Golden State of Mind (Pt. 1 – The Concert)

I moved back with my parents after graduation college (I know, how Millennial of me), to Redding, nestled in the northernmost part of the Central Valley of California. As I was getting settled in, I decided to stop getting settled in and take a trip down to San Francisco to see the indie/rock band Cage the Elephant. Hailing from Kentucky, this foursome is energetic, hectic, has deep punk rock roots and the unruly feel of a garage band that made it big. Perfect after leaving the highly organized and clean environment of academia.

I had just finished my last quarter of college, with the last three weeks consisting of me migrating from coffeeshop to coffeeshop to the school library to my apartment to sleep and water my plants to work to coffeeshop and, well, you get the idea. (Incidentally, here is a non-comprehensive list of some of the best places to do homework in in Ashland).

I needed an escape, and spending the weekend in the Golden Gate City was just the thing. Kiva, my adventure buddy/friend who lets me drive her Jeep joined me, although we decided to take my CRV, anticipating the city traffic and decided better gas mileage was better. We left Thursday afternoon, with the concert being that night. After the drive down, punctuated by gas and food stops, we arrived at my friends house who was gracious enough to let us stay.

Free boarding in San Francisco is nothing to be taken lightly, so here is an appreciation paragraph of Christina. I met her studying abroad in Korea, her and I hailed from the same college and same city. In fact, in elementary school I had math class with her mother and in high school I played soccer against her brother. Christina has red hair, is artistic and has an infectious laugh that is accentuated by the fact that she only laughs when something is genuinely funny, and is sincere and fun to be around. She has let me stay at her apartment before, and I am grateful every time.

We stopped by the apartment first to drop off our bags and change into different clothes – one does not simply go to a concert in the same attire one wore while driving for four hours. We freshened up, then headed out.

What we did not take into account was the traffic. Of course, when in San Francisco, driving becomes both more nonchalant and aggressive, a strange oxymoron whose roots I cannot accurately identify. In addition, this weekend was Pride (the Mardi Gras of the west coast), and the concert venue was right downtown where parking was hilariously nonexistent. After a few false positives (some spots were available, but we suspected our car might be towed), and a few growing concentric circles around the area, we finally found a place to park and walked to the venue.

The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, named after the famous music producer of the 70’s, was a much larger venue than I first thought. Throughout it’s history, the auditorium once held the Democratic National Convention, was the home court for the Golden State Warriors, and now is a venue for trade shows and concerts. It sits around 6,000, had an open standing area at the bottom, two wings that served as cafes where food and drinks could be bought, and two floors. Our tickets were in the center standing area, but before heading in we decided to get some refreshments. We ordered beer and veggie rolls (what else would one buy in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium?), paid the price one would expect at a concert for our nosh, and once we felt our hunger and thirst was satiated, joined the unruly mob of concert-goers in the standing area.

If the mob was unruly at the beginning of the concert, the music of Cage the Elephant did little to dull their enthusiasm.

Cage the Elephant could never be described as a ‘mellow’ band. The music doesn’t fit into a genre, but rather is the stepchild of punk rock, indie rock, and garage rock (I’m not sure how that ménage à trois met), and it works.

While the band sets up

The band is high energy, psychadelic at times, incoherent at other times, and raucous throughout. Their breakthrough song was the 2010 hit Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked, and they played this song in the middle of the set. The lead singer and lead guitarist, brothers, took turns stealing the spotlight as they performed and danced and generally haphazardly crossed the stage. The crowd roared and pulsed, and a mini mosh pit began. The rules of engagement clearly did not apply to the standing area here. You could push and pull your way through the crowd as bodies jumped and bumped into each other.  I was entranced when my favourite song, Telescope, came on, and the softer music calmed the audience, if only for the short time while it played. The music energized and almost stunned the audience. I was surprised to see so many young people (especially girls who were transfixed on the musicians), but there were also the adults who had grown up with the Ramones and wanted something more current.


We left the concert in the usual post concert daze, our ears throbbing and eyes bleary. Our minds were clouded for a small time with the leftover music ringing in our ears, and we made our way up the hill to our car so we could drive back.

We slept quite soundly that night, ready for the next days adventures, where we could see more of the city and be tourists and locals. Coming up: we almost get locked in a police station, eat Korean food on the beach, go to the Musuem of Modern Art, and drink some truly terrible coffee. Stay tuned, and as always, never stop adventuring.


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