Monday, February 09, 2009

Casbah 20th Anniversary Month: A Reflection

Already a week into February and I still haven't taken the time to reflect on my month at the Casbah. Needless to say it was an exciting month. I worked as the official merch girl for the month, peddling posters, shirts, hoodies and stickers night after night. I was there for every night from January 2-31, except for the second Louis XIV show, when I took the night off to catch Uncle Joe's Big Ol Driver do a warm-up show at the Ken Club. And technically, I missed a half night when photographer Sean McMullen and I decided to catch Janu & The Whalesharks at the Beauty Bar before closing out the night at the Casbah for Goblin Cock. You can read my thoughts after the jump.

I've always loved the Casbah. From the first time I entered the bar (back when my ID said my name was "Martha Alicia", it's hard not to feel the spirit of all the musical legends that have graced the stage. My first Casbah show was Whiskeytown and I only wish I had been a better diarist in my life because I've had the pleasure of seeing so many inspired performances in the last dozen or so years of my life.

People have asked how I got the gig, and I don't really know. Over the past couple years I just kinda made the Casbah home, and during my brief stint at CityBeat, I took advantage of press access. That courtesy has been extended to me even as that position came to an end. On occasion, bands request a merch person, and Tim Pyles passed my number on to Tim Mays and I've had the great fortune of working for some incredible bands, including Cat Power, The Melvins, and Nick Cave, to name a few. There were even times where I was given the unusual task of babysitting for bands, including The Boredoms from Japan. When the anniversary was getting closer, I knew I wanted to be close to the action and when the decision was made to make anniversary merchandise, I was all over it.

The month had so many incredible shows it would be really pointless for me to recap all of them but suffice it to say, every night brought new faces, new sounds, and new friends. Certainly there were some standout shows. Some nights the bar was so packed I didn't get to catch the bands inside, some nights were less so, so I could run in for a song or two and take pictures. Below, some of my favorite shows and a random smattering of pictures from throughout the month:

Lucy's Furcoat, The Blackout Party, DJ Shuffledust- January 8. I have gushed about Lucy's Furcoat on this site to know why this show was a big one for me. It was really just a great night. For one, because Jake was playing with Blackout Party, it was my first night with a designated driver, which meant I could party loosely and rock out to the bands. I think it was one of the best Blackout sets I've seen to date and I was able to take some pics (which I posted here). I was also glad I got to see both bands on Thursday because the Friday performance was a night of mayhem. I don't really know what happened except there were a lot of people tossed out that night, someone choked Andrew, someone fell on broken glass and required an ambulance, cops were called, and Charlie had to stop the show more than once to tell everyone to chill out. Not cool, but like I said, I was glad to have gotten my fill on Thursday.

The Hatchet Brothers, C.L.A., Janu and the Whalesharks- January 11, 2009- This was a great night because (1) Janu & The Whalesharks are phenomenal, (2) C.L.A. shows, while always a little sad and reflective, always bring out a great crowd, and (3) I got to see Hatchet Brothers for the first time in several years, and they were joined by Steve Poltz who only added to the amazing performance. You can see video and pics here.

Anti Monday League presents Furious IV, Olive Lawn, Radio Wendy, The Old In Out- January 12, 2009- I still think after the whole month was said and done, this was the most fun I had at a show. Partially because it was a true Anti-Monday League show, so there were a lot more familiar faces. Then there's the fact that I got to take some pics of Ian of Furious IV and the lights were bright enough to make me feel like I might've actually taken okay photos, and then of course, I met Rob Schneider who just came up to me, put his arm around me, and asked me the most important question you can ask a native San Diegan: "Where can I get a good burrito around here?" Pictures here and here.

Meat Puppets, The Shaky Hands, I See Hawks in L.A.- January 13, 2009
I loved this show because it was much more country-soaked than I expected and because the manager of Meat Puppets was such a nice guy. Some managers can be really aggressive or pushy, but he was helpful, thoughtful, and let me do what I was starting to think I do best: sell. It's too bad their shipment hadn't arrived or we might've sold a whole lot more. At the end of the night, we settled and he also hooked me up with a shirt and a CD, which as I would learn, while common, isn't necessarily customary.

The Album Leaf, Ilya, Via Satellite- January 17, 2009
What can I say? I love working for Jimmy LaValle. He's got some of the coolest merch around and he's got this huge contingent of fans who always make the trek from Tijuana who make for a fun night. It was also my first time ever seeing Drew Andrews in Via Satellite (at least that I could remember), so hearing their sweet performances made for a lovely night, if not for a break from much louder nights.

Three Mile Pilot, Little White Teeth, Theresa Andersson- January 18, 2009-
I'm only going to mention this show because it was a first for me: first time puking at the Casbah. And I was dead sober. I don't know if I was struck by a quick flu, whether I was just exhausted, or if it was food poisoning from the meal I had earlier in the day, but when the bartenders told me to drink bitters and soda, they said it would either make me feel better or make it all come out. It did the latter and I felt like absolute hell, trying to enjoy the beautiful music of Theresa Andersson, Little White Teeth, and Three Mile Pilot, but hoping the night would end quickly. It did, I slept the entire next day, waking in time for night two of Three Mile Pilot, and there was not a trace of illness, thankfully. Still, I never thought my first time puking at the Casbah would have nothing to do with alcohol. Which is kinda funny, if you think about it. The next two nights of Three Mile Pilot were absolutely incredible and the setlists were different every night, and working for Pall is such a joy that if he ever needed someone to sell his goods on the road, I would go in a heartbeat. The only bummer for me is that their shows are backed by visuals, so I didn't even bother trying to take pictures. I think Sean has some, however, so you can always see his stuff at or check out Eric Rife's photos at

Creedle, Optiganally Yours, soul junk, The Nephews - January 25, 2009
I really hoped that I'd be able to see the No Knife show, but it was very oversold and it was a busy night on the patio, as it normally is on a Friday but more so because of the bands. But, it's what I signed up for, right? So a couple days later I was really jazzed about the daytime show. I knew it would be a much looser day, people casually arriving throughout the day. The bands absolutely killed and it's funny that seeing Rob Crow in a tutu made me realize how lucky we are to have so many talented and creative people here in San Diego, and that this music community is so tight that even when bands go across the country or the world for that matter, the Casbah is always home and a place to play new, experimental, and innovative music to friends new and old.

The rest of the month was just as fun as the beginning and I have to admit I was a little sad when it all came to an end because every night truly was a new musical adventure. 5 hoodies, 12 t-shirts, and 20 CDs later, I still have my mementos from the bands to remember the month. The best thing, though, is that just because the anniversary month is over, the new musical adventures are not, and I fully intend to get back to seeing new music at all the great venues around town. Oh, and if anyone ever needs a merch girl, you know who to call!

1 comment:

Natalie said...

Weird - the one and only time I puked at the Casbah was also non-alcohol related. Seems I can hold my liquor, but not a bad burrito...