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.
He went on about his club and seemed very enthusiastic. He said, "We should thank Woolworth's. This is the old Woolworth building, and we did the same thing in Cleveland, using one of their old stores for our club."
One fan then came up and asked for his autograph. Aykroyd asked him his name and the guy said, "Come on, you remember me!" He then explained something about delivering cases of wine to Aykroyd, who said, "Do you realize I meet thousands of people each day? I can't remember everyone I meet." The guy said, "Okay, okay. That's cool."
Back inside the club, I went to the ice sculpture where a bartender was serving drinks. He was serving cosmos and martinis, and he had a list near him. When someone would order a drink, he'd make a check. Cosmos were winning, 35 to 26.
The ice sculpture said House of Blues. I asked the guy how it was made and he jokingly said, "You should see how many ice cubes we had to stick together to do this." A blonde nearby said, "Really?"
I told him about another party I went to where a guy who makes ice sculptures told a story of someone who made a 10-foot penis for a bachelorette party. Drinks were poured into the top, and women drank them from the large ice testicles at the bottom of the sculpture. They ended up putting it in their limo, and the bride was taking a drink when the limo stopped suddenly and her two front teeth were knocked out. This happened a week before her wedding. That look didn't work for boxer Leon Spinks. I doubt she looked good in her white dress and veil and no teeth. Imagine explaining to people how you lost your teeth.
David Lee Roth came on stage around 10:15. We had to walk downstairs to get to the stage. All areas had great views. We were all the way in the back. There's an old Woolworth's sign on the wall.
Roth's hair was short again. A woman next to me said, "Why is his hair so short? He doesn't look like a rock star." I wanted to tell her that I thought he looked ridiculous when he had the long, dyed blonde locks with a receding hairline.
He started the show with "Hot for Teacher" and "Mean Streets" from his VH days. He then went into his solo hit "Living in Paradise," before jumping back into the old stuff with "Running with the Devil" and "Eruption."
I saw a guy on crutches who was rocking out. I looked back at the bar and saw a midget. I wouldn't normally mention the fact that a midget was at a party, but I felt bad for him as he walked around in his leather jacket trying to see past all the taller people in front of him.
A woman next to me saw him and asked me if I ever saw the late midget who worked for Kid Rock. I told her a story I heard on the radio about Ozzy Osbourne having a midget who worked for him. He got mad when the midget showed up late a few times, so Ozzy took him on the tour bus and threw him into the compartment above the seats and closed the latch. His staff had to talk him into letting the guy out.
I talked to a group of people who were saying, "This club is great, but how long before it's shut down? With all the apartments and condos they are putting downtown, it's only a matter of time before they complain about the noise." My guess is, before they opened up here, they covered their tracks. I'm more worried about other venues I enjoy going to, like the Belly Up Tavern and 4th & B. I don't want them going out of business.
I went back to walk around the venue. David Lee Roth was boring me. He had this goofy smile plastered on his face, and the songs were sounding just like the record. Some people like that. I'd rather hear different versions from the ones I own.
I glanced outside and saw that Aykroyd and his buddies had taken off.
Two girls working at the club offered me a poster that advertised the Blues Brothers show the next night. Jim Belushi has taken the place of his late brother.
As I was leaving the House of Blues, I saw a homeless guy sleeping against one of the buildings on 5th Avenue. He didn't seem to mind the noise.
Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.