Friday, May 30, 2008

Punk Rock Drive-In

This past Sunday, I went up to Montclair, CA. to attend Punk Rock Drive-In, hosted by the Mission Tiki Drive-In. Being from San Diego, I know squat about where anything else is, because we don’t care. In geography tests in the southern California school system, there is Where You Are, and then there is everywhere else, called Doesn’t Matter.

That day, it mattered. The ad said that doors open at 4:45, and that bands kick off at 5:00. After a short dance with internet directions, I find out that it is a two-hour drive, but the webpage suggests to leave time for traffic. It is not like I have not driven to Los Angeles in the past. The difference being that this trip was, with the exception of a short stint on the 60 west, all on the 15 north. Unless you drive to Vegas, you really have no need for that much 15. As far as I was concerned, the 15 ended at some microbreweries in North County.

According to my math, the trip was two hours, the first band goes on at 5:00 PM, I needed to leave early to account for traffic; I’LL LEAVE AT 2:00! (Please, somebody stop me.) At the time, I suspected that it might have been a bit too early. I accepted the fact that it was my first time, and that there were choices I would make and actions I would commit on this trip that could have been better, but that I could only learn that through experience.

An aside, I was going alone and my LA map book was somewhere in my old car. I had wanted to go to Punk Rock Drive-In for about a year, but my old car needed to stay as close to home as possible, and nobody bit when I sent out inquiries. Now, bought a new car and I did not have to work the next day. I talked to one person, invited a couple I know that enjoys punk, but they never answered. Early in life, I figured out that for some things, if I ever wanted to experience them, I would have to go at it alone. I would just go, and after I knew what I was talking about, then they could figure out (at my expense) whether or not it was something that they would enjoy.

What Punk Rock Drive-In offers is two movies, but before that, two or three punk rock bands (they have a DJ for the in-between periods). What a genius use of a drive-in parking lot. There was a vendor selling her personally made jewelry, and a taco rig. There was a raffle sponsored by The Guitar Center Music Foundation, which is a charity that educates children in all aspects of music, from appreciation to application ( The best part, though, is that they had a burlesque act.

So, I arrive two hours and fifteen minutes later, and that is with two bathroom breaks on the way. It seems that we San Diegans, despite the distance, have a nice advantage of being able to avoid the 805, the 5, and all of the congested capillaries that branch off of them. It was a very smooth ride. Not one bit of traffic. The theatre is one road off of the 60 west. I think I was just outside of Riverside, to give the area a familiar name. I arrived in time for the ten or so cars to uh… drive in. I pull into line, and see that the guy up front is checking for orange wrist bands. Yep, they were the entertainment. I jumped the gun. Sir, please turn your car around for fifteen more minutes. Seeing that the site says that they let in at 4:45, I considered 4:30 a gift. More so since there was no place to line up, just a place for autos to huddle.

I had been to the drive-in as an adult, but it had been at least ten years since the last time. (What was that Robert De Niro/Billy Crystal comedy? The second one, yea.) As I follow the snakey road around, questions that I never had to think about start popping into my head. Now that I have a Santa Fe instead of a Geo Metro, do I have to park in back? Would it be better to park backward? I found a spot in the third row that let the screen take up half of my windshield so it was framed by an inch of glass. Chair reclined back, headrest in place, pillow to prop my head up within arms reach, cooler next to me. When I got out, I saw that my perfect spot required me to take up six inches of the space behind me, but leave six feet of parking space in front of me. Was some asshole going to show up five hours later, and demand that his car point nose-first toward the ground and that he needed those last six inches of space behind me? Because the hump in the blacktop that pointed you at the screen was in the center of the parking space, there was no way someone would use those last six inches. (No one has ever used my last six inches. There is just no point.)

The first band, devious public, started at 5:30, and I really enjoyed them. I almost never go to live shows. To me, there is little appeal to “watching” music. Clubs are always too warm. (I am bald. That is too much forehead to let sweat.) In addition, no matter where I stand, no matter how safe I feel, there is always some twit that wants to stand RIGHT NEXT to me, and then scoot after me, as I try to scoot away. Have you ever been a scoot chase? It sucks as much as it sounds. In hot purscoot? That’s not even a word. A scoot-by shooting? It does not exist, but necessity, as well as an asshole, is the motherfucker of invention. Today, outside the drive-in snack bar, in a parking lot with 20 cars, *exhale*…

There was room. (Someonestillcameandstoodrightnexttome. Scootscootscoot.)

At one point, I went back to my car to get exact change for the taco guy, and began writing this. I saw that there were all sorts of boundary offenders parked around me. There was one thing I could check off of the paranoia list. I went back, and bought the two-taco combo plate. The tacos (al carbon, carne asada, and chicken) were very well made, and they included a condiment bar. While I am at it, I want to mention the theatre itself. It was VERY clean. The bathroom smelled like bubble gum. More than bubble gum, it smelled like somebody had baked a dessert that was bubble gum flavored. Like bubble gum pudding. I think it had eight stalls, with doors. The snack bar was like a well-kept fast food restaurant, as opposed to what I am used to, a yellow, waxy old plastic and florescent lit cafeteria line. They had many tables inside and out for eating, and had a great Tiki motif. The food prices were much more reasonable than your walk-in theatre, and the collector cup came with two free refills.

I go back outside to catch the burlesque act. It was nice. There were four dancers, and they each did one dance. In the past, when I have watched burlesque, they had a theme, an act, a scene that they performed. I understand that they did not have a real stage, but I figure that they came all that way with their dressing trailer, we had time, why not? Still, it was a lot of fun, and they worked the crowd well. The first dancer did a feather fan dance, which I had always wanted to see live. I think my favorite thing about burlesque is the audience interaction, the way the performers play with audience reactions.

So, while we waited for the third band, ADHD, to go on, I heard someone in the band say “Don’t worry. We’re not in a rush.” I would say that, if you can, once it starts, to keep things going as well as you can. It was a little cool, and very windy. Some of the crowd might have been lost in the wait. On the other hand, because you are in your car close by, you know right when the next band starts. The second band was very entertaining. I am not very knowledgeable about punk rock, but I do know that it has great energy.

Another benefit to the drive-in parking lot is that you can stand as close or as far from the bands as you like. Unlike a club or bar, because you have limited space from which to work, with distance, you have your own volume control. You shape your own experience. Even if you went around the corner of the snack bar, the noise level reduced by half. There were families there with children as young as three.

A side note to douchebags: seeing that burlesque is a visual medium, and seeing that the picnic tables provided come with benches for sitting, GET OFF THE GOD DAMN TABLES. The ladies did not have a stage to work on; we were all on the same plane. I had to negotiate some “rebel” that could not be bothered to sit where sitting was supposed to occur. Oh, yea. This goes for the 6’6” douchebag that loved the band so much, that he had to stand in front, in the center, and film with his cell phone. Fucking YouTube nightmare! The fact that stork-man could have gotten the same exact shot on his ass as he did standing in my way. My last mention, not parked near me, but as I went to the bathroom, someone insisted on leaving their engine running during the entire movie. What? Were you short a hamster to run your FM radio? In whole, drive-in movie crowds are better, but wherever you go, some representative from typical society will not let you down.

After the third band finished, I tracked down the organizer. She told me that this is something she started as something to do in her off season for her clothing line. She breaks even, and the bands play for free, for the advertising. They understand that this is just starting up, and will take some time and investment to get off of the ground. She uses the drive in and bands to bring two different groups of people together that, on any given day, would not ever cross paths. She said that there are people that say they came for the movie, but found themselves enjoying the bands. Regarding vice versa, who does not like movies? Everybody, including myself, agrees that Punk Rock Drive-In is a lot of fun, and much better than we had anticipated. I told her that if she pushed the “15 freeway only” aspect of driving to San Diegans, that she might reach an untapped customer source. (San Diegans have the same nightmares about LA traffic that the rest of the country has about our traffic.)

I could review the movie, but it does not matter. The movie was “Indiana Jones, In Search of the Golden AARP.” I just like the idea that she can get brand new blockbusters for this event. Nobody is getting shortchanged here.

She even provides ear plugs for the children.

June 21st is the next showing. The movie is The Dark Knight. You see? She makes it easy to want to go.

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