written & photographed by Mario Rodriguez
Flier provided by @oilujadventures [x]
#FictionBOTSJournaling #ArtistInspired #PaintoPassion
About “Friday the thirteenth in the San Gabriel Valley”:
On the second Friday of 2017, two friends pull up outside a house in Azusa and end up seeing some of the best local bands in the San Gabriel Valley.
by Mario Rodriguez
It was just another friday night in southern California. The first couple moons of the new year and it was colder than usual. The news stations kept talking about rain but there’d only been clouds so far. Besides, most people here in the San Gabriel Valley were used to getting inaccurate weather reports. They were the forgotten gap on the outskirts of Los Angeles County, wedged between east LA and the Inland Empire. The San Gabriel Mountains capped the north end of the valley and went west all the way out to Burbank. Day and night they stood as the backdrop to the valley, white peaks sticking out behind strong faced brown mountains with jagged edges. Whenever the news covered weather, they gave forecasts for beach cities, Orange county, Downtown, and the Inland Empire. San Gabriel Valley got overlooked. Most people west of the 110 freeway never heard of cities like Baldwin Park, El Monte, La Puente, Azusa. The most well known city around this strip of the 10 freeway was probably West Covina but that was only because they have a mall. But that didn’t matter to anyone who grew up here. There was a pride living in the SGV. It was the perfect mix of a suburban hood. A community turning more brown and black by the year. Most of the white middle class have moved out to the far east desert of old boring Fontana or spent the extra bills to live in the hills of Glendora or San Dimas, or even the North side of Azusa. Like most predominately minority communities, a high percentage of the population in the valley we’re young people between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. These kids were growing up in the golden era of entertainment, many first, second and third generation Americans, cultivating a culture of their own. And on nights like these, typical nights in the shadow of glorious examples of nature’s power, the toned mountain range watching over its children. The youth of the great San Gabriel Valley were going to make it their own.
Alex and Danny rolled to a stop by a tall gray concrete wall, brakes squeaking with age. The fog made it hard to see out of their windows. Car off and in the silence they could hear the tremble of the bass drum in the street. It was only 6:50 pm, the night was fresh, The Red Pears were on the top of the flyer, it was free before 8—there was time. People were walking passed them, from straight-ahead and just around the corner. Groups of three or four, some couples holding hands, lone dude half jog with dreads.
Orange streetlights shone on the quiet neighborhood street… Well, usually quiet. But not tonight. Tonight this quiet neighborhood will be flooded with bluesy bass line heaviness, kitchen windows will chatter and shake and middle age men will be forced to turn their TVs up, because tonight… tonight is for the guitar. It’s for the mosh pit. It’s for the beer can. It’s for the fuckin’ youth End of just another week — school, work, parents. Waking up early, same ole—same ole. But not tonight. Newburgh Street was sanctuary and you could hear it calling, rumbling for all to come Home. The street could sense it. The air crisp and electric. The people walked with quick feet in a glare of sodium orange brightness passing their car. All in a hurry, a hurry to go Home. Readying themselves for their Piece of It, whatever It was. Adjusting jackets, running hands through hair, puffing out their chests and talking fast.
Danny was in the passenger seat, working the screw into the cork of a dark brown wine bottle still with some dust on it. He snuck it out of his parent’s liquor cabinet just before leaving the house and knew he would get a call any minute with screams that would hurt his ears. The phone would be passed around, both getting their shots at him, but it didn’t matter. Not at this point, not when the screw was already halfway in and he had already started tugging on it, feeling it loosen a little tiny bit at a time. Nope, nothing they could do when this, POP! Yup, nothing they could do.
Alex was packing a bowl in his brand new piece. It was clear and the red and blue swirling lines were distinct and bright. He snapped a pic of it, as he always does with a new piece; before and after pics only he enjoyed. But this one Alex really cared for. The red-blue swirl looped around the camber and culminated in a trippy flower design right on the head. The hole was clean which was a problem. Nothing like a worked in piece with the right level of resin keeping the green from going through.
The music was still vibrating through the air and it crept in through the car window, feeling familiar. They thought nothing of it, passing the big wine bottle back and forth.
“How’d you hear about this?” Alex muffled as he tried to talk and keep his hit in.
“A friend of mine I met at Mantra told me to come.”
“That’s cool.” Alex, passing the piece and lighter with one hand like a pro.
“Yeah, he’s actually a manager of a band from La Puente, I think.” Danny said, feeling the bowl with his thumb.
“Oh whaaat? What band?”
“Duuude, no fuckin’ way! I saw them at the Smell the other day! Well, not really the other day but the other week! They’re dope.”
“Yeah I heard. I’ve never seen them though.”
“They’re cool, man. Their drummer gets dooown!” Alex took a big chug of the bottle; a little red splash hit his shirt but he didn’t notice. “Who else is gonna be here? Besides the Red Pears?”
“I don’t know…” Danny pulled up the flyer on his phone, “Oh Jade Moon! Their from Baldwin Park.”
“No shit?” Alex looked wide-eyed, confused. Danny kept scrolling and Alex just peered out through the front window, now almost completely fogged and opaque. The car was quiet and off in the distance they could hear the congested traffic of Arrow Highway, a busy artery running east and west. It was built back in 1910 to connect Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, running right under the infamous Route 66. Now it’s paved over with asphalt and potholes and runs from the tip El Monte, practically Baldwin Park, its furthest western point, all the way out east to Fontana which some call, “Fontucky” like “Kentucky” because it’s “out in the fuckin’ boonies.”
Where they were parked now was just off Arrow Highway in a place where all three cities, Baldwin Park from the west, Covina from the east and Azusa from the north, bordered each other. Alex lived just down the road. If he wanted, he could walk home home and change that ridiculous thrift store-grandpa sweater he had on and put on something black, like every other day, and be back in minutes. Alex just stared out the window, more people were parking nearby, neighbors were out on their lawns making sure no one was blocking their driveways. They all looked the same way, stood the same way. Alex couldn’t see their faces in the dark but he was sure they all had the same face, too. Waving fingers at smiles and packs of beer walking by.
A lot of people were coming now. Alex didn’t believe it. He never thought there would be something like this happening down the street from his house. He’s been out to LA and went to the Echo and The Smell and Perspace. He’d even been out to Pomona, who was just on the border of the Inland Empire, which had a emerging music scene of its own at places like the Glass House and Acerogami and even the Fox. But to think it could just happen at some house down the street from him, that filled him with an excitement he couldn’t explain. He felt apart of this. These were his people
Danny continued—there’d be The Rose Waters, Daydream Time Machine, Slaughter House 5 and Joos. It was advertised as a ‘secret show’ and just the words got the scene excited. These were some of the best bands in the area But Alex was lost in thought… and smoke. He could feel little bits of wine getting stuck in his teeth. His sweater was starting to irritate his neck. Should have washed it, he thought. Danny plugged his phone in and was que-ing some songs for them to drink to. From the speakers came blaring The Frights and The Growlers, Psychomagic. The windows were getting foggier. They started to sink into their seats.
One of them said they couldn’t leave until they finished the bottle, which they agreed to but quickly regretted it. Every drink was sweet but strong and made them squint each time. It was never a good idea to chug wine but a deal was a deal. They heard another band starting up but they were bound to their word. They passed it back faster and faster, taking big gulps like the Greeks did, or at least that’s what Danny kept saying to make it all okay. Some nonsense about a Dionysus and being born from a thigh. “Zeus’ thigh baby! Zeus’ thigh baby!” He kept shouting over the music between gulps, “ All Praise Zeus’ thigh baby!” His words were slurring and Alex was having a hard time understanding but he would laugh along with him and took big throat fulls when he got the chance.
By the time they finished it was already 8:05 pm and they didn’t even notice.
“Well, hopefully they still let us in free.”
They got out into the cold and wobbled for a second until they were somewhat stable. Danny turned his back to the street and pissed on the concrete wall faster than anyone has ever pissed in history. Alex wanted to but held it.
They walked down, groups of people out on the curb, some coming the opposite way carrying twelve packs of beer. There were a couple cars parked in the driveway, one covered, garage open with no light on making it look deep and infinite-black hole-like. A group of guys huddled by the entrance in the darkness, faceless in their hoods. People going in stopped at them and continued through the gate just to the side. Alex and Danny did the same, got met with; “Got your mark?”
They shook their heads.
“Three bucks, each.”
They dug into their pockets and pulled six ones together and handed it over. The guy uncapped a metallic blue sharpie and marked a smiley face on the back of their right hands.
“Enjoy the show.”
They went through a gate and walked towards where the people were gathering. It was a biig backyard, all tightly packed dirt, moist and a pretty brown. A row of lights lined the roof and the top of the gate then all the way across the back wall in a big square that must have taken some time to do. There’s a big lit up star on the far side. Mass of people, way more than they thought there would be. The stage is on the corner by a row of clothes hangers and a tree, the opposite side of where they entered. It wasn’t elevated but they could see the tops of the heads of the band setting up their gear. People sat on a concrete ledge on the back and talked in loud voices. Every one talking to someone. Danny and Alex wandered in, looking for a familiar face to ease the anxiety. They walked towards the back, where they were selling dollar beers. Each got one and just stood there waiting for the next set.
They looked around, everyone was spread about. There was a crowd around where the stage was but only a single row. It was getting so thin up front that Alex could see their bass player clearly through the cracks in the people. He wore all black, shoulder length hair parted in the middle, defined chin and face, serious looking, concentrated. Alex wondered who was next.
“Danny!” Danny turns but couldn’t see anyone. “Danny!” Again. It was a girl’s voice. One more, “Danny!” He see’s a hand sticking out by the stage. Squinting, it was an old friend he had for a class at Citrus Community College. Shakespeare class, if he remembers right. He and Alex headed that way.
“What’s up Diane!”
“Hey!” she calls out, making her way through shoulders. “I haven’t seen you in forever!”
“I know. I go to SAC now.“ Danny replied. He said ‘SAC’ in an emphatic manner for reasons unknown to him. ‘SAC’ or Mt. San Antonio College, the other major community college in the area, said to be the more ‘university-like’ of the two JC’s. Danny prefered Citrus but was kicked out after he stopped going to “Marijuana Abuse Seminars” after he was caught smoking a blunt in the parking lot. So now he’s going to SAC and smokes bowls before class because they’re faster.
“Uggghh.” Diane rolls her eyes playfully.
“This is Alex.”
Alex extends his hand, they shake. “I’m Diane. Me and Danny had American History, post-1860 or something, together. Right?”
Danny nods. Shit, he thinks, thought it was Shakespeare.
“Who played already?’” Alex says, trying to calm his stomach down, he was feeling a little dizzy.
“Jade Moon and the Red Pears.”
“What?!” both boys shout out in drunken exaggeration.
“Yeeaah, I know,” Diane says looking into the ground, truly sad, “I think one of the Red Pears had to go to work or something.”
They laughed but Danny and Alex were pretty disappointed. Curse that damn bottle! Curse Dionysus! Curse the curse of deals!
“I don’t know.”
Then the bass drum got everyone’s attention. Thun! Thun! Thun! Thun! Thun! Comes out clear and shakes them where they are. Bass lets one go, Doom Doot-dadoot-toom.
“Check-check.” A smooth voice goes through the mic and out the speakers, into the world. Chill looking guy, wearing a beanie and a smile. They started playing and the atmosphere changed almost instantly. Its funky and it grabs people. Heads turn and the flock got pulled towards the source. People get closer. Alex and Danny are a couple rows back. They could feel the crowd growing behind them. It’s everything. They look at each other as if to say, “are these guys real?” everyone’s vibing and the crowd is moving in one big mass controlled by the rhythm and the drummer is tearing it up, sweat starting to darken his gray shirt. Nothing matters. They’re hypnotized and everyone else is hypnotized, all hanging onto every note.They finished a couple songs and shouts come out from the crowd,
“Who are you guys?”
“What’s your name?”
Everyone wondering the same thing, but they don’t answer. They’re in it. Next song and the bass drops and the crowd’s back to that unknown and indescribable place.
They finished and no one knows what words to say so they replace them with screams of “whooo” and “ayyyyeeee” and “yeeeaaaah”. The crowd yells out for their name.
“Daydream Time Machine.” Was the reply and up went the crowd.
“Fuck yeah! Daydream Time Machine!”
“Daydream Time Machine!”
They went from unknown to the crowd favorite in a matter of minutes, saying nothing with words but with something far more powerful. They broke through to the core of whatever it was that made people scream for more. No one there would wonder about their name anymore.
Set over, Danny and Alex had to go congratulate the three-piece. First was Roman, the nasty bass player that kept their heads bobbing. Then Beck, the drummer that played hard and fast just as good as he did slow and sexy, big friendly smile. Last the singer, Chris, saying polite thank-you’s to the people passing by and patting him on the back. He spoke cool and slow and you wanted to be friends with him.
Now Danny and Alex stood behind the stage as Daydream Time Machine cleared up for the next band, called Joos. Outta Pomona or Covina or somewhere like that. Some guy said their genre was sad music you can dance to and it made Alex smile, seemed to fit his mood. He wasn’t sad about anything in particular. Instead, he was sad about everything in general. But not now, not with this beer in his hand and this belly full of wine. No, he wasn’t sad, more of a mystic melancholy… a cool somber panic of existential proportion temporarily eased by the beat and the crowd and the glorious alcohol of the Gods.
This guy with wild hair and a loud voice was handing out cans of Pabst to whoever wanted one; Danny and Alex chugged the last of theirs and took another. The guy flashed a big gummy smile and left in the crowd and later appeared on the roof. Alex and Danny clinked their bottles. “Cheers,”d to the good night, to Daydream Time Machine, to all the people that gathered here in this muddy backyard in the Canyon City.
While sipping away at his beer, Danny checked his Snapchat. Got a good one and he watched it over and over. Alex leaned on one of the clotheslines that led across the back wall, right over the drummer. From there, the backyard looked packed and all you could make out were the faces every now and then. There were people standing on the ledge in the back, looking over the crowd. They stick out. Alex’s said to Danny, “They look like owls” and pointed to them. Danny looked up, nods and went back on his phone. Purple squares more being important. Then they saw Michael, the manager of Moon Ensemble and Alex met the drummer he was praising earlier, Mike, and didn’t know what to say, drunk and star struck in a way he hadn’t expected. They met the guitarist, Brandon, and Alex was at least able to introduce himself. They all grabbed a beer from an abandoned 12er, one of many spread across the ground, unattended and deliberately so.
When Joos started their sad dance music, the sad danced and it got wild. The mass started to bounce and lean over and back. People standing in the front would jolt forward, as the mass broke through. Mike says something over the music blaring that this was one of his favorite drummers and sure enough he had it going. His name was Joseph and when he’d reach back, he’d hit his drumsticks on the clothesline hanging behind him, shaking it, but not skipping a beat. Juice was on guitar and vocals, hair tied and down his back, owning the stage. Lucas swayed with his bass looking cool in his orange bomber jacket. On the other guitar was Carlos, curly haired and wild. He played with violent control, reckless stability, leaning against the front row, barely moving, trying to get the crowd going.
Alex and Danny couldn’t stop themselves from joining, jumping in, wild-legged, hands up in the air, bouncing off bodies. A space opened, big circle pit, and it’s only those dancing and the people on the edge pushing back against them; they bang, and smack, and push off each other. Alex falls and everyone picks him up and continues—elbows, shoulders, eyes closed. The rhythm levels out. Flicks of sweaty hair, hands going though, Alex and Danny are arm over arm with another dude in a leather jacket they’ve never seen before but they’re grinning at each other like old friends.
Then Juice, “1, 2, 3, 4!” and it drops and heads bang forward and the crowd catches it and bounces and kicks their legs and screams out—monsoon of bodies, muddy brown turning up on everyone’s pant legs but it’s not worth stopping. A girl with purple hair lowers her shoulder into Danny and he loses his balance and falls to the side on some chick in a Red Hot Chili Peppers T-shirt and her boyfriend pushes him off, back into the pit, and stands there protective and awkward after. Danny rejoins Alex, they head bang and their hair, both thick, dark, and long, is swinging back and forth and they close their eyes and they’re one with Joos, they’re one with each other, they’re one with rest of these fucking psychos in the pit.
The song ends and the audience cheers. Raised beers to humble smiles. They step away from their instruments, flashes go off, bright and yellowy. Alex and Danny try to catch their breath.The pit showing them how out shape they were.
The crowd thinned out. The wind reminded them it was January and they’re wet. Sweaty clothes on drunken skin, they decided to go back to the car, smoke a bowl or two and try to dry up. They got back and relaxed into their seats. They could feel their muscles getting sore. Alex had a bump on his forearm that hurt when he rubbed it but he rubbed it anyway. His whole left sleeve was stained brown from the mud but it made the grandpa-hipster sweater look not so lame. Danny felt it in his calves. They were burning. He rolled up a pant leg to see if he was cut. There was some skin scratched off and ashy, dots of red, baby dots more of a dark pink. They both rolled their shoulders and could feel the spots where elbow points landed and still hung out. They looked at each other and smiled.
“That was fuckin’ sick.”
They pack a bowl and decide to go get some drinks before they went back. Luckily, the liquor down the street was still open. They stumbled in, bought two tall cans of Pacifico, and took off back towards the speakers and the bass and the pit.
Walking in, showing their blue smiley faces to a nice older man standing by the door, they came up just when The Rose Waters was finishing their set. Another band missed! They cursed their thirst and all the liquor stores open late all over America! Oh well, they cracked open the tallies and headed behind the stage like they were somebody. There was some time before the next act. The mumble of a thousand conversations rumbled out and everywhere you looked someone was leaning over and talking with big open mouths. There was a tree by the stage area and two people sitting up in it, talking, looking like they conquered Everest in record time. Underneath in the back corner, people pissed on the brick wall, feet away from more conversations and no one minded at all. Bohemian dreams.
Then a guy in a beanie and a gray denim jacket pulled up an amp, sat on it, plugged in and got it going. Someone screamed out, “Woooo! The homie Chaz!” there was a Tecate can just to the side of him and he sipped it between songs. The crowd settled down and the jumping and banging turned to a soft, slow, calming energy.
“I get hiiiiiiigh…” Chaz blares through the speakers. Everyone acts accordingly, getting out their pieces and capsules. Someone in the crowd sparks a joint and passes it around. Bobbing heads and clouds of smoke. Girl in a thick sweater, focused, dancing for warmth. Pipes passed back and forth to anyone who wants some. Vibing… chillin… peace.
The homie Chaz finished and people shook his hand. The crowd is calm and serene. Danny gets a call and covers the other ear with his free hand, squinting like it’d help him hear. Alex drank what was left of his beer, checked his phone—dead. Danny came back, “Hey man, I’m gonna head out.”
“Sorry dude, Diane wants to chill.” A grin crawls across his face and his eyes tell the truth.
“Wow.” Alex laughs, “I can’t even argue with that.”
Then Danny’s gone and Alex feels drunk and can’t stop burping. Slaughter House 5 came up and played some Sublime covers that Alex hadn’t heard in years. The air’s colder now and everyone’s breath can be seen in little clouds under their red noses, moving with their hands in pockets and arms tucked tight to their sides, swaying to the beat. The crowd was thinning out. Some guy came up to Alex and started talking to him, hand on shoulder with a terrifically wide mouth. Alex would nod, eyelids falling, moving just a step behind the beat. The guy kept sending big spit balls whenever he’d hit a “p” or “f” sound. Even the “s”s would hiss out with some juice. Alex tried not to look at him, his own mouth dry and dying, getting showered on by a stranger. The man had a maroon collared shirt that fit him tight in the arms even though his biceps were flat all the way down to his skinny wrists. Still firing words and drops, he held a ciroc bottle that seemed to trump his hand, fingers barely wrapping around it. Alex kept nodding, picturing his bed, his warm bed, taking off his pants and jumping under the covers, turning on his side and falling asleep until the hangover’s gone. But that was only a idea far away. When he came to, the guy was still hot, mouth moving, stretched and menacing, taking one break to whip his face of the moisture accumulating on the corners of his mouth.
They stood right in front of the amp and nothing else could be heard. The guy, who said his name was Gerald, but Alex didn’t know that, must have sensed Alex’s disinterest and offered his ciroc bottle as a friendly gift, like, “i know i just spit all over you and talked faster than could be comprehended, but thanks for listening. I needed it and now, here, have a drink.” Alex turned and got the bottle, paused and looked back at Gerald. Alex could see the big bruised rings around his eyes, the deep wrinkles around his mouth from always being open and moving. His puffy brown cheeks, round, with a thin mustache of straight hair that stuck out, stiff, over his upper lip. Grin spread broadly across, showing perfect white teeth, almost glistening. His face, his innocent expression, made Alex instantly like him. He wished he would have listened to what Gerald was spraying on about but it was too late for that. All Alex could do now was honor his great friend who he didn’t know the name of just yet (Gerald) with a hardy chug of his noble offering! Alex took a breath and started pounding the clear liquid as quick as his throat would let him. Gerald watched with big faced surprise and instantly started, “Chug! Chug! Chug!” A couple people near joined, all, “Chug! Chug! Chug!” The heat’s building in Alex’s whole head, throat and sinuses and the rest. He flared his nose to take in any and all oxygen he could get. Big throat fulls, tears building from the burn. Done, bottle empty, hefty gasps for air, cheers from those who’re watching. Alex’s starts to cough, smile trying to break through the heves. Gerald pats him on the back and pumps his fist in the air. Alex stands up, gathers himself and bows to the three people, clapping and cheering around him.
Alex ended up staggering out of there, tripping over one of the sprinklers, falling flat faced on the front lawn. Then got to his feet only to wobble over and throw up behind the neighbors Chevy Tahoe. He got back to his car, charged his phone, started to send out some “You up?”s and passed out in the driver’s seat slumped over the gearshift. A helluva Friday the 13th.
Sincerest apologies to all the bands i didn’t get a chance to see and hardly mentioned. It wasn’t out of any malice, just one too many alcoholic beverages. Special shout out to Julio and Jade Moon for being so inviting. May we run into each other again when my memory isn’t so foggy.
Thanks for the good time,
The Red Pears
The Rose Waters
Daydream Time Machine
[…] Friday The Thirteenth in the SGV […]