The Violators (?)
Haight Street between Fillmore and Steiner
Oct. 24, 2011
Better than: A Frasier rerun.
Last night I was sitting at home, finishing my dessert of fresh raspberries soaked in the blood of overzealous Phish fans, when I heard the sound. The clatter of a rock band boldy plying some three-chord ear rash on a narrow San Francisco street is unmistakable -- I've grown familiar with it after seeing several bands play on the roof of the Idle Hand tattoo studio during so many Lower Haight Art Walks. As that same noise filled my apartment, I wondered if perhaps the event had been moved to a random Monday night.
It hadn't. Outside on the Haight sidewalk, about 15 people were lined up along the north side of the street watching as three lads -- one of them shaggy-haired and wearing a red and black leather jacket -- pounded through a haggard version of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," rebellious echoes careening around the surrounding buildings and drawing curious faces out of the nearby bars. Most of them were smiling and nodding along to the music.
The sound was raw, loud, and instantly attractive, but most notable was this humble outfit's choice of a stage: the back of a Chevrolet Avalanche, one of those pickup/SUV mutants popular among suburbanites a few years ago whose bed can be entirely covered with a few plastic panels. It turned out to be the perfect venue, because after a couple songs, finishing with an admirable (if not adventurous) guitar solo, and a drawn-out finale -- guitar string snap achieved! -- the band members jumped onto the sidewalk, pushed their gear down into the truck's bed, covered it all up, and removed the vehicle from the driveway-blocking spot it had occupied. The guitar player's tweed case had collected a few dollar bills and coins while lying open on the sidewalk, making it the only visible record of the 10-minute racket that had just occurred.
Performances from this portable, noisy trio may become a regular thing, San Francisco. The man in the red jacket called himself Alex; he said his band is appropriately called the Violators; and those involved appeared rather dedicated to this spontaneous street rock 'n' roll.
Apparently they began doing this on Sunday, moving from the Golden Gate Bridge to Baker Beach to Polk Street to Coit Tower -- meeting a few law enforcement officers along the way, of course. After packing up, they announced to the assembled last night that they were going back to Coit Tower for an impromptu midnight concert. (This assumed that the band's evidently decent -- if not quite sober -- driving continues: "If they don't get us for this, they'll get us for the drunk driving," Alex mumbled in front of the Avalanche, as he lay his Stratocaster back in its case.) We hope they travel safely, so this roving rock band can surprise other neighborhoods with the noisy joy it brought to the Lower Haight last night.
Personal bias: I'm always inclined to cover street music spontaneity that makes the pricey living in S.F. worth it.
Personal bias II: But yeah -- when I initially heard that horrible clatter shaking the cardboard walls of my tiny, overpriced dwelling-cubby, I was kind of irritated.