Me and the old lady woke up early on this fine Sunday morning for an epic adventure. Perked up on some delicious Peets™ Coffee, parked by the Emeryville train station, and boarded an Amtrak to Sacramento. I sloppily spilled coffee on my t-shirt, not once, but twice, and of course it had top be one of the few white ones I own, therefore necessitating two hasty trips to the bathroom to rinse it out so it would not be any MORE stained. The hidden industrial back lots of the North Bay Area soon gave way to the rolling brown hills and farmlands of the countryside as our train clattered towards it’s destination. And why? Why abandon Oakland for the quasi-Midwestern heartland of California’s interior? Why spend Sunday morning in transit, when a Sunday morning could so easily be spent lazily sleeping in, eventually to rise at a leisurely hour to take a ten minute journey for vegan Chinese food? The reason could only be the 30th annual Stairway To Stardom concert.
Stairway To Stardom is kind of a rock music summer camp for kids who are age "out of diapers" all the way up to age 18. You fill out a form to establish your interests, perform a short audition to determine your skill level, and are then placed in a band with other suitable applicants who you probably don’t know. My old band Invisible Fish was a product of this program in the summer of 1998, as was my younger brother Alex’s band 101 Damnations in 2000. Now in 2010, my even younger brother Axell has joined the program and form the band Myth Machine, which is what brought me out to Sacramento on that fine day.
With a little extras time to kill, me and the old lady hit the streets of downtown Sacramento, barely holding back on verbal abuse for the throngs of heavenly Jehova’s Witnesses who were spilling out of the convention center and crowding up the sidewalk. We went down the way to The Beat! records, a gold mine of record buying from my teenage years, and quickly realized that excavating a choice nugget from those sprawling racks would be a fool’s errand due to the short amount of time we had. Off to the bar! We found an Irish pub not too far away. Damn, it felt good to start drinking.
The Stairway to Stardom Concert is the culmination of the program at the end of the summer, and all the bands from the program play a three song set. It’s kind of an all day affair, with about ten bands in the first half, then an intermission, and then about ten more bands. Myth Machine was scheduled to be the first band to play after the intermission, so we headed pretty quickly back down the street to the historically significant and lovingly maintained Crest Theater. Myth Machine ended up being the best band that I saw that day, and not just because my Bro is in it. They played a weird form of heavy metal music that could probably only exist when people from different backgrounds who are unfamiliar with each others styles play together. They were the only band that afternoon that fucked with dueling guitar leads, solos or backup vocals with any seriousness. Good job. My criticisms? The costumes, children THE COSTUMES. Where they got this idea, I don’t know. My brother was dressed as a wizard (which actually isn’t that unusual if you know him). The drummer was a Ninja, the other guitar player was a penguin, and the singer was a cat. Whatever they were trying to achieve, they pretty much doomed themselves to “joke band” status to the casual observer. And I hate to say it kids, but most observers are VERY casual, and what they’re gonna remember about you is the weird costumes and not the deftly executed guitar leads. If they had really been in it to win it, they probably should have stuck to street clothes. Also, the female singer could have used some practice, but then again, so could have all the female singers that day… and there were a lot!
The rest of the afternoon was characterized by them. It seemed that this year of applicants brought an overabundance of diva-esque, soon to be (or not to be) pop stars. Who mostly had the misfortune of having to front bands of suburban metal core mall bros, chugging neanderthallicly. Most of the rest of the bands this afternoon had similar platforms, I had difficulty telling them apart, and I soon grew bored. Alex, the old lady and I went around the corner to the Pyramid Brew House to get refreshed. When I got back in, I may have seen another band or two, before getting the wanderlust again. We decided to check out the bar inside the theater, and I somehow talked the bartender into letting me have as many Budweisers as I could drink before his manager got back. Three (in ten minutes!) for the price of one! Not bad. Now I was getting my drank on. The concert ended, my bro’s band got unofficial fourth place (don’t we all?) and my family went out to Original Pete’s, which is where we always go when we’re together downtown. I drank more beer (surprise!) and ate pizza, which you can read all about when I get my pizza blog going…heh heh.