We left on Thursday morning at 8am to get to San Luis Obispo. This was OK, because leaving from home means that I can drink my at-home, stove-top espresso percolator (AKA Mucca pot, AKA Bialetti 6 cup, AKA ‘Chester’) with the fresh-ground Hardcore Coffee (in Sebastopol right off 116 – best espresso in the county!) espresso beans. Add half and half.
The drive was eternal and consisted of a (… start sad, shameful music here) Starbucks stop somewhere outside of Gilroy. I’m a huge opponent of the chain – both it’s business practice of setting up shop right next to the local folk, and their bad espresso. But they have saved our entire band from bloodshed and mayhem countless times with their omnipresence and accessible caffeine even on the most remote roads of tour-dom. (…and… end music.)
SLO is a great place to play – especially when you are at the Fremont Theater. Yes, the theater is beautiful and the crowd was amazing and fantastic. But – very importantly – the theater is across the street from BlackHorse Espresso & Bakery. Tasty, and local. It was necessary to wash the taste of evil out of my mouth. It was good… but it was hedging a bit towards the light side of roasting… and you all know how I feel about that, dear reader. Let’s not belabor the point.
From SLO we headed down the coast for a show (the first of two) opening up for our buddies in ALO. Their LA show was at the Troubadour and I love that place. Also, those ALO guys are consummate gentlemen, and kick-ass musicians. It was a joy to be on tour with them. But, I digress. Conveniently, just around the corner from The Troubadour, is a wonderful little bar/cafe/bakery called La Conversation. The service was delightful and it was – by a wide margin – the most delicious, dark, roasty, perfect espresso of the trip. We’re headed back to The Troubadour in June (sources say), and I’m already looking forward to the coffee.
The show was also heaps of fun.
That night we drove to San Clemente to begin a 2 night stay at La Casa di Zolg. Our friends, Denise and Mike, are generous and amazing to the point of unbelievability. 8 people total in our band and crew, and we were in the lap of delicious luxury for two days. Leaving San Clemente is the worst decision that this band makes consistently, year after year. You’d think we’d learn.
2 espressos (or, to be italian and correct, espressi) were had in San Clemente. The first at my old stomping ground, Zebra House Coffee. It’s a damn fine espresso they serve there. The big to-do around town, however, was this North Coast espresso house that opened up right on the beach: Bear Coast Coffee. The new shop just won the annual “best-of” competition. I tried it. It was good, but depressing. The North Bay is now exporting this mistaken approach to coffee roasting… and people are buying into it! Noooooo! We need an international espresso intervention team to come in from Australia and get us back on track. I think that the ultra-hipster decor (bare wood, chrome, exposed beams and pipes, minimal everything) creates this Emperor’s New Clothes mentality in people. It’s not better espresso, but the decor hip-timidates people into thinking they must just not have ‘good taste’. I believe the same insidious mentality is at work in music as well… but that’s for a different report. To conclude – the new coffee shop was like seeing Acre Coffee (the hip new Petaluma chain, where I live) or Four Barrel (from the Mission in SF) in San Clemente. It was good – but not better.
We played The Belly Up in Solano Beach on Saturday night, again opening up for ALO. What a great venue… and another lovely local espresso shack across the street: Lofty Coffee. Had some great musical conversations with the excellent staff there… too much water in my “Gio,” but I blame myself for distracting the staff with my excited chit-chat about bands, shows, and Australia. (My actual mission in life is to have a coffee drink named after me: 2 shots of espresso with just about an inch of hot water – a very, very short – or, as I like to say, baby – americano, which will be called, throughout the world, a “Gio”. Pass it on. Help me achieve my dreams.*) Anyway, Michael (barista and keyboard player) – hope the new band works out, and you should send me a demo. Soul-Music meets Queens of the Stone Age was how he described it. No wonder I wasn’t paying attention. He was speaking to my hopes and dreams.
We drove home Sunday… all day. My first coffee of the day was ~gasp~ drip coffee. No morning espresso. Such is the magic of the Zolgs and their hospitality. Their drip coffee was exquisite and wonderful.
The whole band re-upped on caffeine somewhere in Valencia, at a Whole Foods. This is utilitarian – like a Starbucks stop. I may as well start telling you about pee stops.
We’re home now, I’m back with my Hardcore beans and Chester. I’m happy. The kids and Jenny are great, we’re getting ready to head to Chico and Sacramento. “Where to get espresso there?” and “will it be dark and roasty and delicious?” are the pre-tour questions I ask.
If you have any hot tips – let me know.
*The espresso drink, The Gio, is a drink that belongs to Molly – the owner of Hardcore Coffee in Sebastopol. It’s her drink, and at Hardcore, it is named after her. She introduced me to it, and I love her for it. I am actively trying to claim naming rights nationally, which is a bit dastardly. But it does protect you from ordering a Molly at an espresso shop, and having the EDM-experienced barista give you a hard, hard look and ask you in a low voice, “what did you say?”**
**This has happened.