Tour BusSan Francisco, CA

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  • Sunday, Jun 1, 2003
  • Tour Bus San Francisco, CA

by Ray Paczkowski

The Warfield, The House of Jerry Garcia. A lot of great music has happened in this place. Funny how history has a way of soaking into the bones of a building. Leaves a patina of…suggestion, maybe. Only the people who were here then, in the heyday of musical and cultural experimentation, the fifties, sixties, could really describe it, but the theatre itself reeks of the past. It sits on the edge of two worlds, really, downtown and the Tenderloin district. Not a Starbucks in sight. Someone with a yen for it can certainly find something a little stronger than coffee here. A cash economy.

The street people of San Francisco live a life in common with millions of other marginalized individuals throughout the cities of the United States, but there is a unique ettiquette about them, I don’t know if it’s a west coast culture thing or just, what. A kind of humor you don’t find in, say, New York. At least from a visitor’s vantage point, which is a questionable perspective to be sure. New York seems to foster the attitude of everything up front, here it is, you don’t like it, well, go to hell. And loud. So many people packed in such a small place, you have to put it out there in a big way, first, or you don’t get heard. Or seen. San Francisco takes a different tack. Relax. There’s time, all right. Maybe it’s the weather. Paul Languedoc was standing outside the Warfield and this guy comes up, sings “there’s no business like show business,” does a tap dance routine, tells a joke Paul doesn’t get, sings the song again, and walks off down the street into the Tenderloin. Art imitating life, or vice versa.

We had the great pleasure of making music with Carlos Santana last night. Even before he picked up his guitar and walked on stage, just talking with him inspired the band to put it all out there. Along the lines of making a joyful noise, he spoke about the twisted times we are living in, how so much fear mongering only makes the work of musicians that much more valuable, that much more necessary. People, he said, only crave a joyful, positive thing more now. And we can create this through sound vibration. He said the danger is becoming complacent, falling back on what we know, giving up any chance of change, redemption; Accepting things how they are today, being the victim–“I ain’t nobody’s victim.” Amen. And then it’s upstairs to the pulpit, preaching the gospel of…vibration. On his face is the smile of a man who knows his calling beyond a shadow of a doubt, and you will be convinced he speaks the truth.

A Harley pulls up in front of the stage door, straight pipes roar, and he’s gone. Deafening, and in the aftermath a parking lot of cars are left howling their alarms. Beautiful.