My friend Kate asked what my favorite thing to do in Oakland was so far the other night as I walked her home from the bar using FaceTime. I'd already told her about the grapefruit juice and tequila palomas at Cafe Van Kleef and lake full of dead bodies in the center of downtown, but I couldn't pinpoint a specific thing that I could call my favorite. I realized that there are a lot of smaller things about California making me happier for moving here everyday.
Our practice room (number 317) in the Oakland Music Complex. This is a giant warehouse outfitted with hundreds of separate rehearsal rooms that are rented out to bands or groups of musicians. We share ours with our friends in Praying who continue to let us live on their floor, among others. The complex is keycard access only and each room has two locks on the door, with a locking bar ready for a third lock, if you want to supply it. I can play music as loud as I want at any time, any day of the week, as long as another band hasn't scheduled a practice on our shared Google calendar.
Most major cities have a situation like this available, where an entrepreneur with a creative bent guts an abandoned warehouse in the industrial part of the city and transforms it into something profitable and beneficial to the artist community. But this is our first time experiencing something like this and it changes things in big ways, especially after being forced to stop practicing at our Broad Ripple house and threatened with eviction. Having this practice space is what's driven us to launch into a new band so quickly, meet other musicians in this city and work harder than we have before. Our roommates in the complex are amp-stackers like us, so we have all the gear to experiment with and be inspired by at our disposal.
Indianapolis is often hailed as a city where cycling is unbelievably easy, and that's certainly true. Navigation is simple and bike paths, especially The Monon Trail and the downtown Cultural Trail make Indy a biking destination. In California, though, there is a huge difference in the way that motorists treat bike riders. We have bike lanes and the right of way. No one is behind you honking or yelling - instead they yield to your right of way and take care to not endanger your life on the road.
Because of the ease with which I can get around I've been biking more often than I ever did in Indianapolis, which is great because I love my bike. Our practice space is a five minute ride and my work is ten minutes away. Bars, groceries and record stores are all within reach now, and I don't have to worry about getting hit by a driver (at least not as much as I used to). I can also get to surrounding cities like Berkeley and Emeryville without taking my car or riding transit, like the BART or the bus.
Which is a whole other cool part of living in the Bay Area, that transit can take me anywhere. I can get into The City and back on the BART, or if I miss the last train I can take the AC Transit bus. Within SF there's the MUNI and in Oakland there's the simpler public transportation bus, making things even easier. It's something that I'll have to figure out for myself, but the system is more navigable than anything I've ever had available to me before.
As three vegan/vegetarian dudes who've traveled in the same van we've eaten our fair share of shit meals. Taco Bell, Taco Johns, Taco Cabana, Del Taco, Taco Bueno, Taco Time and many more have continually delivered on trash burritos across the U.S. At home we have our favorite veg food, like tacos or the weekly specials at The Broad Ripple Brewpub and any of the vegan features at The Sinking Ship. We're all bummed that we left before being able to try Three Carrots or Ezra's Enlightened Cafe, but we're definitely looking forward to those experiences when we visit back home.
Our area of Northern California is home to a large enough percentage of vegetarians that there are not only multiple vegan restaurants in every neighborhood, there are also vegan options almost anywhere you go. We've fallen in love with the cheaper burritos and the moderately priced vegan dishes at restaurants like Herbivore in Berkeley and Golden Lotus in downtown Oakland. This food delicious, reasonably priced, readily available, healthy and unlike anything I've ever had before.
The size of the Bay Area and the ability to commute so far for so little makes going to shows painless. Almost every night of the week there's a band playing somewhere near me. Bigger bands that would never have played in Indy can come through both San Francisco and Oakland back to back and still play a packed venue. The diversity of artists, venues and cultures makes the music scene here thrive and I'm fortunate enough have a very small part in it.
We played our first set as LOVE MOON on Tuesday at The Nerd Castle and it was fantastic. The living room was packed for us even though we were the first band and the songs went over well. So many of our friends came to see us, including our neighbors at the Oakland Music Complex and the band that we met at a bar the week before. I broke a bass string, had empty PBR cans thrown at me, drank whiskey and met a lot of exciting people. It was everything it could have been.