In honor of Dan’s birthday, when tickets went on sale for the Railroad Revival Tour (featuring Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Mumford & Sons) back in March, we bought two. Timing-wise, this worked out well because we knew we’d end up in the Bay Area that weekend for The Wedding. We were introduced to OCMS through a friend who runs a radio show in Murfreesboro, TN, and I first became aware of Edward Sharpe when I saw this viral video. And Mumford & Sons is one of those bands that we heard someplace and couldn’t ignore, so we got their album and listened to it a whole bunch of times. So to have all of these bands playing together in the same concert, an outdoor show, right before Dan’s birthday, was an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up.
It took more than a month for our tickets to arrive in the mail…and when they did, we were blown away. I’d never seen anything like them. Covered in holograms, larger than any other tickets ever, beautifully designed: I knew we’d be in for a treat once it was time to actually go to the show.
A few days before the concert, I got an email listing more information about the concert. We given directions to the venue, an outdoor park at the Oakland docks (where all the shipyard cranes are), and were told that there’d be free shuttles from West Oakland BART so we could park there and not have to deal with parking around the venue. We were also given a long list of things we could bring, and a much longer list of things we couldn’t bring. Including outside food & drink, aka water. This was the only restriction that really bothered me, and I figured I could get away with a couple of energy bars and bringing in an empty water bottle I could refill at a drinking fountain, which I learned there were inside the park.
On the day of the show, we drove south, leaving later than we’d hoped, but still made it to West Oakland BART in reasonable time to catch a shuttle. Plus, we got free parking! The shuttle dropped us off at the entrance to the venue, which was great, until we saw the line of people waiting to get in. It stretched nearly a mile (I know, because I checked my pedometer when we got to the end of it). It was the longest I’ve ever had to wait to get into any sort of event, and while the line moved, the first band started at least 15 minutes before we even made it inside. Something tells me that because the venue had only recently started hosting concerts, because the entrance (and later, exit) shenanigans were a complete clusterfuck. Luckily, once we got to the front of the line, I got no grief over my water bottle, and nobody found the energy bars. Which was good, because we didn’t want to have to pay for water or overpriced concert food.
But once we were really inside, the energy was great. I had to pee, of course, having just driven an hour and 45 minutes, sat on a bus for 10, and waited in line for 45ish, but as soon as that was taken care of we wandered around a bit exploring, and then we found a spot to stand to watch Old Crow Medicine Show do the last 20 minutes of their set. Even though we weren’t anywhere near the stage, they sounded great and it looked like they were having a lot of fun. I remarked to Dan that it was obvious the 20 and 30-something hipsters had a uniform; we were all wearing jeans and t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts. I saw a few hippie skirts and a few more interesting outfits, but for the most part we all looked exactly the same. Even the kids who were there looked just like us.
When they finished up, and people around us wandered off to get beer or food or whatever, Dan and I found a different spot that was closer to the stage and not in direct line of the speakers. It was next to the fence, right on the bay, which turned out to be a great spot to take pictures of the San Francisco skyline and the sunset.
We spent most of Edward Sharpe’s set (they, too were great, with amazing energy) here, while I silently fumed that people were using the space right next to us as a walkway, and they NEVER STOPPED MOVING. I hate being in that spot. So for the end of the set, we moved into the crowd, finding a spot that seemed more out of the path of Moving People. They played my favorite song at the very end, which happened right as the sun was going down. Beautiful.
Then came the Long Wait. It seriously seemed like the down time between ES&TMZ and Mumford & Sons was half an hour or more. Considering the venue had a 10 PM noise curfew, this kind of annoyed me. But I felt better once they finally came on the stage, and the entire crowd of 7,000 people danced, sang along, and gave thumbs up to the whole set. The best part was at the end, when they brought out the musicians from all of the bands plus some other people who weren’t members of any of the groups, and they all played a couple of songs together. It rocked.
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Dan’s actual birthday was Thursday (the 28th). He slept in that morning, while I tried to think of something fun and interesting we could do. I knew we had to do our weekly grocery shopping in Santa Rosa, but I figured we could find something else to make the day more celebratory. When Dan got up, I proposed a couple of options and he decided we should go to the beach. After fortifying ourselves with picnic supplies, we headed west. The ocean is no more than 25 miles away from us, as the crow flies, but it’s across several sets of coastal hills and there aren’t many easy ways to get there. We opted for the most direct route, Skaggs Springs Road, which was absolutely beautiful but also kind of vomit-inducing because of its twists and turns. I think I was only ever on that road once before, and I must have blocked out the memory. But again, absolutely beautiful, and totally worth the slight carsickness to see what must be some of the last undeveloped open space in Sonoma County.
Once at the coast, we headed south and stopped at Goat Rock beach, where my cousin had a birthday party when we were kids and my sister nearly got washed out to sea. Our intention was to eat our picnic on the beach itself; however, when we got there, the Northern California coast struck again, and it was so windy we were getting free sandblast facials. Which don’t feel very good, even if my toes did enjoy their freedom in the sand. We relocated to the other side of the bluffs, next to the parking lot, and pulled out our picnic. I was disappointed that the MexiCoke I’d bought was warm (I was hoping drinking something fizzy would settle my stomach a bit), and Dan had a root beer, which isn’t as bad when warm. We had just started to eat our wraps when a lady from the parking lot approached and asked if we had jumper cables. Dan, ever gallant, went to our car and drove over to theirs and detangled the cables and gave them a jump, while I ate my wrap and watched the goings-on.
Meanwhile, an aggressive seagull took advantage of my few seconds’ inattention and picked up Dan’s wrap and dropped it in the sand. I shooed it away, but at least half of Dan’s lunch was no longer edible. I’m sure the seagull had that MO down pat – the humans will leave all the food for you if you drop it in the sand. We refused to give in to terrorism, and Dan did his best with what he had, while I gave him some of my wrap, and we huddled in the wind, the asshole seagull just waiting for us to throw food at him. I hate it when people feed wildlife, because it’s not only bad for the wildlife, but makes enjoying the outdoors suck more for the rest of us. It’s not the first time we’ve encountered an animal used to being fed by people, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Once we’d run out of food to eat and warm root beer to drink, we got back in the car and drove east through Jenner, Duncans Mills, Monte Rio, Guerneville, Forestville. The river towns always look so funky to me, people living in houses on hillsides surrounded by huge redwoods. While beautiful, this part of the county seems entirely too dark to me. I don’t think I’d like being surrounded by massive trees all the time. We did our shopping, and thanks to Carissa’s help I found a good recipe for General Tso’s chicken, which I modified to fit the ingredients I had. Aside from crispy rice and slightly overdone broccoli, dinner turned out pretty well. I think Dan had a good birthday.