When I got an invitation to attend the grand opening of the House of Blues, I was jazzed. Those parties have great food, lots of booze, and interesting people. The entertainment for the evening was David Lee Roth, former singer of Van Halen.
I missed out on seeing him perform when he was with Van Halen. When I was 15 years old and VH was touring in support of their album 1984, my parents said I was too young to go to the show.
Years later, when I was working in radio, I found out about a surprise concert Roth was doing at the Belly Up Tavern. Guitar virtuoso Steve Vai was going to be playing with him. (Vai worked with the late Frank Zappa, a former San Diegan.) But I was 20, still too young to get in to the show.
I did finally see Roth perform at the Del Mar Fair one year and was surprised that his hair was cut short. He put on a great show.
I walked around the House of Blues and saw that they were still doing construction on one side of the building. They had search lights going, and there was a line of people waiting to get into the show. An older Latino stopped me and asked if I had an extra ticket. I told him no. We ended up talking about music for 15 minutes. Since this concert was sold out, he was hoping that somebody might have a ticket to sell him. He then asked me if he could try walking in to the opening-night party with me. I enjoyed his company and said, "Sure. Since I'm on the guest list, it's you who's crashing this event, not me. I can't guarantee anything."
We walked around to the front of the club, and the lady at the door had a list with my name on it. I said, "This guy here is my guest." She said, "Okay, plus one. Just put on these wristbands." The woman then said, with a hint of sarcasm, "I liked the piece you wrote on the opening of Altitude." I told her she was the only one. We got many letters about me drinking apple martinis and driving.
We put on our wristbands and walked in.
As we entered, a waiter with a tray of drinks walked by. Gabriel, my guest, said, "I don't drink. I'm going to go find a Coke."
When he came back, we grabbed something to eat. They had a large spread of food. We filled our plates but couldn't find a table. There was one empty table, but it had two beers on it. We stood near it, trying to eat while we stood there. Another man asked, "Is anyone sitting here?" And I said, "I don't think so. We haven't seen them come back for their drinks." He and his friends grabbed the table. I don't know why I didn't say we were sitting there. We continued to stand.
Waiters and waitresses came by with food that wasn't on the buffet tables. We sampled everything. Gabriel told me about his wife and kids. They live in Tijuana. He works at the airport. I said, "Won't your wife be bothered that you are at a concert, having a fun time?" He laughed and said, "She knows I like rock concerts, and I go to all these."
The DJ was playing a good mix of music. When I heard Tears for Fears, I wondered what that band had to do with blues music. Maybe I was just bummed that it wasn't one of the two Tears for Fears songs I like.
When more waiters came by with food, Gabriel said, "They have all these people walking by with food. At the end of the night, they should have them walk by with Pepto-Bismol." He then went to find out where all the shrimp was coming from. I told him I was going to check out the gift shop.
When we met back at the table, Gabriel said, "You're not going to believe this. I asked for shrimp, and they gave me some. But the guy said they are serving it with ice cream on top. They then put vanilla ice cream on my shrimp. They said it was good that way, but it looked weird." I looked at his plate and nothing was on it. "What happened? Did you refuse it?" "No," he responded, "I ate it. It was delicious."
A woman walked by serving drinks. I was surprised by the variety of mixed drinks on her tray. I took a scotch and soda and then instantly remembered why it was I hadn't had Scotch since my Scottish friend's wedding seven years ago. It tastes horrible -- like somebody boiled a suitcase. I need to stick to fruity drinks.
We walked around the club. It was filled with artwork. Gabriel said it looked like stuff from the South. A lot of the art was dated from the early '20s and looked very primitive.
When the line was let into the concert, we walked outside. Gabriel ran into a few of his friends who had tickets. Five guys in leather jackets pulled up on motorcycles. I then noticed that the jackets said "House of Blues" and that one of the guys was Dan Aykroyd. He's one of the owners of HoB, so it wasn't surprising that he was there. It just seemed odd to see him roll up on his hog. He was talking to a few friends, and when he was by himself, I decided to approach.
I asked him what he could tell me about his club. He thought for a second and then said, "It's a house for blues. It's a house for music. A house for all people. Everyone is welcome here."
I told him I've heard the club knocked for having mostly rock and alternative bands, not blues groups. He said, "We're a club, and we need to have a band every night. It isn't just a blues band every night, or we wouldn't survive." He then talked about some contemporary blues artists and I told him I thought it was cool that his syndicated radio show also has contemporary artists, not just the old bluesmen like Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson, and John Lee Hooker.