By our third day in San Francisco, we'd kept ourselves inside the festival in Golden Gate Park for nearly all of our time, and it was time to get out on the town. This town was, after all, the matriculating grounds for some of my musical heroes - most notably the Grateful Dead. Way back in the 1960s, the band lived at 710 Ashbury St., as well as a few other assorted friends and individuals. Nowadays it's just a house, with a silver sedan in the driveway and nothing distinguishing it from the rest of the neighborhood. Call me a tourist, but I think the place should be a museum.
Joey and I walked down Ashbury and strolled down Haight Street to soak up some of the vibe. Just about every third or fourth store was a head shop, brimming with artfully crafted glass bongs (oops, I mean water pipes) and other assorted paraphernalia. It was certainly an interesting theme for an area that sees so many visitors.
We came to a good place to stop for a bite to eat (and a beer) at the Magnolia Pub and Brewery
, where the only open spots were at the bar and the staff was really hustling. For some reason everyone besides Joey and me was ordering Mimosas (champagne and orange juice), but we were happy as usual with a couple of IPAs.
A short drive away, a trip to Fisherman's Wharf came next, where we had foggy views of the city and Alcatraz Island. This spot was the setting for one of the most beautiful Grateful Dead songs ever written, called Wharf Rat, about a poor blind man named August West who wasted his life drinking and rotting in prison, but who affirms that brighter days await him in the future. If you have 15 minutes to spare, check out this concert from Boston in 1977
, and scroll the player on the right down to Wharf Rat. You'll understand why this place made me feel the way I did.
And before trekking back off to the festival, Joey is always a sucker for seafood - as am I after tasting such delicious morsels as I have throughout the summer. We sat down at a place called Fishermen's Grotto
, where we drank Anchor Steam beer and ate halibut and Dungeness crab. This wasn't an inexpensive meal, but nothing in San Francisco was cheap. Our hotel room cost us about twice as much as anywhere else in the country. Regardless, our bellies were full and it was time to get back to the music.
Upon our arrival in Golden Gate Park, I noticed the security guards having a more difficult time with keeping the grounds secure than they'd had the first two days. There were numerous groups of people in a few different spots, all of whom were moving around the trees in intent fashion, slowly edging toward the fence only to be chased off by the guards or the cops.
I moved us closer to the fence to get some shots of the miscreants, a few of which were successful in getting in - to which I payed far more attention than I did to the band on stage.
We were quick to revisit the wine tent, as we were gearing up to spend the next two days frolicking around wine country and wanted to get into the spirit. Afterward we walked to the stage where M.I.A. was playing, which was probably the least entertaining moment of the entire three day stint. Thumbs down.
The last day of this festival was unusual, first and foremost for the fact that the headlining band was absent. The Beastie Boys were supposed to be the final act, but one of the three guys in the band was diagnosed with cancer in July and the band had to cancel. Instead, the last act would be Tenacious D, an awesome band led by Jack Black with some of the more hilarious songs I've ever heard. But while Tenacious D took the stage, nobody else was playing on any of the other five stages, which meant that the field in front of the stage was too crowded to get anywhere close.
Still, they put on an awesome show that stayed pretty true to their albums, even if I could only see it on the giant TV screens next to the stage. They played classics like "Wonderboy" and "Tribute," and added theatrics to the performance when Jack's bandmate Kyle "quit" the band onstage and Jack sang a song about it.
Joey had driven us to the show tonight, so the trip home was quick and thankfully uneventful. With a night's rest, we'd be ready for a trip to the Sonoma Valley tomorrow. Look for that post very soon.