The Control Center

Sunday, July 4, 4:15 p.m. Only a handful of compatriots have arrived at a house known as the Control Center between Ulric Street and the 163 in Linda Vista. In addition to “all you can eat and drink,” the Facebook invite boasted five live bands and two DJs to facilitate the celebration of our nation’s independence. One of the hosts, Kris, hooks up speakers while some new arrivals stock a cooler with Newcastle. “I spent $2.93 on decorations at the party store,” Kris says, indicating a pair of bejeweled American flag guitar sunglasses and a couple of patriotic plastic leis.

Housemates and friends grill carne asada and deliver bowls of dip and potato salad to the backyard ping-pong table. DJ Gonzo pulls records from his crate, naming bands out loud as he goes. Led Zeppelin! The Who! We discuss the oil spill, the gas pocket that may explode and kill millions, and the nuclear “option.” The gloomy Fourth of July skies only fortify the sense of doom, but we remain festive. Plenty of time for sunshine yet. DJ Room E. fades the music and Carson White begins his howling piano-punk set.

“I don’t see myself growing old here,” a woman tells me between songs. “Everyone is so materialistic, so into technology. I want to go hiking and experience the world for what it is.” We talk Hawaii, the ocean, and farm life.

Later, River City plays whiskey-soaked indie folk and a few girls dance circles barefoot in the grass. Behind the band, in the kitchen, the Control Center crew rolls sushi and dices strawberries for the perpetual feast at the ping-pong table. When the band stops and hip-hop comes over the sound system, I talk with Adam, who recommends the film Holy Mountain, a cult classic produced by Beatles manager Allen Klein. The DJ plays a sample of Obama saying, “Hello. Happy Fourth of July, everybody,” which jostles a guy next to me onto earlier themes of oil spills, endless war, terror, tremors, and corruption. Do we dare burst the collective cheer with such thorny topics? Is this sort of talk appropriate on Independence Day? Necessary?

We have only seconds to contemplate the significance of it all before Golden Red breaks into an alt-country rendition of “Born in the U.S.A.” One of the party chefs, who cooks at the Westgate hotel downtown, walks through the crowd sharing a glass of pastis, an anise-flavored French liqueur. I go inside just before V Drago, the house band, takes the patio stage. I end up talking with a couple girls in the hallway about Stanley Kubrick films, somehow, and we soon come to realize that we all attended the same high school in East County. Trying to pinpoint a recollection, I asked one if she was particularly sassy in high school. “Oh, she was sassy, all right!” her friend says. “I’m still sassy!” she laughs.

Acoustic urban cowboy Ryan Blue continues the folk outside, closing with Velvet Underground & Nico’s “Sunday Morning” while the crowd croons along. The keg is empty, but the ping-pong table is going strong with salsas, cheeses, tortillas, olives, meats, and sushi of every sort. A reserve cache of Tecate is located and a girl, whose name I never got, talks about a Swiss man who allegedly predicted many of the catastrophes we are seeing today. Her take, however, is altogether sunny. Despite the economy, the tsunamis, and the creepy politicians, she says, “We are lucky to be alive in these interesting times!”

And we drink to that. ■

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

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Two mentions of crappy corporate beer but not a word about the (semi) local craft beer in the keg?

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