Every city has its quintessential music venue. NYC has (or had) CBGB’s. San Francisco has the Fillmore West. Denver has Red Rocks. Los Angeles has the Whisky A Go-Go. And for my money, San Diego has the Casbah.
I have seen lots of live music in San Diego, all over town. I’ve passed by the Casbah countless times, as it sits counterpoint to the airport, Mission Hills, and Little Italy. Some of my favorite local acts have played there. Even my friends’ bands have performed at the venue (such as DeVotchKa and Secret Apollo). But for some reason or another, I had never made it to the Casbah.
Until yesterday. I finally got my Casbah cherry busted.
My impetus for going was simple. The venue hosted a four hour benefit concert to support the Sidney J Kimmel Cancer Center, where ten local bands would each play fifteen-minute sets covering songs by The Cure. In addition, a friend was co-opted to play bass in one of the bands.
I entered the mystical Casbah and my first realization was that it was much smaller than I had anticipated. I relayed this thought to a nearby friend and he said that this was a common reaction among first timers. Its history is filled with the humble beginnings of now big bands. Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins have played this venue, and while it was when they were starting, just the idea that this place hosted them painted some semblance of size inside my head. When I entered and saw how small it was, I then realized how amazing it must have been to see these bands play here. It’s an intimate space. My second reaction was that it was incredibly dark – the lights were dim and all interiors painted black. And my third thought was simply – this is a very kick-ass place. I can’t believe that it took me this long to visit it.
The bands that played were eclectic, talented, and thoroughly entertaining. It was a great evening.
My favorite non-music incident... half-way through the evening, the host took the stage and yelled out on the microphone, “And to all the people who think they’re so cool smoking out on the patio. This is a fucking cancer benefit.”