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When I went to see the Zombies at the Belly Up Tavern, I hadn't planned on crashing a party there. But when I saw that a section of the venue was set up for a party hosted by Rolling Rock, I crashed it with my friend Steve, a photographer. They were giving out bottles of beer and had a table of appetizers. A guy named Brad was staring at me and it turned out that he worked for 103.7 FM. He mentioned that I wrote about a Cinco de Mayo party his station hosted and that I wrote their VIP section sucked. At first, I thought he was mad, but he smiled and said, "Hey, maybe those comments helped improve the food we had at future events. It's gotten better." I met a woman who works for the Mainly Mozart festival. She told me that she went to school at Oxford. I asked about MM. "It's primarily involved with the production of classical music concerts. We also do educational and binational programs and things like that. The thing that makes it unique in the world of classical music and festivals -- yes, there is such a world, shockingly -- is that instead of maintaining musicians in town, we recruit principal players and concertmasters to play in both our orchestra and our chamber ensembles, so it's basically an all-star orchestra, which is pretty cool."

We talked about karaoke, and she said, "I'm pretty much against karaoke, in general, although with the right combination of alcohol, it can be quite amusing. I am kind of a music snob. I hate some of the choices people make. Actually, I would say that about pretty much everything."

We had an interesting conversation and then she took off. I was bummed for about two minutes, when an employee of the Belly Up said we could go backstage to meet the Zombies. They were going to be autographing a guitar for someone. I was stoked. (I had once tried to crash a party with Ted Nugent backstage at the House of Blues and had no luck.) I told the drummer, who is the son of the bassist, that I had met him in San Juan Capistrano. He remembered our conversation from a year ago about drummer Stewart Copeland. I talked to his father, bassist Jim Radford, who had played with the band Argent and with the Kinks. He was shorter than he looked onstage. And he was the only band member taking advantage of the food tables. I felt guilty bothering him while he was macking, but as people often talk about the food and the groupies backstage, I took a look around. I realized that the women back there were probably fans of the band in the '60s. A flashback of the time Ted Nugent was backstage at the old Bacchanal with a groupie made me wish I could've crashed the backstage at that House of Blues gig. But as my friend pointed out, "Nugent is married now and a lot less crazy."

Zombie singer Colin Blunstone was swamped with fans, so I approached keyboardist Rod Argent. I asked him about a Who album he played on and whether or not he played keyboards on the song "Sister Disco." He said he didn't and that he had trouble remembering which tracks he was on. He was friendly and appreciated talking about music.

I didn't stay long because I had a party to go to at the Kava Lounge on Kettner downtown. I didn't realize at the time that I'd be meeting another "rock star" there. * * * I saw several local musicians and a few belly dancers when I arrived at Kava Lounge. I had met Greg, who played sitar during the belly dancers, at a previous party. I asked him if it was difficult to learn to play the sitar. "Oh, this is a baby sitar. It's a lot easier." He then went into a detailed explanation that went over my non-musician's head. I talked to one guy who told me that this bar was called Puss 'N' Boots in the '60s and that it was the old location of the Casbah before it moved down the street. It then became Velvet. Now it's the Kava Lounge.

There were tarot-card readings set up on one side of the club. Musicians were selling CDs and incense on the other side. I asked one of the card readers how they learned their craft. "You're taught some things, but I'm self-taught. Each deck of cards has a booklet. I memorized the stories in three months. I started going to coffee shops and doing readings for free before I was offered jobs. I've been doing this for ten years now."

I noticed a crowd gathering to watch the next performance, a couple of contortionists. The guy was strong, lifting his partner slowly in ways that looked impossible. The person next to me said, "This is like porn for acrobats."

Later the belly dancer whose birthday it was performed. I didn't think you should have to be the entertainment at your own birthday party.

A guy walked by that reminded me of Bono from U2. His name was Pavel, and he's in a U2 tribute band called Desire. He told me he had just been hired to play a private party for actor Pierce Brosnan's son. I told Pavel that the Union-Tribune did a story about Bono signing autographs in Horton Plaza and then ran a retraction a few days later when it turned out the guy was an impersonator. Pavel admitted it was him. He said he went to lunch there with someone from his church, and with U2 in town for a concert, their fans kept approaching him. Pavel told me a story about being in an electronics store near L.A. He was going to buy a camcorder and asked the salesman what the higher-priced camera did that the cheaper one couldn't. The salesman just stared at him and said, "I love your music. I'm a big fan." Pavel said, "I'm not him." The guy didn't seem convinced, so Pavel said, "Do you think if I was Bono, I would be worried about saving a hundred bucks on the camera?"

Pavel told me about his dad, who was jailed in another country for political reasons. Pavel also sings opera, which I think he should throw in next time he's singing a U2 hit, just to keep the crowd guessing.

After I said goodbye, I overheard two guys smoking outside say, "I've seen Bono lots of times here in San Diego. I saw him here tonight. I just don't go up and bother him. He probably hates when people do that."

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

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