Thursday, May 23, 2013

Memories In Highland Park

Recently I worked as a production assistant on a film, and one day we were on location on York Blvd. in Highland Park, just two blocks away from where I spent some of the best nights of my life. I can’t believe it’s been nearly a decade since The Peak Show broke up. Time moves much too quickly.

The Peak Show was one of the greatest bands in the entire history of music, and they put on the best house concerts in a loft on York Blvd. (which we all affectionately called The Peak Show Compound). At certain points, these were weekly events. The Peak Show would play, and they’d have some amazing bands open for them (and sometimes play after them) – folks like Los Abandoned, Go Betty Go, Mother Tongue, Tre Hardson, Paul Chesne and Blood Sugar. And then after that, there was often a DJ. These parties went on late into the night.

These shows were not really advertised. There were no tickets or anything (just give five or so dollars at the door). But word got round, and at one point LA Weekly listed their party as the recommended pick of the week. That was insane. It was also the beginning of the end. Way too many people showed up. And some of them, well, weren’t the right kind of people. You know? Somehow during the course of that night, the toilet was broken. I don’t mean it overflowed, or the flusher stopped working. I mean someone broke the toilet. I’m not even sure how one would go about doing that. But someone did. That was basically the end of the Peak Show parties (not just because of the toilet, of course).

They did one more party after the band made the decision to break up. The band’s final performance (in October of 2004) was a party at the compound. And it was a truly incredible night of music. They did a few songs they’d never done before. (I was also lucky enough to attend the band’s final rehearsal, where they worked on a song called “Joyful Process,” which they ended up not playing at the show.) And they played two sets. The place was packed with friends. Everyone, of course, knew it was the last show, so the energy in the room was tremendous. It was one of those rare moments when you are actually aware of how special something is at the time.

I still have my set list from the show (written in a small notebook given to me by the band’s lead singer, Holland Greco), and I see that they started early – at 9:42 p.m. The original bass player, Chris Gongora, joined them for “Go Back,” which was fantastic. The power went out during that song. (I had forgotten about that.) I remember being thrilled to hear “Straight Lines,” one of my favorites. The second set started at 12:29 a.m., and was an epic run of excellent tunes, including “Moment In Love” (the only time it was ever played).

Though I remember this show being outstanding, that wasn’t anything unusual for this band. The Peak Show delivered the goods every single time they performed. And they always seemed happiest when they played at the compound. So they would play their fucking hearts out. Hell, I remember one time Gabe got so excited, he leapt over his drum kit and ran into the audience – straight into a pole. Soon he was back behind his kit, but blood was pouring down his face and getting into his eyes, and the show ended because the blood in his eyes kept him from being able to see. His sticks were stained red from that show. That’s the kind of energy I’m talking about. So any time I’m in this general area, I feel somewhat elated. That’s how powerful this band’s good vibes were, that a decade later I can just stand near where they played and be positively affected by it. Can you really ask any more of a band?

Occasionally I run into someone else who attended these parties, and what is interesting is that everyone still raves about those nights. They’re special to everyone who was there. My perspective on this is far from unique. For a while after they broke up, I kept hoping each new band I’d see would somehow recreate that same sense of fun, of family, of going for broke every single moment. Of course, it never really happened exactly like that again, though I’ve seen a lot of incredible bands since then.

The Peak Show was a unique band, and I never tire of revisiting these memories and the band’s music. And I will always have very warm feelings toward Highland Park because of that.

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