The blog has been away for a few months but for good reasons. First, there has been a change of office in order to deal with the exponential growth of readers all around the globe but the main reason is that one of the blog’s best reporter has been sent to the USA and more precisely in California for a couple of weeks.
As for all good Californian journeys, better to start with San Francisco not only because the temperature difference is low vs. London but also as this is a great rock’n’roll place. A bit disappointing to be honest as the Haight and Ashbury district is not really what it used to be when bands such as Jefferson Airplane or the Grateful Dead were leading the psychedelic world but one can still sense a bit of hippie vibes when hanging around in the city. Funny as well to see for real places such as Grace Cathedral Park, as sung by Mark Kozelek in his Red House Painters days. The real music highs I experienced were the visit of the great Haight Ashbury Music Center guitar store but moreover the way I found a quite rare American edition of Virgins and Philistines by the Colourfield for only $9! I have been looking for the vinyl version of this record for a long time and found it in a store who had only a few vinyls…in a country where basically this is getting very difficult and rare to find records’ store.
Change of atmosphere a few days later on our way from the Death Valley to Joshua Tree. “This is 9am ; let’s stop for breakfast… this place seems nice…funny that this is called Bagdad Café like that in the movie…but stop, that’s the one actually!” Yes, indeed, quite unexpected but great. For some reason, this movie has been really popular in France and Japan… and that’s it really but one cannot forget the fantastic cover of the soundtrack done by the late Jeff Buckley.
I would lie if I were to say that visiting the Joshua Tree National Park was only to see the beauties of this weird and atypical place. U2 made indeed the place more famous than it used to be with their 1987 LP and this is also the home of the Rancho de la Luna studio, home for instance of many Queens of the Stone Age records and the latest Iggy Pop LP too. However, I really booked our motel there as it looked nice, cheap and quite easy vs. our overall road trip. What a surprise then to realise at the reception desk that this is actually the motel where U2 stayed and had many famous pictures taken for the promotion of the album…close to 30 years ago now… Great place with just a few rooms and a special vibe as one can guess.
After San Francisco, Big Sur, Sequoia National Park, Death Valley and Joshua Tree, our last stop was in Los Angeles and in particular on Venice Beach. No way for a music and records lover not to pay a visit to Amoeba records which is probably the biggest independent records’ store in the world right now with Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas. Quite an amazing place indeed. I was impressed in particular by the way so many records were so well labelled and organised in such a big store and I must say it was quite easy to find out what one was looking for. But the real totally unexpected event of it was to spot Jesse Hugues, leader and singer of the Eagles of Death Metal hanging around in the store, without nobody really recognising him. I met him for a chat and although a lot of not-so-nice comments have been made about him recently, he was charming and very warm. I could really felt that the Bataclan November events were still very much in his heart and soul and that the guy feels connected forever with French people with what happened that night.
Last but by no mean least, I had been warmly recommended by a Garideche Hell’s Angels’ hipster not to leave L.A. without attending a show at the Hollywood Bowl. I did not manage to make it as the shows were not great when we were there but I had booked in advance to spend our last night at the Greek Theater to see The National, one of my favourite bands ever. The Greek Theatre bears the same concept as the Hollywood Bowl, in the sense that the audience sits outside in an amphitheatre surrounded by a beautiful landscape. Amazing place…and another great show for the National. On top of singing their usual beautiful songs which were chosen amongst all their past LP’s, the band played a few songs from their future LP which is still under a work in progress phase. Very interesting songs with more electro sounds although final versions may be quite different. The band were excellent as usual and their singer Matt Berninger particularly happy to be there, as shown with his recurring beetle-on-stage jokes. Great invitees on stage as well with Adam Granduciel from the The War on Drugs and Annie Clarke from St. Vincent…and a concert from The National would not be the same without the splendid a capella performance of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” so the show ended beautifully.
No “Californication”, neither “California uber alles”, just a great trip in one of the greatest rock’n’roll places in the world.