On Thursday a crowd gathered at the Blue Lamp for the appearance of the Hollowpoints, a Seattle-based punk rock band in the midsts of a grandiose summer tour. The local Sacramento band Final Summation followed with a performance worthy of their conclusive name. These bands crossed the stage for a stellar night of performance, serving the needs of Sacramento’s punk-loving community for several heart-racing hours.
That was what I had hoped for.
What really happened wasn’t quite so lively.
I had to buy a rum and Coke. Several websites gave me misleading information, stating the Hollowpoints were playing at eight o’clock, followed by Final Summation at nine. In the natural order of how capricious the Sacramento music scene is, only a few people showed up to watch the performances at that time, so the bands delayed. No people, no play.
At nine-thirty I dully stabbed at the ice in my now nearly drained and watered-down rum and Coke. Where was the loud music? Where was the audience?
I nearly got up to leave just before a thirty-something-year-old guy in a yellow T-shirt began playing guitar and singing. It was an interesting form; the lighter side of acoustic punk rock.
The performer introduced himself as Danny from the band The Secretions, and the voice of Sacramento State student-run radio station, KSSU. He improvised some lyrics, calling out the fact that the only other people in the room were members of the bands.
Noticing me, he said, “I want to give a big thanks to the support we are receiving from non-band members tonight.”
There were chuckles.
He was staring at me, and I was speechless.
In response to my taciturn expression, he asked me, “You’re not with the band, are you?”
Silence. I looked over my shoulder. There was a member of the band sitting next to me at the bar, and he shook his head for me.
Was I really the only non-band-member?
The bartender kept attempting to make eye contact, pressuring me into another drink.
I couldn’t relax. The attitudes of the others were demoralizing.
Between being called-out by Danny Secretion on the mic, and feeling hounded to purchase more drinks as the only paying patron, it wasn’t exactly the type of blood-pumping fun I was expecting.
For twenty cantankerous minutes I listened to the music, imagining more people and a full band loud enough to drown out the awkwardness.
Instead, there was light acoustic punk rock — solo.
Finally at ten o’clock, after mostly two hours in waiting, I rose from the barstool and walked out of the Blue Lamp.
In the air, there was a faint essence of overcooked brussels sprouts.
Sacramento’s underground shows can be very capricious. It’s hard to know what to expect when, even though the bands may be great, the entertainment-value of the show arbitrarily lacks motivation and an audience. It’s a real hit-or-miss.
Even more striking to me is the demeanor of people in a nearly empty and restless venue. In my case, their attitudes expressed such a bizarre and craven need to pester me. I felt assailed, but understood that everyone in the venue was just dealing with the same thing I was, but in a different way. We were all coping with a dead night.