Brandi Shearer's show, last night: a rainy Sunday in SF

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 28, 2008 01:08pm | Post a Comment

Well, holy shit. I got to go out to a show last night. Did Hell freeze over?

I mean, "It was a dark and stormy night ..."

As some of you know, I don't get out much. Too very chronically sick, too very tired, too very many things that make it impossible to travel across town - much less across the bay. I mean, damn, maybe if we had something more like the Paris Metro instead of the wallet-breaking Bart (see, out of towners, see the pathetic the bit of land it covers, down Market Street or Mission Street as if the rest of the city doesn't exist - and see the prices one pays for such paltry service.)

I could make my way around, with decent public transportation if it existed. Erm, most days.

But even the beloved and precious to me Paris Metro couldn't do a thing about the fact that I feel constantly as if I'm first day out of the hospital after a long stay for serious pneumonia. I'm quick to exhaust, wobbly baby deer legs, you name it. But I have a big brother who loves music.

My big brothers Kevin and Brian were instrumental in where I ended up today. Yes, I spent my childhood with a transistor radio glued to my ear, running it up the AM and FM in search of anything, which back then meant pure magic like Gladys Knight & The Pips. But it was my brothers' voluminous collection of vinyl records that brought me above what was easily found on the radios. Lest I forget, I am eternally grateful to my beautiful sister Jill who introduced me to the B-52's when I was 11, and my brother Scott who brought to me gems like Madman Across the Water, and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy from Elton John. I eventually graduated to a clock radio which was heavier to hold against my head but did sound better, and a bit later on had my own turntable and a generous donation of vinyl spanning big band jazz LPs, Tom Jones 45s on the Parrot label ... to Jesus Christ Superstar from my beloved Godmother, Aunt Helen.

But I digress, as always.

Last night Brian picked me up in a damn cold, windy rainstorm and drove us across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, through standing waters (SF and the Bay Area is in no way able to handle any inclement weather) and through the 'High Wind Advisory' on the bridge itself. He was able to find parking magically enough right around the corner from the burger shop we went to so he could get his man-food on. This shop was of course with a block or so of the venue, the nearest parking we could find and be very glad for, after several passes.

We warmed ourselves over Niman Ranch beef and fried potato lengths. I explained to him that the book I was reading about my health detailed many changes I must make to my life, many things I am bitter about (no Equal, no sugar, no this no that) that I haven't yet memorized - but I recall it saying that mustard is a good thing. Being someone who uses a cane more than she would like, it's important to me to keep my weight - and thus the pain - down. So I already knew for years that mustard has, like, no calories - and ketchup (no matter how you spell it) has calories galore and sugar, sugar, sugar. I had both squirted on the beef I am supposed to feed myself - and both condiments on the fried potatoes that I am not supposed to have. Nom nom.

After all of this, we hobbled - sorry, I hobbled, he walked, up Market Street in SF to be just about in time for the opening act. I do try to support all the acts performing, not just the ones I already know that I like. As is usual these days, the men at the door thought it was more important to finish their conversation than to go through the tedium of getting two more people in the club. This is ubiquitous these days, have you seen it? The checkers at the grocer, wrap up their back and forth about the night's plans ahead of them before turning to you and swiping your meager, un-tasty doctor's orders food.

Once inside, I had to make my way down the treacherous stairs to the venue and proceed to greet people I knew and generally share smiles with other people like us who were just happy to be there. There was no icy rain blowing at us here, there was no one vomiting on our shoes as we walked down the street, there was no emergency vehicles terrifying you with their sirens as they blaze by you. There was just warmth, camaraderie, really nice ladies with trays asking if you'd like food and another very nice lady behind the bar who tossed together a very nice coffee for me as if it was a cocktail. (Guys at the door don't get tips huh? I wonder how this all works out.)

My brother and I managed to get a table a million miles from the stage - but with sight line to the stage for the opening act and the woman performer who followed. Geoff Pearlman, the opening act, was charming and engaging, but for me, I was still trying to unwrap my arthritic fingers from the cane I had used to get there ... yes, I slightly exaggerate. As I tried to get myself back into a state of being human, my brother reassured me that Geoff was doing a fine job indeed on the stage. Quincy Coleman took the stage next and while I could not say her influences, I can say the precision of herself and her band - and the surprising instruments that they brought out delighted all - had the crowd yet more warmed up.

It seemed that even though I had arrived in time (thanks entirely to my brother) to see all the acts there that night, I was only unfolded and warmed up by the time Brandi Shearer hit the stage.

She didn't hit the stage, however. She seemed to slowly appear before our eyes, moving in time already to a song only she could hear. I'm not qualified to review actual concerts - as I am sure you can tell from the above jabs at descriptions and endless yakking about hamburgers and Tom Jones singles - but I can quote my brother, albeit loosely: 'The first few songs, I expected Laura Palmer to come slowly dancing out of backstage, arm in arm with a dwarf in a red suit ... then Brandi shook her head, shook her instrument and shook us all out of the lovely trance ... and it was like a descendant of Julie London and Janis Joplin had taken over the stage.' When Brandi uses her lower register, she has the sultry croon that Chris Isaak dreams of having, and when she lets loose and the pain & anger pours forth from her heart ... she has the power to tear your heart in half, and make you glad for it. You realize suddenly, as tears are in your eyes, damn it YES: I needed this new heart, I've been avoiding these feelings, force the feelings out me, Brandi Shearer, the feelings that I am all too trained at caging in my closed heart. I am seldom moved because I won't allow it. Last night there was no permission asked, and none was needed. My heart, unbeknownst to my brain, had already handed itself over to her voice, her message, her talent.

I found out later that she was told in no uncertain terms to not perform that night, as she had lost her voice days ago. Yet, how could Brandi say no? Not just a full club of fans, but her Mom was there! A couple of her Aunties had come down and there was two members of the (incredibly talented) lead guitarist's family there as well. I hope to make it to the next Brandi show, this Wednesday at The Independent in SF ... if Brandi's voice was 'in recovery' when I saw her last night, I can't wait to hear it after a few more days rest. I left the club, agonizing my way up the stairs - ice cold banister on one side, the other hand using an ice cold cane (I'd bitch less if I wasn't a sprightly 40 years old and hadn't been shattered by 2 drunk drivers).

As I went to make my way into the night, the same door men who had been so preoccupied at the start of my evening were incredibly sweet - thanking us for coming, saying 'hope you had a great time, come on back sometime and oh yeah - careful out in that weather!'  All of that served to remind me how much we forget to give the other guy a break. Yeah, I had just walked up to that club in a downpour, but those guys had to stand there in the very unkind elements all damn night. Bad on me. Maybe next time someone is a bit lax in getting around to swiping my groceries, I will try to remember that they've most likely been on their feet several hours and dealing with all kinds of humanity, many of them uncool.

It was a great ending to the night though. I went in cranky, ice cold and rain besotted - shaking my cane at people like a cranky grandmother. Then I got to leave the club after having had my heart opened up, feelings both good bad and ferocious having been lured masterly out into my conscious mind by the magic of Brandi's voice and her owning of that stage. After she had introduced her band, most amazing fellows, twice: I still can't name them! I'm a dolt that goes to shows sometimes, that writes blogs sometimes, not a music reviewer. My brain does say 'lead guitar- Campilongo!' and I want to give it a candy like a 5 year old trying it's best. Good brain, tries hard. Thanks. I can say the other fellows were dead-on, played their asses off, and since I am a shallow and (female - go figure) homosexual: they were cute dudes.

I'm still trying to find a ride for the Wednesday night show at The Independent. That show, unlike the Amoeba in-stores concerts, is 21 and over. Which means that my brother will have his kids that night, and as much as they would love to go to The Independent - it's not an option. Based on last night, at Cafe du Nord, I have a feeling that something good will happen, that I will have a stroke of good luck.

Wednesday, January 30th at The Independent: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals headline, Brandi Shearer snug in the middle, and Reeve Carney gets to be the one to help us shake off the outside world and bring us into another magical night of live music.

The Independent, 628 Divisadero in SF, doors at 7:30, show at 8:00pm

                - Old Lady Brady

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