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On the way to town last year, Gratitude's van broke down in a Ralphs parking lot about 30 miles from their show at Mira Mesa's Epicentre.

"An axle had broken on our trailer, or something odd and unfixable," says the band's former singer, Jonah Matranga. "It was a show that had been booked very last-minute, and we knew we'd be back to San Diego soon, so there was a strong argument for just canceling, but...it just seemed stupid to not make it there, being so close."

Then, a "clean-cut suburban dad sort of guy" approached them and asked if they were in a band.

"If you've been on tour a lot, especially in Middle America at some awful restaurant at 4 a.m., with the staff and clientele looking at you like you're aliens, you know that this is the most boring, annoying question ever," Matranga says. "But this guy seemed nice. We started chatting, and then came the next-most-annoying tour thing: 'Yeah, my boys are in a band, too.'... Inevitably, one of us asks, 'What band?' Sometimes, this can be funny, 'cause the band name is usually 'Satan's Dildo' or something that's just wrong, especially coming from a suburban dad's mouth."

This time, the guy was the father of Jonathan and Tim Foreman of Switchfoot.

"And he's a pastor! For real!" Matranga says. "The father of the Christian-alternative rock band of the moment is actually a pastor. And a really nice one at that. I joke that Switchfoot should take us on tour even though I'm Jewish, and he takes the joke well, which is a good sign."

Matranga told Mr. Foreman what happened to their van, and he lent them his mini-van to get to the show.

"We're all sort of stunned at this, obviously," Matranga says. "I ask, 'But how will you get home?' He just smiles this beatific, sweet smile and says, 'Oh, I'll get a ride or something.' As if his posse of angels will pick him up or something equally magical.

" 'By the way, I'm sorry the van's a little dirty, we just came back from surfing,' Mr. Foreman said. 'Just leave the keys with it when you bring it back, and I'll pick it up in the morning.' "

Matranga plays a solo show at Soma tonight.

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