Whataburger.  What the hell do these people put in their food?!?

We went for a drive into San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and stopping to take photos.  The general broken-ness meant that we all ended up back in the hotel early doors and having something of an early night (apart from Sully, who was chasing some skirt or the other all night – no word on his success, I’m afraid; what goes on tour, stays on tour!).

 No caption needed, I feel. 

Saturday 5 November (Slims, San Francisco, CA)

That's us!

Once up and checked out, we headed for the next hotel in the South of Market (or SoMa) neighbourhood, with a bit more hair metal on the car stereo just for good measure (“Let’s get NAUGHTY NAUGHTY!”).  We passed 2 freakin’ DeLoreans on the way!!!

In what was pretty much the only mistake made in the tour arrangements, this hotel had been booked for the week after we needed it.  It took the nice man behind the desk to point this out – both Atherton and I checked the booking on the screen of my phone and didn’t spot the error!  Thankfully he managed to squeeze us in at no extra cost.  We waited for the rooms to be ready while Sully and Pecks dropped off the hire car.  Once safely behind the hotel room doors, we chilled out briefly before heading for the venue. 

Queen of the Slim's Age. 

Slim’s was a cool place.  The snare drum, which I am pretty sure had been provided the support band, had been autographed by Metallica drummer and San Francisco resident Lars Ulrich.  The place had a great vibe, and posters from all sorts of bands (Queens of the Stone Age, Radiohead, etc.).  NWOBHM stars Diamond Head had played here a few days before us!  After sound-check and waiting for the doors to open (and the bar to open) I wandered over and bought myself a venue t-shirt, and was treated to a bourbon on-the-house.  Lovely people!  That wasn’t the only present I received – Yasaman brought us all some gifts from NASA!

The gig was a ton of fun right from the off.  Sully seemed to have a bit of a dip in energy during the first half, and looked utterly beaten at half-time; however, he then located his sunglasses and almost immediately perked up (Pecks was looking for some sunglasses too to chuck off his face at the crowd a la San Diego…).  The crowd were great; the spirit of Nazy’s organisation was definitely in full force. 

Tequila? Backstage? Surely not. 

The minute I came off-stage, however, I had a massive crash.  My energy levels simply dropped to nothing.  I had expected to hit bottom at some point during the previous week, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise, but it made the after-party rather difficult for me to handle, so I made my excuses and naffed off a bit early.  I did meet two lovely folk in the elevator who both offered to drive me back to my hotel, which I gratefully accepted – especially after they told me that I might not be particularly safe walking around the area near our hotel!  I got into me bed and watched ‘Hellraiser’ until Atherton rolled in, and nodded off shortly after.

Sunday 6 November (San Francisco – El Rey Theater, Los Angeles, CA)

Nice Feelings On Tour, No. 7: Seeing your band name on a marquee like this is a Nice Feeling. 

The mid-tour exhaustion that hit me at the end of last night’s gig was still in full force.  The clocks went back, which gave us an extra hour in bed, but even a relatively sensible 9:30 lobby call wasn’t quite late enough for me.   I couldn't get the shower working in the room (I found out later that it was one of those ridiculous ‘pull the thing under the tap and it’ll work’ things), so I was grumpy and un-washed right from the off.   Thankfully there was no airport drama to contend with; all was plain-sailing from the hotel door to the plane, although we sat for ages on the concrete at LA X waiting for a jetway to let us de-plane.

We hopped straight in a cab and headed to the El Rey Theater.  The venue was ace, all plush lining and chandeliers.  It had been a choice between this and the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard.  I had initially been a bit bereft when I found that we weren’t playing at the Roxy, being as it is right next door to the Rainbow and just down the street from the Whisky-a-Go-Go, but I got over it as soon as I saw the place.  I was still grumpy and snappy all afternoon – the combined effect of days of drinking too much, sleeping too little, being un-washed, and an element of homesickness.  Hopefully I didn’t piss anyone off too much.  We were staying in the same apartment as the week before, so after sound-check we headed off there to pick up the keys and chill out.  I finally got to have a shower, and felt much better.

Love.  Guitar love. 

Looking back at the footage, this was one of the better gigs.  Hamid did a great turn on ‘Ah Az Eshgh’ to round off the first half of the show.  I was still a bit moody, and didn’t really get into it until we got round to the almost-metal of Wedding Song in the middle of the second set.  After that, I loved it.  The specially extended intro to the final song, during which I got to jam with Mamek, was particularly memorable – I recall seeing Sully on the other side of the stage looking like he was loving every single note we hit.  Everyone seemed really happy with how this gig had gone, and as I write this I’m slightly annoyed that my memories were so coloured by being in a foul mood!  Still, we all had a crash at some point on this tour – it’s just a shame that mine came at the apex.  Never mind – next time I get to play in L.A. (fingers crossed!), I’ll be more in the moment!!!

After the show we piled back to a friend’s apartment.  We must have made a bit of a racket.  Music was blasting from the owner’s phone through the stereo, and one of her neighbours called to complain; the complaint came loud and clear over the stereo, causing the neighbour to become the very thing he was complaining about.  I enjoyed the irony.  And the wine…

Home. Sleep. 

Monday 7 November (Day off, Los Angeles, CA)

Don't mind if I do!

After yesterday’s moodiness, I decided to give the guys a break from me (and give me some time to think) and spent most of the day tromping around L.A. on my own. I walked for 6 miles, and wound up back at the Rainbow for a quiet drink.  Sat at the bar, I met a lovely couple, Nate and Lora from Orlando FL, who were on their honeymoon.  They had gotten married in Las Vegas at a place called the Neon Boneyard, where all that old iconic Vegas neon goes to die.  He loved rock, and was visiting the Rainbow in tribute to Lemmy, and she loved Marilyn Monroe (Lora explained why the area in which the Rainbow is situated is named the ‘Norma Triangle’ on city maps, which had been bugging me for a while!).   Lovely folks.  I walked back to the apartment via the empty carcass of Tower Records and the guitar shops.

Tuesday 8 November (Day off, Los Angeles, CA – U.S. Presidential Election Day

Rarely seen in the wild, the lesser-spotted 'Romford 'Raptor'

Election day.  We decided that today would be the day to do the touristy theme park trip, and took ourselves off to Universal Studios.  We were right – we didn’t queue for more than 5 minutes for any ride or attraction.  We discovered that Pecks was a bit nervy about roller-coasters; on the Harry Potter-themed ‘Flight of the Hippogriff’, he proclaimed, "There's six year-olds with bigger balls than me!"  I think he liked it though – we must have gone around about six times at the end of the day.

Pecks went to the gym while Athers, Sully and me returned to the Aroma cafĂ© to have dinner and watch as the polls closed and the votes came in, returning to the apartment to watch the rest of it.  

Wednesday 9 November (Los Angeles, CA – Toronto, ON)

Americans elected Donald Trump as their 45th president.  We left America for Canada.


Next time, Canada!!!