Groups of bleary-eyed teens filter off the 30 Stockton in varying states of readiness. Exchanging groggy snippets of conversation, they shuffle through the open nightclub door. Inside the darkness is welcome as DJ Big Rick Stuart and local funny man Matt Weinhold exchange quips to fill the air as Ash leaves the stage. Many of the kids who, moments before, were engaged in an early morning constitutional of slamdancing sit down on the dance floor and fall back into their standard morning activities -- a little stretch, big yawns, some nose rubbing. The cocktail waitresses, in full Bimbo's regalia, wander among the sprawled bodies handing out ice water and orange juice with surprising grace.
"Hey, you can't expect 13-year-olds to tip," says one, as she picks her way among a crew of baggy ragamuffins who have seated themselves across the carpeted stairs between the bar and the main floor. "They are kind of adorable anyway," she continues. Two fresh-faced boys pull packs of Marlboros from their leather jackets and light up with expertise. A girl dressed in a bright red crinoline and combat boots sits sleeping at a table with her head resting on her crossed arms. An outburst of applause wakes her with a start.
"Is it Everclear?" she asks urgently. "Are they next?"
"No, it's just Spacehog," says a frail-looking, black-haired moppet with a faux-hawk. "Fucking British shit."
Spacehog hits the stage wearing sunglasses donned for the arduous journey between the tour bus and the inner sanctum of backstage. An adult fan -- complete with facial hair -- stands near one of the exits looking slightly out of place. "Hey, take a few years off and I'm 25," he says with an embarrassed smile. "No, really, I just dropped my girlfriend off at work. What the hell -- it's really interesting to see what all these guys look like after they've just rolled out of their tour buses."
Onstage Spacehog's lead singer, Royston Langdon, bravely faces the possibility of bed hair and pulls off his nerd-in-vogue fishing cap. "Good morning, San Francisco," he says with perky finesse, and breaks into "In the Meantime."
Bimbo's owner Michael Cerchiai, looking strangely well-rested, pops out front for a quick look around. "Oh, yeah, a lot of fun," he says smiling. "Poe had a mosh pit at 7:30 in the morning. That's kind of cool."
Goldfinger steps onstage amid a barrage of applause. "It's Goldfinger!" shouts Darren Aggro, a young man with a shaved head. He shakes his dozing girlfriend. "I'm going in," he says. Mr. Aggro is soon immersed in a pit of bodies swirling to the band's energetic ska-punk beat. "They rule!" he hoots, bopping through the intimate but feisty swarm.
John Feldmann, Goldfinger's frontman, strips off his shirt to expose a full back tattoo that glistens with well-earned sweat. "Hey," he confides to the audience, "I can't sing the words to this next song [KITS is airing the show live] so you're going to have to." The crowd launches into a chorus of "Fuck L.A.!" which includes appropriate finger gestures and some crowd surfing by band members.
After a quick autograph session with Goldfinger, which leaves several girls looking flushed and breathless, a very bedraggled Beck shuffles onstage. The crowd -- including most of the Bimbo's staff and all of the 21-and-over folk who have been lurking in the shadows -- greets him with intense appreciation.
"Wow, you're all much more awake than I am," says the singer as he strums at his guitar. "I just woke up 20 minutes ago." The enamored crowd applauds his tousled hair and skewed sweater. "This has got to be the weirdest gig I have ever done," he continues quietly, before singing,
Give your finger
To the folk singer
At 9 o'clock in the morning.
The swaying crowd happily fills in lyrics when Beck's memory lapses. "She'll make you feel like a castle" replaces "She'll make you feel like an asshole." A young girl tosses a stuffed animal onstage with a poem stuck to it, which she insists Beck read. " 'This is for the star children,' " he begins in a good-natured but mocking tone. "I'm making fun of myself," he says by way of pardon when the girl becomes distressed. "We're all crumbling here." His banter melts into another song and the line of connection between the crowd and the artist once again becomes tangible. "Chicks dig Beck," says Aggro, holding his girlfriend's hand as she watches mesmerized. Beck concludes his set and slips out the back door.
Even as Everclear takes to the stage, a clutch of fans lingers near the last place that Beck stood. Hoping for an autograph, their moist eyes search the vacant doorway. A boy standing in his stocking feet with one shoe hanging limply in his hand catches a nearby woman's attention. "Awww, he's looking for his folk singer," she comments with empathy, "but Beck's not coming back to sign that shoe. And I just don't think Everclear's going to cut it."
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By Silke Tudor