Six years ago Will Castro and Ezequiel “Ziggy” Pelayo started a record label to help out their friend’s bands. In six years they have built a community of like-minded individuals that spans the entire West Coast through one motto – “Without each other, we have nothing.” Seis años later and La Escalera’s birthday party has spread across three days and two countries, with people from all over the US and Mexico converging in Southern California to celebrate. The following takes place at the Tower Bar in San Diego, California.
Three hours of sleep, a nine hour workday, a memorial for a departed friend (RIP Anilee), and another trip down the traffic infested freeway to North Park and I once again found myself at the Tower Bar surrounded by friends. As soon as I parked and walked into the bar, I was immediately hit with an onslaught of gibberish as Kendra and Dan Gardner wasted no time yelling at me about “who doesn’t like oyster crackers?” and “Todd Allen is now Kevin #4.” Two things were clear: Night 1 of La Escalera Fest Six6Seis was finally upon us and I had some fucking catching up to do.
My lovely girlfriend Kaylin was nice enough to buy me a whiskey ginger from the bar, and after making the rounds saying hello to all the buddies, Hot Bods kicked off the party. Sidebar: During long fests like these, it is impossible to sit around and watch every single band play. For starters – there are too many friends around and sometimes you just end up hanging outside and smoking cigarettes and missing the band. B – honestly you just don’t fucking care to stand there and watch a band that you don’t know. Yes, you might miss out on finding a new band you actually like, but when you are about to watch a million hours of music over a couple of days, it’s fine. Whatever. Hot Bods was going to be a band I was “outside smoking” during, but on my way out, I overheard they had members from Bastards of Young and Dead Dads and decided to stay. Good call, because they were tight. Great, I found a new band I actually like only 30 minutes into the night. Boy, do I feel like an asshole.
When I made my way outside to actually smoke a cigarette, I ran into Dan Gardner and Jeff Mangalin from Seattle’s Four Lights and was shocked to learn they had never tried Buzzballz. If you don’t know, Buzzballz are alcoholic premixed drinks that taste like they gave the actual cocktail they wanted to make to a person, had them drink said cocktail and piss it into a little ball shaped container, then added more alcohol. They are fucking great! We sauntered off to the liquor store after Lowbrow and picked our poison, but our actual taste test would have to wait because I heard the sweet, sweet sound of Lysolgang emanating from the Tower. When Pat and company were done taking us to the window and walls, we gathered the crew and finally ventured off into a dark corner to drink our ballz of shame. Jeff slammed his “Watermelon Smash” like a champion, while everybody else opted to sip on theirs and relish in the unique flavors and aromas. By the time I finally choked down the last of my “Pineapple Passion,” Sergio popped his head around the corner surprising and scaring us all. We were happy to see him, but more importantly, he gave us all an excuse to go back to get more Buzzballz.
Not to be a Buzzkillz, but after our 3rd round and missing Nights Like Thieves and New Way On, I did my best to try and usher everyone back into the bar for Squarecrow. Todd Allen and his finance Merissa were gracious enough to house all of us scumbags over the weekend, plus more importantly I guess, Squarecrow is actually really good. Of course when they played “Sarasota” and I got pushed onstage and was forced to half ass recreate their music video in the limited space offered. Call me whatever Kevin Bacon’s character name was in Footloose because I just want to dance! After their set, I went back outside with the full intention of smoking another cigarette and maybe drinking one more Buzzball, when I noticed I had lost Sergio. That’s normally not a big deal, he usually comes and goes without saying a word, but I just fucking saw him and still had some of his stuff in my car, but he was just gone. Vanished. Disappeared into the night. Dammit, Sergio! Russian Girlfriends and Hoist the Colors played on as we drank the last of the Buzzballz to honor our disappeared comrade.
With the show finally over, we did that thing where we hang out outside for a while trying our best to sober up enough to make it to our next destination. We stuck around for prolonged goodbyes and long chats about only god knows what until everyone felt comfortable enough to get the fuck out of there. Exhausted and ignoring the pleas of my passengers for curly fries, we trekked back to Merissa and Todd’s to find an apartment full of passed out Oaklanders and a nice couch and floor space with our names on it. Not from a lack of trying, we survived the first day of La Escalera Fest.