Make Love, Not War

Photo by Rebecca SchoenkopfThe Ginger Baker Jr. Band was fine—it was presentable, the ponytailed singer had lots of Mick Jaggery energy and a huge diamond ear stud, and Junior himself had his legendary father's intricate quadruple fills—and they'd only had their first rehearsal the night before. For those under the age of 35—you war-protesting hippie kids are of course excluded—Ginger Baker was in a very famous band called Cream, with the guy who wrote "Tears From Heaven" and stole George Harrison's wife. For those under the age of 25, George Harrison was in a band called The Beatles. They were bigger than Jesus.

With the rain coming down Saturday afternoon around the cozy Swallow's Inn, chasing away any swallows that might have actually made their expected cash-cow pilgrimage to San Juan Capistrano—the swallows take the place of other beach towns' meter maids for raising unholy civic loot—the band made their way through standard Johnny Winter-ish blues songs about little girls, yeah, and how you better not look at the ones that belonged to them. Or, you know, they'd . . . well, what would they do? Clearly, the Ginger Baker Jr. Band are lovers, not fighters. Maybe, like in Zoolander, they'd have a walk-off.

We were having a nice time, playing wait for the inevitable drum solo (surely it would be one of those, like Scott Spiezio's Sandfrog, where all the other dudes leave the stage to go smoke for 10 minutes), when it occurred to us that we had whole hours to kill before anything else would be perpetrating on a rainy Saturday night. That's a whole lot of time to spend waiting for the cover of "White Room."

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So we decided to have an adventure. We nestled in for a drink at the San Juan Depot Bar and Grill, where the stoic keep, asked what he liked to make, said his specialty was Bud Light on draft. There'd be a country dance band that night, but we had other plans. Two $19 roundtrip Amtrak tickets later, we were in Solana Beachwith luggage consisting of an umbrella and a bank card.

There we found the world's two happiest homeless drunks bounding toward the sea like winsome puppies, a Hawaiian bartender who should have been the friendliest in the land but was not, a girls' soccer convention hooliganing around the Marriott (and getting a simultaneously harsh and languid talking-to from the team mom), a Jacuzzi with two sultry teens aiming to meet men in their pearls and bikinis in the rain, a shaved-head cool guy working the night shift at the deli and worrying about his family in Baghdad, and a Kansas City art bitch in town for the clay convention.

We had run into Trios to dry out from the downpour and score some cheese and wine—Two Buck Chuck to the rescue—and we could have been anywhere in Laguna or Tustin or Dana Point. Three women sat a table, amusing themselves with some hands-on crafts. A sax player in the corner noodled through "Over the Rainbow" with the sheet music before him. A cute bartender/furniture maker directed us to a motel that used to exist. People were twee and skewed old.

But upstairs, shunted away from the nice, ceramic-chasing, aging-yuppie folk, were Linda Leighton and her ceramic penis worms. In a happy reversal of the put-upon male's vision of the vagina dentata, Leighton creates horrid squash that are both penis and worm, barnacle beard emerging from where the ceramic pee hole/worm eye would be. We adored her. She was from Kansas City, she said. She was an art bitch! she averred. She had an opinion about everything, she swore. Could we take a picture of her with her penis? Verily! And she posed for us heartily, ceramic dong at her crotch, growling ferociously all the while.

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Jimmywas on the phone with the Belly Up Tavern, and he was giggling like a drunken Delta. "It's a band called Sidecar," he said, snorting and choking, "and Dave Wakeling."

I was not choking in snitty glee. I was excited! Sidecar's from Long Beach! It has George Fryer—and Wolfie's on drums! It would be perfect! Then I remembered Fryer's in Pacecar. But still! And Dave Wakeling? Even though he lives in Newport Beach and plays Hogue Barmichael's seemingly every third Wednesday, I didn't even know if he was black or white. I saw Special Beat, a frappe of English Beat and The Specials, in college, with Mary's Danish opening, and it was the most joyous concert I'd ever attended. What the hell was so funny?

The Belly Up was roughly the size and shape of Chester Drawers' Inn, but with a big fancy stage on which were skanking a big dreadlocked dude and three others, none of whom was my friend Wolfie. That's not Sidecar! "It's Sidecar like with a Ps," Jimmy said. Like this: Psydecar. I cannot name my disappointment. Surrounding us were a bunch of straights in cotton slacks and the kind of people who, when you sat down at an empty table with no coats, purses or drinks on it, would rush over from the dance floor to inform you with a scowl the table was theirs. Is that legal? And what is legal, anyway?

Behind the bartender was the coolest bartista in San Diego, slim and punky and the first woman I've ever seen look good in lowrider jeans because both her belly and her butt had that nice swayback roundness. She was dancing, not for tips or coochie sexiness, but because if she had to work the cash register, she was gonna bounce and smile while she did so.

And then Dave Wakeling! Wee and blond and youthful, with muscley biceps and a rugby player's beer tummy, he still plays the hits for the nostalgia crowd. Jimmy was full of contempt. He should have new music. He should be growing. He has a tummy. He used to open for The Clash at The Palladium, for fuck's sake, and here he is, slutting around any beach bar that'll charge a $10 cover.

So what if he has a tummy? He's sexy and 70! I dance like a big fag at Duran Duran shows—who'm I to knock the nostalgia crowd? And I couldn't care less about hearing new cuts; any song, for instance, that the Stones wrote after Some Girls was worthless trash, and I don't want to waste my precious concert dollars on it. Which would you choose: "Brown Sugar"or "Harlem Shuffle"? We know what the Maos in the Chinese government would pick. But then Jimmy mentioned Tom Petty, who unlike Mick Jagger and Sting, becomes better with each album, and I became confused. I'd rather hear cuts off She's the One—which nobody has ever even heard because it was released in the midst of a glut of Tom Petty albums of soft (but not boring, Sting!) beauty and strength—than be subjected to "Breakdown" yet again.

Tom Petty's new stuff rules, and therefore Dave Wakeling should be ashamed of himself. Still, the only problem I had with the show was the silly way he clasped his hands together like a lovesick altar boy at the end of "I Confess."

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I wasn't going to write about or even watch the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions Sunday night. I don't do awards shows. But then, it was, you know, the Clash and The Police back when they were exciting and before Sting started recording with any Marsalis brother he could lay his soft-jazz hands on.

AC/DC rocked until Steven Tyler came out to pay homage by sucking up every bit of attention in the house and singing louder than and out of harmony with Brian Johnson. If I were Johnson, I would have punched him in the throat.

I had high hopes for Gwen Stefani, inducting the Police, but she was winging it with long stories about herself rather than eloquent—and written beforehand—tributes like the ones Tom Morellofrom Rageand U2's The Edge paid to the Clash. She was, I'm sorry to say, dippy.

And Sting managed to suck every drop of goodness right out of "Roxanne" and spit it into the sink. The "song" was noodly and jammy, but with an ugly arrangement that went on for somewhere around the length of the entire second side of Synchronicity. Sting is becoming more and more slow, until he'll finally end up playing whole albums of one long zen note. Holding one note may work for tantric sex, but come on, Sting. Keep it between you and Trudie.

Keep it to yourself.

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