Garage Band

I went to a house concert in Rancho Peñasquitos where Steve Poltz, the Rugburns singer/guitarist, was performing. Though he plays at the Casbah and Belly-Up often, those shows are nothing like sitting on a driveway watching him perform in a garage. The party had Mexican food catered and two tables of cakes, pies, cookies, and a few other pastries. Unfortunately, I had just eaten. There was a Margarita machine in the front yard, which was popular, along with bottles of white and red wines.

The owner of the house built a riser on his driveway for seating, so everyone could see. "I talked to a guy who built stages. He said it's six inches from a person's eyes to the top of the head, so that I should go eight inches higher for everyone to have a clear shot."

It took him two weeks and several trips to Home Depot to build the riser, which covered his driveway. I asked him where he'd store it. "Well, I don't know yet."

Gregory Page, a band mate and longtime friend of Poltz, was also performing. Page introduced me to a musician friend of his, a guy who sat there in a sports coat and tie and didn't smile. Page and I were joking, but his friend looked depressed. Page was telling me about his dad being sick in Paris and his trip to visit him. He joked with his dad about how hard it was walking up three flights of stairs while his dad lay in bed.

I asked if he thought French people were mean. "They were even worse than they were last year. I try not to open my mouth much when I'm there. I just write my songs. I tried to speak French once, and I ended up saying 'I don't speak pork.'"

The woman who was throwing this party told me she is going to continue having concerts at her house and someday open a club. I asked if neighbors would complain about the noise. "No, they are all here." She didn't charge her neighbors the $40 she charged the rest of the crowd.

I met a musician in the audience named Keri Highland. I asked her if she'd play a house concert, and she said she would, but that bringing her piano would be more difficult than an acoustic guitar. I asked her about bringing a piano to clubs, and she mentioned Twiggs having a piano she used. We talked about how difficult it is to get crowds to show up for local musicians.

The front yard was lit by Tiki torches and candles. It was small for such a big crowd. I was eavesdropping without trying.

I overheard two teachers talking about the first day of school. One gal on her cell phone was trying to talk a friend into coming to the show. Another woman was talking about ovulation and pregnancy.

I overheard one lady ask a bald guy to smile for a photograph. He put his hand on his butt to pose, and I said, "He looks like Right Said Fred."

I met a woman who was a childhood friend of the homeowner. She posed with her mouth to the Margarita machine. When I told her the picture may appear in the Reader, she said, "Just make sure you mention I'm a Vanderbilt professor." (She flew into town to visit friends and attend this concert.)

Page came up to me and said, "Steve would like to have a word with you upstairs." I had a flashback to the time my basketball went through a window as a child. I wondered if Poltz was going to scold me for something I wrote.

I followed Page upstairs to the bedroom. Poltz was tuning his guitar and stood up to shake my hand. There were food and drinks on the dresser, and I said, "This doesn't look like backstage." Poltz said, "Yeah. We should've painted the walls green." I said, "And requested only green M&Ms."

We talked about Johnny Cash, Ray Davies, and Stan Ridgeway. I told Poltz I had been looking for his CD Chinese Vacation, and he handed me a copy.

Poltz told me he plays several house concerts and enjoys them. He and Page started talking about Tom Cruise's engagement to Katie Holmes. Page said, "He proposed to her at the Eiffel Tower, while I was in Paris."

I went back downstairs to watch the concert. The hostess was playing "Name That Steve." I heard a few of the answers -- McQueen and Forbes -- before going onto the lawn for a cigar.

I talked to a couple who met on a Catholic dating website. She was in Florida, and he was in Phoenix. They got married 11 days after they met and are now living in San Diego.

I met a British guy who told me to tell the band they can get wasted with him. I relayed the message to Page during their intermission, and he laughed and declined the offer. I went with the British guy and two women to their van. A joint was passed around, and when I refused, one of the women said, "Are you a cop? This is suspicious. You better not be an undercover cop." The guy then went into a tirade about how alcohol is legal and pot isn't; how no doctor has ever prescribed booze for health problems.

Walked back to the concert, the women asked why I didn't smoke pot. I told them I never have and never will, but refrained from saying something corny like, "I get high off life." One of the women told me that she was a Christian looking for a man who had the same beliefs and would be a good role model for her son.

When Page was called to join Poltz on stage, he said, "I always get nervous playing house concerts, because there's no TV on."

They played for almost three hours. It reminded me of a time I saw them jam at the Ould Sod in Normal Heights years ago. Beneath a TV set.

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

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