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October 13, 2008
To get where I was going, it took traveling along four different freeways. It is possible to drive from San Francisco, California, to Teaneck, New Jersey, without making any freeway changes, and yet to basically get across town I had to write down a short paragraph of directions. It all paid off in the form of a stroll down the world-famous Walk Of Fame that is the litter- and feces-strewn sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard. Keeping my eyes peeled for the stars of Diddy or Sylvester Stallone, the closest I found myself to a recognizable name was a brush with the slab honoring Pat Sajak of, you know, "Wheel of Fortune" fame. There's definitely some kitsch value there, but as I tend to think of Sajak's show as the retarded bastard child of "Jeopardy!," my enthusiasm was short-lived.

I was told that Sea Wolf would start their set at ten o'clock sharp, which meant I was looking for a parking spot at quarter after. Following a quick jaunt back to the car to drop off some contraband that the earnest venue staff prohibited, I ended up seeing the band's final three songs from a position nearer the street than the stage, as the venue was literally packed. Even at that distance, Sea Wolf's folkie, country-ish rock and roll sounded pretty good and I was a little disappointed that I didn't catch more of their set. Which is funny, because I had no one other than myself to blame for being late. Kudos to the band for bringing out so many hometown fans to the Henry Fonda Theater, an establishment that charges seven dollars for a plastic cup of beer.

During the intermission, I found myself on a rooftop bar, enjoying the pleasant evening weather. It was warm and balmy, and the city lay unblemished without the brown smog that so ominously hangs over it during the day. But in Los Angeles, for some reason unbeknownst to me, an outdoor drinking area is not complete without some sort of cabana/gazebo set-up. Chairs and tables usually do the trick, but apparently such minimalism doesn't foster the sense of exclusivity that LA seems to thrive on. While I still like to make the occasional couch cushion fort at home, I don't need to create the illusion of superiority in public by pretending to lord over my kingdom from a hyper-modern design miracle that doubles as an uncomfortable-as-fuck couch, draped in the impenetrable shield of a glorified tarp.

Rolling our eyes, my friend and I enjoyed the last of our by then warm beers and left the rooftop Shangri-La in anticipation of the evening's headliners. Okkervil River is a band I have wanted to see live for a really long time. I always figured they would be deliver an impressive performance, in which the band's already amazing songs would become even more captivating. The closest I'd come to seeing them was a year prior when, standing outside an overcrowded record store down the street from my house in Brooklyn, I had managed to hear singer Will Sheff's voice reverberating from inside.

Thanks to the surprisingly thinned out crowd I was able to grab a spot relatively close to the stage, and the curtain soon rose to reveal the entire band dressed dapperly in suits. They played some recent stuff, as well as a few songs from their critically heralded 2005 album Black Sheep Boy, before I found myself distracted. I'm not sure what it was, exactly - the band was firing on all cylinders, showing off their panache and a bit of a flair for the dramatic - but at some point I lost track of them. Sheff is a commanding presence on stage and the rest of the band was about as solid as it gets. And yet, for some reason, my restlessness only increased as their set wore on. After looking over and realizing that my friend felt the same way, we decided to leave.

I still haven't been able to pin down the source of my disinterest. Maybe it is the fact that a few Okkervil River songs have such a deep personal meaning that their impact is lessoned when played in a room full of noisy, obtrusive people. Perhaps, through their albums, I've wrung as much emotion out of the band as possible and as such it could only be a letdown to peer behind the wizard's curtain when it is pulled back. On the other hand I may not have a clue as to what the fuck I'm talking about and am now the world's biggest sap after writing the two previous sentences.

Afterwards, on the way back to my friend's house, we conveniently passed Jumbo's Clown Room, an establishment that, before I had been there, had been describe to me as a kind of circus, only with strippers. Truth be told, Jumbo's is not even remotely close to the ridiculous awesomeness of a circus with strippers; I would liken it more to a filthy strip club, except without naked women. Which means that, while circulating amongst a cross section of Los Angeles dirtbags, you watch girls do strip routines (pole gymnastics included) without ever taking off their bikini, and pay five bucks for a bottle of Budweiser. For some reason, an evening at Jumbo's always ends up being way more fun than it sounds. For one thing, the soundtrack isn't the standard Motely Crue/Kid Rock greatest hits that you hear at most gentlemen's clubs (stop me if I'm starting to sound like a perv). No one bats an eye when a girl saunters onstage swinging a chain over her head to the erotic sounds of Slayer. At one point in time it seemed, momentarily at least, that would to have to break my mother's heart and propose to one of the dancers after she did routines to both "Straight To Hell" by the Clash and "1234" by Feist. For another thing, most of the girls are covered in tattoos. Bad ones. Lastly, a general lack of anyone giving a shit often leads to a breaking of the fourth wall when a girl incorporates her audience into the show by doing things like taking off a hat, filling it with beer, and then trying to pour the contents into the mouth of a customer from about four feet way.

Upon leaving Jumbo's, the night ended appropriately when a car door that had been carelessly flung open by a driver who hadn't bothered to check his rearview mirror first was ripped from the vehicle by a passing city bus. After checking to be sure the vacuous motorist wasn't hurt, we were treated to a comical exchange as they argued with a bus driver who was clearly unconcerned. Ahh, city life.

SEE ALSO: www.seawolfmusic.com
SEE ALSO: www.okkervilriver.com
SEE ALSO: www.jumbos.com

--
Kevin Alfoldy
An aspiring global adventurer who cut his teeth on the sandy beaches and dirty bitches of Southern California, Kevin Alfoldy now spends his non-vacation days in Brooklyn, New York, where he occasionally finds the time to rub the crust out of his eyes long enough to contribute reviews and feature articles for LAS. A longtime staff member, Kevin also captains the tattered, often half-sunk raft of EPmd, our irregular column of EP reviews.

See other articles by Kevin Alfoldy.

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