“If you’re willing/ To die a little/ You’ll hear my song.” Penelope Houston’s lyrics are weeeeird! I love them. Her show on Wednesday was a love fest, and she looked killer as usual. But my pet peeve was in full effect: Bad sound. I know from drunkenly pestering sound engineers at practically every place in town that the Make-Out Room is particularly tough for sound. It’s tall and barny and not square. But when you can’t hear the world-famous lead singer, something is extra wrong.
I was sitting in a booth (such a princess!) and not at my usual post triangulated between the speakers (like I was at the Ian Fays and the Pillows shows, for which I was rewarded with big creamy levels of everything), so that’s my fault. The back of the room is obviously not the best place to hear the band. But why, why can I always hear plenty of guitar and bass and never enough vocals? Someone edumacate me. At this show, I also couldn’t hear Houston’s autoharp, which is a major feature on her recordings, like my beloved The Pale Green Girl, and is, like, her signature thing. I can hear guitar and bass every day of the week and often do. Don’t sludge out my one chance to hear a rock autoharp, man! But whatever, it was of course still amazing and we’re beyond privileged to have the Make-Out Room and all the joints like it. Ain’t nobody getting rich off live music in San Francisco. I am no hater.
In other news, surfing sea hippie Jeffrey Manson invited me to stay up at Smiley's Schooner Saloon & Hotel where he was playing an impromptu show last night. Smiley’s is in Bolinas, the town famous for tearing down the signs that point to it from the highway. They do not want you in Bolinas, because there’s already not enough Bolinas to go around. It’s that awesome. Plus you city turds will get violently carsick by the time you get to Stinson Beach. Highway 1, the same PCH you love so well down south, will try to kill you north of the Golden Gate with its twisty turns and picturesque cliffs. We Hobbits think that’s funny! But if you ever get a chance to get airlifted out there or something, it’s a misty hamlet, clinging to the coast on one side and warily eyeballing a slough on the other, and it’s not like anything else in the world. There are enchanted mesas, they brew their coffee strong, and people ride horses on the beach. Do not drive back to S.F. from Smiley’s after any amount of drinking: you need a caffeinated designated driver or a place to stay if you wish to properly enjoy the night fog and the moon rising over the hills while someone pounds on a piano in the bar behind you. At the end of the night I asked the bartender what music we were listening to. It was hip-hop and it was good, and I don’t know what-all I thought it was but like the Black Eyed Peas or something? She pointed to the wannabe gangster townie boys in sideways hats playing pool and trying to glower in the corner. I figured she meant they brought the CD, so I said, “Oh, OK.” She said, “No, they have a studio down the street. They made this music.” I don’t know what they’re called (I didn’t chat them up. Sue me.) but their shit was quality and funny. Once I started listening to the words I realized it was all about how the “Marijuana Mafia” has us all by the short hairs, the whole country, and if you’re not smoking weed from the 415 (707?) in your state, well just you wait. This is my favorite thing about visiting the countryside: fuckers are never what you expect out there. Could be a new age mama with a gun, could be Bolinas townies bringing it, all proud of their outlaw horticulture.