November 12, 2006

The Freight & Salvage*

Yesterday Matte and I trekked up to Berkeley to see Eddie From Ohio play two shows at the Freight & Salvage Coffehouse. Eddie From Ohio is actually from Virginia, not Ohio. But the drummer (who’s name happens to be Eddie!) is originally from Ohio, hence the name. The show was awesome and they rocked the house like no one I’ve ever seen at the Freight.

Going to see shows at the Freight is always an interesting experience. The musicians that come through there are incredible, and I have seen several awesome artists (like opening acts Hem, Mark Erelli, Rupa, and last night’s Rachael Davis) I never would have heard, had they not graced the hallowed coffeehouse. The Freight is a non-profit community arts organization, and tickets to shows there are reasonably priced cheap. The venue is small and unassuming and seating is arranged in rows of unmatched chairs that look as if they were purchased at a yard sale or plucked from the curb in a nearby neighborhood. There’s not a bad seat in the house. (Let me clarify. The seats themselves are physically bad — hard and uncomfortable, but the view is unobstructed and you can sit pretty close to the onstage action.)

Several of Freight’s concert-goers are regulars, but a few of these free spirits can become very Type A when something, anything, interferes with their listening enjoyment. Therefore, one does not speak, even at a low whisper, during a performance unless one wishes daggers to be shot at one from five rows ahead. And one does not dare rise from one’s seat to go to the bathroom and obstruct someone’s view for a split second. Nay nay. Hold it in agony, my dear, or be subjected to the passive-aggressive sighs and grunts and tsk-tsks. Of course, not all audience members are this way, but I have seen far too many instances where people get very pissy about these sorts of things.

For a place that’s in Berkeley, I would think the people would be a bit more, I dunno. Mellow? I can only imagine how tense some of these folks got, when the audience for last night’s first show included children. Rugrats? The horror! Because the kids. They talk. Loudly. In high-pitched voices. None of which is acceptable at a Freight and Salvage show. Fortunately for the under-6 set, the militant sssush-ers were either not in attendance, or just kept their own mouths shut and sat silently fuming. Oooh, or perhaps the crumb snatchers were their very own offspring!

Being at the Freight makes me anxious, not just because I may not follow etiquette, sneeze mid-song, and have a Birkenstock flung at my head, but also because I feel utterly stupid there. For one, we all know that Berkeley is home to a “smartie” school. (I’m actually a smartie myself, in some circles. Just not in the vicinity of Berkeley, or its surrounding counties.) Pre-show, audiencefolk spend their time discussing physics and 1,000-page tomes requiring an I.Q. so high, I can’t even comprehend the book jacket. They tell math jokes and laugh uproariously as I experience terrifying flashbacks of getting D’s in Algebra and scoring in the 400s on the math section of my SAT. Their speech is riddled with highfalutin phrases like “be sure to jettison your detritius in the properly appointed repository.” I appreciate a good vocabulary, but come on!

All that aside, The Freight is a fantastic venue to see independent artists. I just wish I could feel more at home there and set aside my anxieties of stupidity during the pre-show chatfests. But once the show starts, I always manage to sit back and enjoy the music, silently wishing I’d visited the restroom before the show started.

*Certain facts in this post are exaggerated and said post may include trace amounts of sweeping generalizations and stereotypes to improve entertainment value.

Oh, and P.S. I love Birks, and have a pair in my closet.

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