Saturday, January 25, we take the stage at the Blue Lamp. We follow the Tiki Lounge Lizards to warm up the crowd for the Funicellos. Mai Tais, Blue Hawaiians, and Madrases will help with the warm up. Billed as a January Beach Party, folks are encouraged to dress for the beach regardless of the weather.
A safe prediction is unseasonably warm and dry. Governor Brown -- Jerry in his second incarnation -- declared a drought emergency last Friday. His goal is for Californians to cut water usage by 20 percent. We have friends who are considering an artificial lawn. If the Governor is correct, the entirety of California may become a beach (or a desert) except for patches of artificial turf and drought resistant weeds.
Drought or not, readying for our first show of 2014 meant a visit to the Blue Lamp. After surveying the bottles behind the bar, I ordered a Jameson’s. To support the Governor’s declaration, I requested it neat. Just Irish whiskey in a glass. No ice -- save on water. No splash -- save on water. No water back -- all together now, save on water.
The Blue Lamp seemed markedly improved since the last time I was there. It formerly was a standing only place except for bar stools and a small sitting area in the corner diagonally opposite the stage. A pool table now occupies that corner. Cocktail tables and chairs have been added to convert the Blue Lamp into a “let’s sit down and enjoy a show” kind of venue.
The stage is two steps up with spot lights and a professional sound system. Monitors are in front of the stage. Above the seemingly deep stage, house speakers can produce whatever sound a band and sound technician desire.
The stage and the bar are survivors of the Blue Lamp’s prior iteration. At one time, it was the Club 400, which featured “exotic” dancers and, among other things, held an annual golf tournament. The dancers “caddied” for tournament participants, who bid for caddying services at an alcohol-fueled auction. Everything that I know about the Club 400 Tournament, I learned sometime back in the 1990s. I was walking off the 18th green in a charity tournament and saw the Club 400 caddies -- clad in short shorts and halter tops -- helping out their "sponsors" on the putting green. In the middle of the action was a friend from college. After hearing his description, I thought to myself, “I’m playing in the wrong golf tournament!”
While nursing a second Jameson’s, I struck up a conversation with Ben Garcia, who along with his wife Gabi owns the Blue Lamp. They bought the club last October. Their goal is a neighborhood bar that also is a musician-friendly venue. They are working towards the venue goal by upgrading the sound system, improving acoustics, and adding tables and chairs. The neighborhood portion may be more difficult given that the space presently lacks an old bar intimacy and the prior owners opened only for musical events. Ben and Gabi did not buy an established bar clientele.
Ben understands first hand what makes for a musician-friendly venue. He once sang in a recording and touring punk band. “Been in every state but Alaska.” Why give that up? “I wanted to settle down and be with my family.” As I listened to him, I thought about jobs that may seem cool, but, when really examined, are not: Bicycle messenger in San Francisco and punk rock band member.
I finished the Jameson’s and said goodbye to Ben. “See you next Saturday.” I responded with a hang loose. Outside, Gabi was putting the finishing touches on a sign with the bar’s new logo. “See you next Saturday. That show should be a blast!” I responded with a hang loose.
Heading for home, I felt enthused about the upcoming January Beach Party and the efforts that Ben and Gabi are putting into the Blue Lamp. We need to get folks there and have some fun.
Then the thought struck me, “Where’s the pole from the old Club 400?” I hope that that does not become an obsession.