Four gigs in four days!!

That was the equation BOCFanBob and Karen attempted to negotiate in April 2006 and, luckily for us, Karen kept a road diary of her trip.

Well, although she stripped out all the sex and drugs, she thankfully left the rock'n'roll. Here's the story of her memorable journey into the heart of lightness...

After a relatively uneventful and pleasantly scenic 7 hour journey down 101 we called by the Canyon Club before checking into our hotel so Bob could catch up with Jack, Woody and G-Man, Eric, who were setting up and sound-checking. It was great to see Che, who was also there, again. It was great to see Rob Miller, veteran of a thousand shows (well ok not quite a thousand but he must be getting up there) again too. We spent an hour or so there before heading off to our room at the hotel to rest, shower and change before dinner and then back to the Canyon Club for showtime.

The show was fantastic. The usual suspects, Harley and Steve (Harvest Moon) were there and so was the legendary Bolle as well as former road manager Bill Lotzco, great to see all of them and nice to meet onliner hvy2nz too. Woody whispered to Bob NOT to miss the start as he passed us on the way to the soundboard but who would have guessed? Joan Crawford to open? You're kidding me!! What a great opener. Allen's solos on Shark and LDOM were breathtaking and of course so were Buck's, these songs just get better and better. Some guy in a Reaper costume was hovering about all night. It was a pretty spectacular costume since it made him around 8 feet tall and he got his moment in the spotlight when he was invited onstage during Reaper. And then for them to finish up with Dizbusters (have to admit I'd been hoping they'd play it but wasn't optimistic since after a couple of outings early in the New Year it had been conspicuous by its absence in the setlists) just put the icing on the cake.

We were having a couple of drinks in the hotel bar afterwards (the barkeep obligingly stayed open for us although he 'd been about to close up) when Buck, Woody and Jules walked through and by dint of some bribery in the form of strong liquor we managed to persuade them to join us. Jules, who exudes such an engaging, boyish (still can't believe he's in his 30s he looks like he's about 15) enthusiasm about playing in general and with BOC in particular you can't help but warm to him, was telling me he loves Dizbusters. Eric had sort of hinted to me earlier that he had his doubts about how the non hardcore might receive it. Huh? Who cares what the non hardcore think? Only kidding Eric, of course I know you care. But anyway that song rocks and all the people I saw every time it was played must have been at least mildly hardcore because they were going crazy for it.

While we were there we saw Richie, looking uncharacteristically sombre, as he made his way back to his room at the hotel, he declined an invite to join us. We felt for him and I thought he did particularly well at the show to say he'd been using a backup bass. His own custom made instrument had been misplaced by the airline and several frantic phonecalls back and forth had failed to get it back to him in time for the show. They did say they had located it and promised faithfully to deliver it direct to the club but worryingly it had failed to materialise before the end of showtime.

Now this was a weird one. We weren't planning to go since it had been billed as a private party in a private club and tickets weren't on sale to the general public (we later found out they were but in very limited quantities and at $85 each!!) but after having our arms twisted and our ears bent by first Che, then others about going (I'm sure an implication by one crew member that Bob was becoming a lightweight had absolutely no influence on his decision to go) well we decided it would be ungracious not to. So we reckoned we could reorganise our overnight stay supply of fresh clothes to make them stretch another day and night and we'd worry about the 400 mile drive home and then on another 100 plus miles to the Modesto show and back when we had to. We set out the following morning - not too early and we called in at the IHop for coffee and breakfast before we went anywhere - to find Riverside. We'd seen Woody and Jack (and Richie, still looking very worried about his missing bass) before we left the hotel and they had provided us with directions to the venue.

Riverside is a small town lying about an hour's drive (well it would be an hour's drive if you didn't have to first spend around 2 hours sitting in the permanent traffic jam that is LA of course) south of Hollywood - I saw the sign, woohoo, look at me Mum I'm in Hollywood - nestling at the foot of the San Bernardino mountain range, spectacular scenery although the sky was very overcast all day. We eventually reached our destination to find it was a strange sort of place, weirdly depressed and depressing looking, tidy and neatly laid out with some gorgeous houses but many seemingly badly neglected and much in need of some sprucing up. Bob, who always gets his priorities right, decided we should find the club before seeking out some accommodation so we followed the directions given to us by Woody only to wind up on what looked suspiciously like an industrial estate full of machine shops and auto repair shops and that kind of thing. Hmm. Not much in the way of pubs or clubs to be found around there and we wondered if maybe we had taken a wrong turn somewhere. But sure enough we drove past the driveway to one of these anonymous looking industrial units and there was the SUV the crew had been travelling in parked outside.

Curious, we parked up and walked up the side of the building to a gate at the back and found ourselves in a spacious courtyard with a trailer at one end and a few garden tables and chairs set up at the other with a pair of long trestles to one side. There was a man busily unloading many huge bags of ice from the back of a flatbed truck so we followed him in through a side door to find ourselves in a long, narrow passage the walls and ceiling of which were covered in fake (I checked) bamboo canes and leaves giving it a sort of shady Tarzan-esque tree-house effect. This led out into a small but spacious looking room with a bar in one corner opposite a roomy looking stage. A huge - fake - tree formed the centrepiece of the room, appearing to grow from out of the floor just in front of the sound desk right up to the high ceiling. More fake bamboo, creepers and lianas 'grew' lushly and lavishly from the walls and ceiling and the furnishings were made to look as if hewn out of rock and were upholstered in animal print fabrics giving the whole thing the feel of a jungle clearing. All very plush, otherworldly and completely unexpected given that the outside made the place look like a factory unit (Bob said he felt like he was going to work).

Like that wasn't enough, while the crew were setting up and doing the sound check we were given a guided tour of the rest of the building. As you leave the main room you come into a series of office suites and studios, once again very luxuriously and smartly appointed and with the walls lined with hundreds of the most amazing-looking guitars. Not pictures of guitars but the real thing, every kind imaginable, beautiful collectors' items for the most part. Apparently the Voodoo Lounge is also the home of a company called Wild West Guitars. From the outside you'd never know it housed anything more interesting than industrial machines and tool boxes. Curiouser and curiouser.

Time was marching on and I was painfully aware that I was wearing the same clothes - apart from underwear that is - I had travelled in the day before (having resolved to keep my clean ones for that evening since some bozo had spilled beer down my suede skirt at the Canyon Club rendering it unfit to be worn for a second time). I felt uncomfortably grubby and wanted nothing more than to shower and change and we had yet to find a hotel. I dropped some heavy hints to Bob with this in mind and finally he got one of them and reluctantly dragged himself away from Che and Jack. Woody suggested we try the hotel the crew and band were staying in so we headed down there.

Showered, changed and fed we headed back to the Voodoo Lounge a little before 8pm. We'd been assured there was a support band on so we were in no particular hurry but when we got there we were greeted by not just the normal door security personnel but the local police too who were efficiently ID-ing and frisking the arriving guests. Our names were on the guest list as promised and despite the fact I had no ID on me, the police officer accepted, with somewhat depressing haste, my assurance that I was well over 21. I should explain that the event itself was sort of a private party thrown by the local Riverside business man who owns the club for himself, his wife and oh about 300 of their 'closest' friends, most of whom paid $85 a ticket!! The steep price was sort of justified in that it's a private venue with no drinking license so to get around the drinking laws they were not allowed to sell alcohol although they could 'give' it away, open bar woohoo!! There was also an impressive buffet laid out on trestles outside where people gathered in groups, smoking and drinking under the patio heaters which weren't really necessary since it was a lovely, mild Southern California evening with clear, starlit skies overhead and a soft - and very welcome after the stuffy heat inside - breeze.

I stood in the courtyard enjoying the cool, evening air and watching with interest the arrival of the guests. A very mixed crowd (there really is NOWHERE else to go in Riverside according to one local I got talking to and to be honest there was very little evidence of any other nightlife in town going to and from our hotel) ranging from a crowd of bikers in leathers who all arrived impressively en masse with a roar of engines early on, to people in formal evening wear. When I say formal I mean to the point of tuxedos and full length - and very low cut - spangled evening gowns. I felt either very underdressed in my jeans and t shirt or very overdressed (some of those ladies were displaying quite awe-inspiring amounts of bare flesh) depending on who I was standing near. Many of my male companions' eyes were on stalks as they took in some of the ladies present. I'm not inclined that way myself so the glorious mass of hair extensions and inflated mammaries on display were somewhat wasted on me but my man friends seemed to appreciate them as they deserved.

Bob and I watched the entire show from upstairs on the little balcony running around the room which was small enough and laid out well enough as far as seating went to ensure you could see the stage quite clearly from everywhere. We had a great view and the sound was fantastic from where we were standing. The local constabulary remained in attendance throughout the show, something else to do with the licensing laws I believe. The two cops posted in front of the stage seemed to consider it their sacred duty to protect the band from the obviously extremely dangerous crowd of ladies dancing down there on the little dance floor. I think they were worried the guys in the band might get distracted by a particularly voluminous cleavage or hit in the eye by a lacquered hair extension or two. Frankly I don't think any of the band members would have objected too much in fact Eric seemed to enjoy himself immensely, constantly inviting them to come in closer to the obvious disapproval and consternation of our two uniformed friends. They were valiant in their efforts to preserve a two foot exclusion zone directly in front of the stage no matter how many times the dancing lovelies tried to get in closer.

It was a great show and a surprisingly knowledgeable crowd who sang and danced along enthusiastically to all the songs although of course the Big 3 got the loudest receptions. Oh and a first for me at a BOC show, ballet!! A local prima ballerina did an impromptu barefoot solo performance of pirouettes and arabesques along to Astronomy while everyone else was headbanging. Ballet and BOC? Yes, quite bizarre but strangely compelling to watch especially when it became a pas de deux as a guy, who obviously thought he might be in with a chance, joined our wannabe Pavlova taking her hand to help her perform some complicated spins and stretches. The band didn't hold back either, they were obviously having a great time onstage. Richie, looking much more relaxed and cheerful than when we saw him earlier since his beloved bass had finally turned up, blasted out Hot Rails like he owned it in a storming finale. Wonderful stuff!!

Afterwards we stood around out in the courtyard chatting to the other partygoers. Yes, it felt oddly like we'd crashed a very exclusive party rather than a gig for the most part. I got talking to the owner of the Voodoo Lounge and his wife (when they could be torn away for a few seconds from posing for pics with the band members - especially an endlessly tolerant and patient Buck) and they told me they lose money on these gigs but don't want to open up what is their own private little party place to the general public. They throw these events with their favourite artists for their own indulgence and just for the chosen 300 or so they 'invite' and are willing to pay the steep price of entry. Expensive sort of hobby but nice if you can afford it I guess.

And so back to the hotel to sleep and prepare for our upcoming marathon day of travel.

I felt like shit after a broken sleep in Riverside, for some reason the hotel computer had our room logged as vacant so they'd rented it again to some late arriving traveller who was then unable to gain entry at 2.00am. Well of course she couldn't get in, we'd bolted the door when we came in AND put the do not disturb sign up. It took a while for us to convince the suspicious and officious receptionist woman she then went and summoned that we hadn't just walked in off the street, bypassed security and broken into the room as she seemed to think we had. But we had a 400 mile trek back to San Jose to face so we set out at 7.30am (taking with us coffee and a pastry from the hotel Starbucks). We'd have barely time to shower and change (and we needed to change believe me) when we got home before having to press on another 100+ miles to Modesto in time for the show.

We were both exhausted - and irritable - and saner persons would have considered letting the show go on without them but sanity is vastly overrated when there's a BOC show in the offing so we headed Modesto-wards after grabbing a corned beef sandwich at the house of friends before leaving town. I drowsed in the car as we drove to the club coming abruptly awake when Bob swore under his breath. Tired and not paying attention to the road signs he'd missed the exit for the club and was having to turn around. Oh well. We finally reached the club and by the merchandise table we found Bob's friend, Diana and her son's girlfriend, Nicole, waiting to greet us as well as Che, Miller and Big Bear, Barry with his wife Deb. Interestingly one of the new t shirts on sale was a retro of the 1979 UK Mirrors tour with an outline map of the UK with all the dates and venues pinpointed including my first ever show in Southampton. Sadly it didn't immediately bring to mind the forgotten setlist so I resisted the temptation to buy it, not like they had my size anyway, they never do.

We were both out of sorts and tired from travelling and the support act guy, who seemed to go on forever, didn't help having one of those whiny, dreary voices that made him sound like he was on the verge of cutting his wrists any second. But that didn't stop us coming fully awake for the main event. And of the 3 shows we had seen thus far it was easily the best. I like this venue, the room gets full but not so much you are crushed and trampled (unless you go down the front). You get a good view from everywhere and the sound is great. There are no supper tables in the way like at the Canyon Club and the crowd is loud, enthusiastic and knows its BOC.

They appeared to be mixing the setlists up - actually Eric said they were for those who were going to every show, "Where's Miller?" - and it was great to hear Redcap and Summer of Love and finish up with a little D & S. I don't know if anyone recorded the night's show but if they did I wanted a copy just for LDOM if nothing else. I don't how the band feels after playing along to those exhausting Allen and Buck solos but I always feel like I've run a marathon afterwards from holding my breath. Even the young 'uns have trouble keeping up with Buck who sees Allen's increasingly intense solos and then raises him. Jules was dripping sweat and grimacing with what looked like real pain by the end and Richie was panting and mopping his brow too.

They both recovered gamely for their solos in Godzilla though. A word or two about these solos - those of you who were just about to take a piss break, by all means, you are excused - the rest please bear with me I won't take too much of your time. These two new guys seem to think they have a lot to prove and they do their damnedest to prove it. If Richie's pyrotechnics on the bass don't stop you in your tracks as you head for the loo or the bar then Jules' drumming performance for the visuals alone is worth sticking around for not to say his playing isn't. Bloody out of this world the pair of them.

So, tired but happy we headed home straight after the show and looking forward to even better things in San Francisco - sorry to Che who I know was looking for us afterwards but we 'd really had it and still had that 100+ mile drive home to face. 600 miles in one day is pretty much pushing it even for a hardened road warrior like Bob (although we have on one occasion done 800 to get home after a BOC show ).

Slim's might be a shithole but that night it was actually bearable, full but not quite as packed as the previous year. We could move around quite easily and had no trouble finding a table up on the balcony. It really is the best place to be in Slim's for the view and the sound and so you are out of the heaving mass of bodies down on the floor. The band seems to thrive in that place, the crowd loves them and the guys just feed off all that positive energy. They saved the best till last...well, my last for a while anyway. It'd been a mini 4 day rollercoaster of a tour for me and I was worn out with travel and late nights but can only think that things could have gotten better and better given a longer run. They were on incredible form.

It was nice to be there and see Reverend Che achieve one of his lifelong ambitions and introduce his favourite band in his home town. If anyone deserves it after so many years of devotion he does and although he looked like a rabbit caught in headlights for a minute there when Jack Secret introduced him and his voice came out a little shaky and sort of strangled (I'd be an absolute babbling mess in that situation) he did a fine job and for the whole evening after he was walking around with a sort of 'pinch me I'm dreaming' perma-grin of wonder and disbelief on his face. You go Che!!

Some don't like it but for me Joan Crawford is PERFECT as an opener, maybe I'm biased. Unfortunately this outing Allen did have some problems with his keyboard to begin with (and then intermittently throughout the show). But I had noticed at the Canyon Club that JC really gets the crowd warmed up and even with the keyboard problems toninght I had this feeling that our luck was gonna be really good from the off. I was right this was pretty close to my dream show. I love Harvest Moon and Vigil - and this was a truly magical version of that one, just beautiful - and Summer of Love (which transports me back 30 years to the first time I ever heard BOC on AOF and that was the first song I heard). Eric was in great voice and on fine form, he had been this whole series of shows. I've made no secret of my love of the Bloom growl, it raises the hair on the back of my neck and I had several hair-raising moments this tour.

Allen, well whatever problems he might have been having with his keyboard, he certainly had none at all with his guitar. A series of blinding solos every show and last night he brought the table crowd on the balcony to their feet stamping and howling at the end of his LDOM solo. Follow that Buck. And of course Buck did. Now, they call it a solo but, as in the case of no other band I have seen, this is truly a team effort and every one of them works to the limit to help spur Buck through to those breathless, orgasmic climaxes. For Buck I've run out of superlatives, he's just beyond belief and he's never satisfied, he is constantly searching for new ways to enhance and raise every song another notch and he drives all the rest of them along with him, it's a privilege to witness this stuff.

Bob says this is probably close to his dream line up and I have to say I'm pretty much inclined to agree with him. The now not-so-newbies Jules and Richie just blend in so well. As Gary Cambra, keyboardist and guitarist from the Tubes, who was there and enjoying it with us, said, you can tell when it gels and both these guys are team players, really tight and doing their utmost to make everything work to the best advantage of the material and the other band members. Richie is all over that stage, tirelessly moving and jamming along with Eric and Buck and Allen and cheerleading and just looks so at home there. Jules still has unresolved hate issues with that drum-kit. I hope he never gets over whatever it is that bugs him because to watch him beat the crap out of those skins is mesmerizing. You just can't take your eyes off him. I've noticed these days a lot more people stick around to hear the bass and drum solos and who can blame them?

After such a great main event well who could ask for more than a 3 song encore? Well ok a 20 song encore but that's just picky. Of course Eric had to have his little joke when they came back out. "So what shall we do? Something different? Beautiful As a Foot?" And he starts picking out the intro and I bit - hard!!. OH GOD YES!! But oh God no, just Eric being a tease, bastid, play the bloody song already goddammit. But I have NO fault to find with Dizbusters and judging from the surprised murmur of approval around me when they struck up the intro neither did anyone else. The people standing around me at least really got into it and were headbanging like crazy. Black Blade is one of those songs that really sorts the men from the boys vocally and when Eric is on form he is the MAN. And last night he ferking nailed it. WOW. Eric just didn't seem to want to leave, none of them did and so when we got Hot Rails too it didn't come as much of a shock in fact they all looked so fresh by the end of it I felt sure we might get another half dozen songs. But of course all good things come to an end, 4 shows is never enough but I'm pretty sure there'll be plenty of next times for me.

Karen Baxter [ April 2006 ]