As you remember last time, it was Northbound for Kraftwerk in Oakland. So now we reverse the poles and head South to the City of Angels. An appropriate location for a meeting with the Dark Lord and his servants: King Crimson.
We are boarding the Omtrak. A Train Of Thought. Departing from the station of Our Lady of the Total Experience. Destination: The Orpheum Theatre. Orpheus Depending. The neon lights...on Broadway. Downtown Los Angeles.
Now like our previous trip to Oakland to see Kraftwerk, and San Francisco to see likewise Kraftwerk, and Magma and Porcupine Tree before that, patterns emerge. Besides choosing a hotel with a suite, we find all three cities have an aura of mystery and flavour with something called Chinatown. And in the case of L.A., Little Tokyo for added zest. I dig it. It brings out my latent Lamont Cranston and Sax Rohmer.
Little Tokyo will be the major environs in our L.A. Noir caper. Our hotel rises 21 floors over the community (actually 20, as the 13th floor is non-existent on the elevator). Our suite is on the 19th floor, with a shine on you crazy diamond shaped wedge of living room area and bedroom & bath, jutting out, two windows, Southeast front room, Southwest bedroom. Very cool. Except the Sun, of course. A heat wave is on. But the Sun Rises in the front room, which is appreciated for late sleepers like us. The nocturnal urges are not completely repressed. Both window views actually connect, with Little Tokyo being the primary landscape. The bedroom window displays the Metropolis like image, with the US Bank building being the biggest dick in a group grope of lesser, but still impressive, erections. The original Phallus Angelic, City Hall, exposes itself away from our view, at the Northern edge of the wedge and obscured by the multitude of Civic and Police buildings.
Hotel lobby living. I love it, when the time is right. But we are here to see and hear the Crimson King.
Now the last quality time I had with this band was in 1984 when they did two shows the same day in the old Mission Theatre in Santa Barbara. This was when I had drummer Bill Bruford in KTYD studio for an interview. The band stayed at the less than palatial El Prado Hotel on State Street: a very friendly Adrian Belew greased up at the pool; Robert Fripp downtown at a Chinese restaurant; Tony Levin seeing the sights. The wife has caught many shows since: House of Blues and the Wiltern. But this tour was essential. After doing Kraftwerk in Oakland, I told the little lady we should go see something in Los Angeles. If King Crimson was touring, that would be the show. Then in early Summer, it was confirmed. A return to early form.
Bruford had announced earlier his retirement from performing. So Fripp decides to continue adding drummers. Three this time and in the front. I'm skeptical at first. This will not last. Tony Levin is mandatory. Though not a part of the early days, his skills as a bass player are a foundation to what the band has become. Tony has been on SPACE PIRATE RADIO since the beginning. Albeit as The Clams, with his brother, performing "Close To You." He's been supportive of the radio show, sending me Papa Bear recordings up to the last programs. I'm there.
And Mel Collins is back, so it's vintage Crimson folks. I first met Mel when he was touring with Roger Waters on the RADIO KAOS tour. This man's work with Camel alone gives him carte blanche. I'm really there.
I learn early on that this tour is focusing on the earlier albums, with a touch of ConstruKction of Light and VROOM. The wife likes to be surprised, so no set list spoilers from me. Basically, the three eighties albums will be noticeable by their absence. This is okay with me, as favourites Larks Tongues and Red will dominate. Knowing the initial set list, I ask the wife what song hasn't she heard live that she would wish they'd perform. Starless is her reply. I smile inwardly, poker face outwardly visible.
At the show, the trio of drummers that had initiated skepticism, becomes a minor revelation. Pat Mastelotto, Bill Reiflin, and Gavin Harrison, whom I had seen with Porcupine Tree in Hollywood are a dynamo in syncopation. I haven't been this impressed by drumming since seeing Christian Vander with Magma in San Francisco. The wife, a drummer of past, appears in satori. It's an amazing show. And probably more of an inspiration in a SPACE PIRATE RADIO sense than if we had seen Yes in San Jose or Ian Anderson in Oakland. These cats embody the word Progressive better than other more road weary and philosophically tired bands on the road today.
And speaking of satori, we sneak away in our environment in Little Tokyo.
In Oakland, our Chinatown food experience included two Chinese restaurants, one Mexican, Italian from the hotel restaurant and American served up in the suite kitchen. In Little Tokyo, we didn't manage to get over to a Vegetarian Japanese restaurant we wanted to try. I did discover a Mediterranean restaurant under the Civic Center which had a terrific falafel and hummus. Ate twice there. Pizza from two different places. Some pasta from room service that did not agree with me and Subway for in-betweens.
When the wife was at show number two, I lingered in the Hotel Lobby Bar. Pastor Melissa Scott, banished from her Evangelical Roadshow at the United Artists Theatre, now the Ace Hotel, rather than returning to an alleged previous career in adult films, was now tending bar, or so it seemed. A Vodka Collins with a salad and fries from the adjacent restaurant made for pleasant people watching in the lobby.
With Absolut and spuds working their alchemy on my system, the lobby lighting like out of a Peter Greenaway film, I contemplated the week's adventures. From the rock formations of Simi Valley and Chatsworth seen from the train, backdrop to hundreds of westerns ("Have Gun, Will Travel") and serials ("Blackhawk"), the Incredible Shrinking Man Rubik's Cube scene with Hello Kitty museum backdrop, to the sensei moments of Little Tokyo.
And all framed in a Downtown Los Angeles growing and changing from the playground of my youth. An area I would bus into weekly for my JEEPERS' CREEPERS horror TV days. A place to visit the three grindhouse movie theatres to catch Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee flicks. Or the Pussycat Theatre for late night kink. The 24 hour magazine store for British and European film magazines. A psychedelic draft physical. A leggy random encounter. Or the days when a broadcaster had to pass a rigorous FCC exam in the Federal Building if they wanted to infiltrate the airwaves with subversive Foreign Electronic Muzik. "Just the facts, ma'am."
"Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty. How can you lose?"