The weeks leading up to the San Francisco gig were full of anticipation. We had been invited to play at the 'Salute To Supernatural Convention' at the Westin Saint Francis Hotel by Jared Padalecki and Genevieve Cortese (two of the lead actors of the Supernatural television series). It was decided that I should work a half-day at my day job and then leave there at noon in order to do some last-minute packing. I planned to leave my apartment in Redondo Beach at 1:00pm in order to get to Mike's place at 2:00pm.
When I got home from work - and parked in the garage area of my apartment complex - I thought that packing my drums into the wifey's Nissan X-terra would be easy and that fitting my luggage, along with all the drum equipment, into the vehicle would be child's play. I couldn't have been more wrong. Staring into the available space of my wife's SUV was like staring into an abyss of endless possibilities. I didn't have a clue as to how to fit anything back there. I manipulated various items of equipment this way and that. Nothing seemed to be working. There would either be room enough for all but one piece of equipment or - after painstakingly reconfiguring the whole shebang - everything would fit except for two small bags. It was maddening! I began to perspire stupidly. What would Kerouac, Lennon, Kennedy, Celine, or Bukowski do? After many agonizing minutes the puzzle finally fit. I rushed upstairs to my apartment, wolfed down a peanut butter sandwich (along with a red apple and a low-fat granola bar), and took a very non-committal and haphazard shower. The time that I had planned to show up at Mike's pad was off the mark by at least two hours.
The drive to Mike's apartment would have been a breeze except for the traffic. I was going along at a nice clip on on the 110 North until the sparse skyline of Los Angeles came into view through the windshield. As soon as I saw those nifty skyscrapers the traffic instantaneously slowed to a snail's pace. Two feet forward and then a 45 second stop. One foot forward and then a 30 second stop (and all the other insane variations on this theme). Upon reaching the transition ramp from the 110 North to the 101 North I found out, as did everyone else, that a driver had stalled. There he was with the hood of his car raised in surrender and his beige-colored pant legs (and idiotic dress shoes) sticking out of the driver-side door. I don't know what the guy was doing. Maybe he was trying to start the damn thing. Maybe he was trying to replace a fucking fuse. Maybe he was trying to contemplate the writings of Dos Passos. Whatever he may have been doing... it made no sense to me. If I was trying to start my car I would be looking under the hood or something! Anyway, I was irritated as all get out! I was late as hell!
Mike lives on nice street. Sidewalk slightly sloping up towards the north; tree-lined with palm trees and other nameless shrubbery. Joggers. The excruciatingly white letters of the "Hollywood" sign clearly visible at the top of a mountain. I pulled up at 4:00pm. The sun was getting low. Yellow city afternoon in Hollywood. I gave Mike a call and he tells me he'll be right down. Mike, and his significant other Jessie, show up all smiles and good vibrations. Mike didn't seem to have a lot of equipment which made me feel like I actually did a good job packing the SUV. As soon as I opened the back of the SUV up to put Mike's stuff in there, I knew that the fleeting happiness that I had felt moments before was about to dissipate into thin air. Again...I tried to put a few things here and there and absolutely nothing was working. After I few minutes I abandoned this plan of action and decided to pull everything out of there. Mike and I eventually found a way to fit everything in there, but it took a few minutes of trial and error...just like life, you know?
We left Mike's apartment and headed north barely making out of the late afternoon traffic congested streets with our lives and vehicle intact. Interstate 5 North only cleared up after we passed Magic Mountain Parkway. The sun was beginning to set behind the mountains - long shadows cast across the highway. We were finally on our way.
Along the way we had all sorts of interesting conversations about life, love, people, music, and our chosen field of expertise. It was the first time Mike and I ever had a one-on-one conversation beyond the distraction of the rehearsal room and/or the performance venue. I had been with the band for 5 years and I never knew the guy as well as I wanted to until this particular trip. It was great to have my wife's SUV at our disposal as Mike does not know how to drive stick-shift. We were able to take turns driving which helped me out a lot. I didn't get a lot of sleep (four hours at the most). The night before we had played a gig in Los Angeles, I got home late, and then I had to get up and show my bedraggled face at the obligatory day-job.
Although we were sitting for hours it still seemed as if the trip were passing in a blur of activity. I dosed, talked aimlessly, and put on some music that I thought Mike would like to hear. Mike let me hear some of the stuff had had been listening to recently too. Suddenly we found ourselves on Interstate 580 West. The drive into San Fran was beautiful. After paying $4.00 at a toll booth, we drove on the Bay Bridge and the lights of the city, set against the infinite blackness of the sky, could be seen on our right. I love S.F., man! The maze-like streets with luckless pedestrians sauntering on dimly-lit sidewalks. Positive energy surging through the streets and alleyways like a burst of electric blue life. I immediately felt sudden urge to go to Chinatown and get a late-night supper. Nothing doing, though. We had to get the equipment out of our car. We phoned Dan (he had already arrived) and he met us out on a sidewalk outside of the Westin St. Francis. Standing beside him was Randy. Randy was head of security at the hotel and he kindly directly us to where we should stow our equipment cases. Randy even helped us drag some of our stuff in there - which, I thought, was very cool and very unusual. (It is my experience that some hotel employees perfunctorily point the way - or half-heartedly answer your questions - and immediately disappear into their private oblivions leaving you to your own devices. But every single staff member of the Westin St. Francis was friendly and willing to help in any way that they could). We stored the equipment backstage in a huge ballroom which, at the time, was being used for a Karaoke event. I could hear very interesting, pitch-challenged renditions of well-known classic rock tunes. On one of the trips from-the-vehicle-back-to-the-ballroom I heard some faceless dude belting out 'Dead Or Alive' by Bon Jovi. He hit a note - in the chorus section of the tune - that made me want to hysterically laugh out loud, but I wanted to be polite so I didn't...on top of that I was much too tired from the drive to exert myself in such a fashion. It was all in good innocent fun...it seemed that everyone in that room was having an incredible time.
The Westin St. Francis is beautiful place to stay. High ornate ceilings, hand-carved balustrades, marble floors, and a huge grandfather clock in the lobby were reminders of an era gone by. The hotel was built at the turn of the century so there was an incredibly cool vibe in there (regardless of the sordid stories about Fatty Arbuckle and Al Jolson). I felt safe and felt as if everything in the city was nearby and within walking distance. We checked into our rooms. I was starting to get really tired, but Mike and Dan were full of pent-up energy. I couldn't figure it out. Didn't we all just take a 6 hour drive? I stayed in my room - like an adolescent wallflower at a school dance - as they decided to walk around the hotel and scope things out. I tried to check my e-mails from my phone, but there seemed to be no internet access no matter how hard I tried to connect. In a daze of fatigue (and in a sort of counting-sheep-kind-of-way) I turned the television on and vacillated between the talking heads of CNN and other sundry channels before falling into a fitful sleep. The "sleep of the justified" as someone once wrote.
The next morning I walked around the hotel looking for a place to get some breakfast. To tell you the truth, I wasn't digging the price ranges...so I went outside. I found a great little restaurant on the corner named "Max's" where I ordered an omelet and some coffee. Afterwards, I felt like walking over to my favorite book store "City Lights Books" to check out the Beat lit, but decided instead to walk uphill on Powell. It was a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky. The sun, even at that early hour, was shining down on the busy city like a giant eye of God. I could feel myself sweating under my hat. Everyone out in the street was bundled-up in jackets and sweaters. When I reached the top of Powell I tried to access the internet on my iPhone. Still nothing. Maybe the damn thing was broken. From where I stood I could see the hill that I had just walked up on one side; on the other I could see where Powell ended at the Fisherman's Wharf area. Visibility unlimited. I spent many fine minutes up there and then walked back down Powell towards the hotel. Upon arriving, someone informed me that there was free internet access in the lobby area. Once my iPhone linked up to the internet access in the lobby it worked in the hotel (and everywhere else) throughout my stay.
When I got back to my room I was told that we had to move the equipment from the ballroom to the 32nd floor where our concert would take place. In the lobby I saw that Brian had arrived with Natalia. We were all glad to see each other. I hadn't seen either Brian or Natalia up until that time because they had been staying somewhere outside of the city for the night. We hauled our stuff, via freight elevators, up to the Alexandra Ballroom. The Alexandra Ballroom had a small lighting system installed into the ceiling, a stage, and the huge windows in there offered very dramatic (and panoramic) views of just about every angle of the city. We were blown away. We set up our equipment, did a sound-check, and then went over to Harry Denton's "Starlight Room" (in another building across the street) to meet up with Jared and Genevieve for a few drinks.
Jared and Genevieve were awesome. I hadn't seen them in a while. Their friendliness and openness put me at ease. We gathered a few chairs around a huge couch and we sat and shot the breeze. Jared's sister and Jared's personal assistant were also there. We even got to meet the owner of the place himself: Harry Denton. The Starlight Room was a great place. It was moodily dark in there and we could actually look up into the sky, towards the Westin St. Francis, and see where we were going to perform in a few hours (the Alexandra Ballroom was brightly lit up from the inside). A few yards from where we were sitting there were some Jazz musicians warming-up for their set. A saxophone player was softly breathing through his instrument running various scales amongst the din of people talking. As I looked towards the west end of the city I noticed that a blanket of fog was slowly creeping in from off of the Pacific ocean. The city lights lighting the fog from the bottom up made it seem like the fog had a slightly orange tint to it. I drank two cokes. It was time to leave.
Up to the room for a quick change into the clothes that I would be performing in and then a freight elevator ride to the Alexandra. When I got there, crowds of people were already filing in. I was nervous as hell and felt like vomiting. The band had to play a good show. Not only for us, but for Jared and Genevieve who had so graciously invited us here. We weren't certain of the kind of response we would illicit as the fans of Supernatural (and of Jared and Gen's great work) were not familiar with us and/or our material at all. Would they like us? Would they think we sucked? It was all up to the gods. The room darkened and Jared went up to the mic to make our introduction. Again, he was able to put the band (and me) at ease. His introduction was warm, appreciative, and full of excitement. He was able to single-handedly set the crowd's mindset for what was to follow. We launched into our first tune "Bye Blue Sky" and when we finished it the Supernatural fans were so elated. The rest of the set was a success. There were huge cheers and applause coming from the crowd whenever there was a quiet moment in a tune! They were so amazing! We couldn't have asked for a better audience!
The next day, before making the long trek back to the City Of Angels, we had an interview with someone who writes for the Supernatural blog. We all met in the "Green Room" for the interview. While we were waiting for the interview to start Jared walks into the room and we got to sit and talk with him one more time. A few minutes later Jensen Ackles comes in and I got to meet him for the first time. He's as nice as Jared. We did an interview for about 30 minutes and then it was over. As we were walking in a hallway towards the lobby to get our cars, a girl saw us as we walked by. Apparently, she had been at the show: "Hi Brian Buckley Band! You guys rocked!" We all went down to the lobby to pick up our cars and leave. All of us had a fantastic time! Mike and I left San Francisco at about three in the afternoon.
I, on behalf of the band and myself, would like to thank all of the great Supernatural fans who came to the gig to hear us play and to hang-out with Jared and Gen. The success of this performance would not have been possible without your warmth and support. Thank you for taking a chance on us! Many thanks to the great people at "Creation Entertainment" who gave us the green light. A special thanks also to Jared and Gen for inviting us to play at the "Salute To Supernatural Convention" and whose constant belief in the band's potential is unalterable and greatly appreciated. Much love to you all. See you at the next one! :-)
~Albert Estiamba Jr.