Our Last Gig: Packed like Sardines

Albert Licano photo

As we skirt across the webbed span of the Gerald Desmond bridge, an industrial glow emanates from below.
Terminal Island pulses with the churn of commerce, harsh sodium lighting showcasing an evershifting city of shipping containers.
I gaze down at those boxes stacked eight or nine tall for endless blocks.
They sit in purgatory, a moment of stillness between the churning black Pacific and the stinking miles of highways ahead.
Waiting to be plucked by the cranes hunting from above, fattened grubs helpless to the cruel whims of a hungry mantis.

I have to wonder what lies within those corrugated steel walls.
Worthless trinkets made by starving children?
Medicines delayed by customs, while a young man dies surrounded by family?
Perhaps huddled within are humans, ready to emerge blinking in the sunlight, the opportunity or destruction of the American ideal on their minds.

It’s a chilled Friday night in the South Bay, an area that has always held a mysterious shroud over its industrial bent.
The legendary Dancing Waters, sure.

But we recall earlier riotous nights on that side of the Vincent Thomas:
There we are after a drunken gig at the Minutemen’s private space in 1981, when we lost the keys to the van and were stranded at 3 am.
A vigilante troop of cholos sweep the darkened streets of punk trash, breaking my nose and tearing off a side view mirror for good measure.

The Cove in Hermosa 1982, when one industrious punk notices a working firehose coiled innocently against the wall.
And like Chekhov’s gun introduced in Act One, said hose was surely unfurled and unleashed by night’s end.
The geysers flooding the lobby a glorious fountain of crimson and azure, colored by the police cars surrounding the building.

But we hope no such water damage or bodily injury awaits us at the Sardine complex tonight.
It is a tight friendly crew, our boys in Spider once again joining us along with youthful ragers Love Equal Death from up yonder Ukiah way.

Love Equal Death

The Sardine, It’s a very cool space.
Neighborhood bar up front, decent sized gig space in back.
And a lovely little courtyard just beyond that, where people smoke and chat.
They sprawl along picnic tables like divorced dads waiting for the end of soccer practice, dreading the inevitable conversation with the ex through gritted teeth.

Lorrie Smith photo

After Love=Death slays with their high energy melodic take, our Spider men take stage and do their thing.

Albert Licano live photos

The lads are energized tonight, Hector bounding about the stage, pointing out the targets of rage that only he sees hidden in the dark rafters of the club.

It is the finest set I’ve seen them play, though I dare not mention that when we pass them offloading the stage as we set up.
Can’t have them getting too high tone on us, yeh?
“That second song from the end,” I ask Karl while he packs up his pedal board. “Is it supposed to sound like that or was that a fuckup?”

Lorrie Smith photo

I see Randy from the legendary Alley Cats slinking around the perimeter of the courtyard looking the world like a wizened spectral vision.
I say hello and we chat about band stuff for a bit, and I am relieved he doesn’t warn me of two more holiday spirits that shall me visit me on this night.

I notice my old pal Marcus standing by the stage, and I haul him up to do the band introduction.
A former Buddhist monk, he agrees with a serene nod when I ask him to start us out with a brief chant.
Om Mani Padme Hum, he sings, Om Mani Padme….
And then we climb upon the stage one more time, one more Friday night sending out our own mantra into the ether.

No lobbies are flooded tonight, no cartilage bruised.
We launch the music skyward, in hopes of transmission, contact, engagement.

A mile away, the port hums its own chant of concern.
A battle call of grinding gears, a song of its cargo, of the treasures and terrors that lay in wait.

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