Cities are, as far as I’m concerned, their music. I don’t want cheap plastic souvenirs, t-shirts, or coffee cups emblazoned with local landmarks. I desire sense memories: Jameson on my palate, my body twisting and moving in time to beats and riffs that sink through my skin, leaving the signature of that time and that place. It’s not genre I’m dying for, it’s flavor.
Most of my travel centers around conferences that generally take place at the end of the week, so my quest for live music is usually a matter of serendipity and following my feet. Coming in on a Sunday night, however, necessitated the research that led us to the Careerers show at the Hemlock Tavern.
The Hemlock’s lower level is a lot of red paint and an enormous bar. We ascended a half-flight of stairs into the saltine box shaped performance space. Stage right, a giant guy played an enormous sax, set list hanging off his microphone. Stage right, I caught glimpses of high velocity strum-and-thunder puppets in vaudevillian suits.
Bashed as we were between waves of harmony, percussion, and distortion; the cresting intensity’s pleasure shaded to pain at each wave’s apex. Technically, they should have turned down–but what the hell– thrill’s in the excess.
Despite the four vegetarian options at San Mateo’s Rave Burger, my meager travel budget led me to order the grilled cheese kid’s meal before heading down the street to O’Neill’s. The friendly pub featured football and rugby shirts stapled to the ceiling, signs pointing the way to various Irish cities, and the bartender’s lilting accent.
Our days had been consumed by work, terrifying gratifying work, that filled us with new visions of possibility for our students. We were on our way to the airport, the sun seeking the horizon, but I couldn’t live with myself if I left California without touching saltwater. I lobbied for a detour.
I got it.