Coast Carving, Picture Taking, No Ageing: A Weekend

I made my first trip up the Pacific Coast Highway Saturday morning, which was every bit as beautiful as everyone says. The sun was up, people were out on their road bikes, carving up the continental edges. I wanted to sleep in on my first Saturday morning in The City, but, well, when you haven’t seen someone as special as Emily Wilkerson for two full months, you make exceptions.

Anyway, I listened to a ton of good music on the way up — some surprisingly dark (Sublime, whom I plan on writing about sometime in the very near future), some comfort food (Uncle Tupelo), and some surprisingly disappointing (the Decemberists’ Castaways and Cutouts). The Decemberists were an incredible let-down to me, as they were one of the first indie rock groups that I ever really claimed as my own. I’ve since moved on and fallen in love with other groups, but assumed that my love for the Dec’s would remain. Listening to that record now, I don’t really remember what it was I found so exciting about that record. “Leslie Anne Levine” is a pretty cool song, but the rest feels like either cliché melancholic pop (“Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect,” which was one of my favorites) or just plain…boring. I was pleased to discover that I like “The Legionnaire’s Lament” far more than I ever did before.  Who knows, maybe it was just my mood…

The reason for putting the record on in the first place, though, was “California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade.” “Cali 1″ has been one of my favorite songs for about four years now, and it’d always been a secret wish of mine to listen to it while driving up PCH. The song is as sprawling and majestic as the California coast, but it’s just as lonely. Blame it on nostalgia or homesickness (don’t think I’m there yet), but driving through a canyon with grassy cliffs on either side and Colin Meloy’s little guitar humming, I felt very small. Happiness is meant to be shared.

So I got to San Luis Obispo after much pining (and listening to the Unicorns and whatever other goofy music I could to get myself excited again) and met up with Liz and Emily and basically walked around town taking pictures of one another and giggling. SLO-Town turns out to be a pretty happenin’ little college town, big enough to warrant an Urban Outfitters, too small to be a tourist destination. Lots of people milling about, though, doing the pedestrian mall thing. From there we got in the car and re-traced back south to Pismo Beach, which may be the prettiest place I’ve ever been. More picture-taking ensued.

Pismo

Followed all of that up by checking out No Age at the Smell this afternoon. Tiny, dark little room that looks like every punk club in every movie ever, and it had that wall-of-humidity thing going on that plagues any tiny concrete room. (The titular Smell, btw, turns out to be urine). I’m a fan of the No Age record, in part because its simultaneously ferocious and melodic; definite West Coast sensibilities with some serious muscle. Live, though, it was all mud sticking to the walls. Just like the Whigs at the Echo on Wednesday, any sense of subtlety was lost. While the Whigs have enough musical sense (or maybe just the tunes) to carve something out of the sludge, No Age seemed more interested in keeping things loud. The melody and texture of the record were lost under loads of distortion and uninteresting feedback, and the songs were pretty much indistinguishable (even the always-excellent “Eraser” lost out to the concrete walls).

Glad I went, though, as it was my first chance to check out the Los Angeles grime-punk scene, which was as skinny and day-glo as I’d thought it would be, though there were plenty of normal-looking rock fans, too. It was, more than anything, exciting to be there, just knowing that there are people doing things like this, that you can go see a punk show in the middle of the  day on a Sunday.  I love big cities.  Anyway,  Abe Vigoda and Times New Viking are playing at the Smell next week, so I’ll be back.

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