1 June 2008

R.E.M. and the wild squirrels of Berkeley

Posted by Dirk under: music; Uncategorized .

So yesterday was the R.E.M. concert that was Doro‘s birthday present. My car had been making a funny noise so we decided to rent a car for the trip. It only cost about 20 bucks to rent a little Chevy Cobalt from Budget and I think we might have saved money in the end if you factor in the amount of gas the rental used compared to the amount my car would have sucked down.

We got the car parked in Berkeley near the Greek Theater by about 2 and the concert didn’t start till 6 so we had some time to wander around.

Doro wanted to go down Telegraph Avenue and check it out so we walked over that away. As we walked across the campus Doro communicated her desire to find a restroom by doing the funky peepee dance while repeating over and over “I need to go now!”. All the buildings seemed to be locked up so we flagged down a passing university cop type guy and he told us everything was locked up on the weekend and we were out of luck.

I then put my ear to the cement and listened for echoes of flushing toilets being transmitted through the earth’s core, a skill which has been handed down the male side of my family for untold generations. I heard a gurgling murmur and, telling Doro to follow, I headed that way. Soon enough we came around a corner and found a bunch of tables set out in a courtyard, some sort of meeting going on. A result of which, the closest building was unlocked, the doors propped open and inside was visible the familiar blue restroom signs. Once again I had saved the day.

Telegraph Ave was nifty enough. A specialized retail ecosystem that is only able to survive due to it’s proximity to a large liberal college campus. Lots of street vendors selling hippy jewelry, bumper stickers, incense and stuff like that. Several large nifty record stores and book stores. We hit up Moe’s Books and I picked up a couple of books and Doro got several too. We wandered the record stores but I just wasn’t in the mood for music shopping and couldn’t really think of anything to look for. We went into misc stores looking at various thingiemebobs for sale but didn’t really buy much.

Lunch was at a Mexican place that had been in business since 1957 or so. It was pretty good, though the tables were sardined in for maximum patronage count, which was kinda annoying.

We had pretty much covered Telegraph Ave and had time left so I mentioned that there was supposed to be a pretty cool comic store in Berkeley that I would like to check out if it was close. I didn’t remember the name of it but we asked a dude at Moe’s and he said there was a comic shop over on University Ave above Shattuck, which was within walking distance. We set off towards it. It seemed further walking than it looked on the map ๐Ÿ™‚

We finally got to University Ave and walked down to Shattuck and only saw a little store selling board games and providing internet access and I figured that was what the dude had meant so we said to heck with it and headed back up to the car since the concert start time was rapidly approaching. Now that I’m home I googled for the comic shop. The one I was thinking of was Comic Relief. Had we walked just a bit further we would have found it. We walked to Shattuck but it turns out that for about two blocks Shattuck is split into two Shattucks and we only walked to that first one. ๐Ÿ™ Oh well, we’ll be down there again, I’m sure.

So we trudged up the hill through the campus. Halfway up we paused for a break on a circular bench that went around a big tree. As we were sitting there a squirrel came jogging along the bench towards us. It came right up to Doro and sniffed her then backed off. It walked in front of us and I made the secret squirrel call sound that has also been passed down in my family and the squirrel turned around and looked at me (obviously surprised that a human still knew this call) and then started coming back to me. Right about that time though a lady came riding by on a bike with her dog running alongside and the dog made a dash at the squirrel, who ran over to be closer to the tree. The dog was called off and I called forth in my mind the complex hieroglyphs and runes of the squirrel call and then contorted my lips and vocal cords to sound it again. The squirrel heard my summons and came back to me and acknowledged the ancient pact my family had with his race by sniffing my fingers before sauntering off again to chew on his nuts.

We got back to the parking structure to find that parking there was now $20 due to the concert. Luckily we got there early and had already paid 8 bucks to park till midnight. The early bird gets the cheap parking! We loaded up all the crap gear that Doro thought we needed to watch the concert and headed in.

The Greek Theater was built in 1903. It’s a big amphitheater and the bands playing sound pretty good. We saw the Pixies there a few years ago. The one thing about the Greek is the seats. If you are in the ‘good’ seats down in the flat section in front of the stage you get folding metal chairs. If you are in the stands with us plebs you are sitting on cold, hard, rough concrete (100 year old concrete, I assume). The seats are basically concrete steps. So you also don’t have a back rest because the people sitting on the step behind you have their feet behind your back. It sorta sucks. Luckily, Doro had borrowed these nifty stadium seat pad thingies from a friend of hers. They are sort of like lawn chairs without legs. You unfold em and set up down and voila, instant semi-comfy chair. The security lady we spoke to at the entrance told us the no-legs lawn chairs are allowed but regular lawn chairs were not.

Our seats were in a pretty good spot. We were in row 2 so we were at the bottom of the steps and had nobody directly in front of us. Also, we were in seats 1 and 2 so we were right at the end of the aisle. Easy in and out. We were close enough to the stage that we could actually recognize Michael Stipe and his compatriots, which was nice.

The tickets said the show started at 6 but it was past 6:30 before they started. The opening bands were The National and Modest Mouse. The National were pretty good. Did about 30-40 minutes of songs. Then a long break while Modest Mouse set up. They were also decent. Slightly longer set from them, I think. I must be getting old though because next concert I’m taking along some ear plugs. Then it was nearly 40 minutes while R.E.M.’s stage got set up. R.E.M. came on stage at 9:05 and they were done at 11. R.E.M. played a good show. Like any great band that has been around for a long time they wanted to play their new stuff but the audience wanted to hear all their old favorites. They did a decent job of mixing it up. I really like What’s the Frequency Kenneth (but Doro doesn’t) and they played that. I’m not saying that’s my favorite R.E.M. tune, but I think it’s a good concert song. You can see the entire set list here. I also liked the show closer, Man on the Moon. It was fun.

After the 3rd song in the encore I started folding up our seats. As a result I spent the last two songs sitting on the concrete. Eww. I dunno how all the other people there could handle sitting on that stuff for hours. I was ready to go after two songs.

Also, it got pretty cold. (the Greek Theater is an outdoor venue, in case that wasn’t obvious) It got down into the low fifties and there was a bit of a breeze at times. I had worn shorts cause it was nice in Chico when we left in the morning. Luckily Doro also had a blanket in her pile of crap gear. The temperature was really distracting.

We got home about 2:30 am. All in all a pretty fun day.

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