So we left the strange world of the Nevada desert hotel/casino with the endless corridors in which it was very hard to find lifts and when you did, most of them only took you to the casino on floor 3 and not the ground floor reception and exit, with its thousands of fruit machines and neon lights. Strange to see people smoking indoors again as they seem to be allowed to there, and why was no one smiling anywhere? Curious place.
We drove over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, passing the small island on the way in where the famous Alcatraz prison had been. The weather was like your average grey day in London in March. We were staying in a part of San Francisco called Little Saigon in a funky hotel with rooms around a pool and bar area. My room has a radio alarm and with a nature sounds option which I put on out of curiosity. Wind chimes, birds, and some sea sounds. Ahh. Very relaxing while I read the hotel manual:
"California is prone to earthquakes. If one should occur, hotel guests should crawl under a solid table or piece of furniture, or stand under an open doorway, or get on your knees and bend down, cover yourself with blankets and wait for the earthquake to end." .....OK..!
The whole band was performing a short set in Amoeba records, a wonderful and huge independent record store on legendary Haight St. We arrived early to set up and it was a very stripped down affair with just our basic equipment. I personally find it a lot of fun performing in this way. A kind of back to basics type gig. There was quite a bit of free time and the store very kindly gave us each a $40 to spend on whatever we liked. I met my friend the writer Anil Prasad who made some suggestions and I eventually decided on Pharoah Sanders - Thembi, Terye Rypdal - Crime Scene, XTC - Skylarking, and Oregon - Beyond Words. Have now given them a spin at the hotel and so far enjoying them a lot - particularly Thembi. The band performance was fun and I thought went well. We then spent over an hour signing people's albums in the store. Steven certainly has a lot of dedicated fans. One had a tattoo of Steven' s face on her arm.
Eventually we got back to the hotel and after freshening up, Adam, Nick, Steven, Anil and I went out for an excellent meal at a nearby vegetarian Thai restaurant. Good food and some most interesting stories and talk. Then a late hang in the groovy hotel bar where the walls were lined with shelves stacked full of vinyl albums and more good talk.
In the morning I took a stroll up to Mel's diner which is a classic 1950s style American diner, the sort featured in the film 'American Graffiti'. Lots of 1950s style artwork and Americana. Happy smiling all American families and shiny pink Buicks and Cadillacs. I ate some pretty average eggs and toast and strolled back passing the Great American Music Hall. I remember well playing there with Gong on the ill-fated US tour of 2000. Actually that gig was pretty good for us, but I do remember the support act which was Kevin Ayers and band. Back in the 1960s he was in the original Soft Machine with Daevid Allen and he had a rich baritone voice and some strong songs. However that night, he had to be helped onto the stage and after his set practically carried off the stage because he had taken some horse tranquillisers (ketamine) which he said was..err...accidental. Needless to say, it was not his finest performance.
So I am sitting backstage at the Fillmore, San Francisco waiting for soundcheck. This is a classic venue and the walls are lined with posters of all the great bands that have played here over the years.