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 Red Brontosaurus Records, Soda Bar, and The Hideout in San Diego, California.
Have you ever been to San Diego? The weather here is perfect, like, 95% of the time. I know I’m going to sound like an insane asshole, but it’s part of the reason I want to get the fuck out and move to Chicago in September. I want seasons; I need snow. So when I woke up sweating Saturday morning on the floor of Todd Allen’s and Merissa’s apartment, I only had one thought in my head, “cut the fucking sleeves off of your shirt, you white trash piece of shit.” I went into the kitchen, threw my shirt down on the counter, found scissors, and removed the sleeves. It was only then that I looked down and saw the entire back of the shirt was now covered in peanut butter. What the fuck? The entire counter I just put my shirt on was covered in it. I had a flashback to the previous night, and the ominous warning Dan Gardner gave me, “Beware the Uncrustables.”
I cleaned off my shirt, took Kaylin to her car, got some much-needed caffeine in the form of a delicious Dark Horse Coffee Cold Brew Iced Coffee (fuck you, pay me), and worked my way over to Red Brontosaurus Records where the early shows were set to start just a little too early. They started so early, in fact, that we were late and missed the first performance of San Diego’s newest band Allweather. I was able to cram into the tiny sweltering record store for City Mouse, but had to take a break when Matt Woods played. It was just a little too hot for this wilting flower. Good news – it almost sounded better outside than inside, and I made a note to check out Matt when he played again later in the night. Bad news – I’m pretty sure we all heard someone get murdered in the back room of the store next door. Screaming tuned into a loud banging noise that sounded a little too close to gunshots. But I mean, probably not. Just in case, I smashed back inside to watch Ricky Schmidt, Todd Allen, and Ziggy Pelayo resurrect Beside Myself. I was busy chowing down on empanadas last year when they played in Tijuana, and there was no way I was going to miss them again. Something about the way Todd’s and Ricky’s voices both clash but complement each other at the same time makes me sad Beside Myself isn’t more than a once a year band. Problem Daughter was up next and despite absolutely loving little Regan Ashton, it just got a little too packed and I was just a little too sober. To fix both problems, we hit up the nearly empty Bar Pink for a whiskey shot washed down with a nice whiskey ginger. I like to call that a whiskey, whiskey back. After alleviating some of our sensibilities, we cruised back to listen in on the last few songs of Civil War Rust. I would have gone in, but again it sounded great outside and the back half of the air conditioner that hung over the door was spitting out ice cold water on my head and it felt great.
I had a choice to make after the show. I could either go with Kendra back to Todd’s and take a nap or keep on going and just hope I make it. Before I could contemplate my options, I was at the Eagle next door ordering another whiskey. I’m a party shark – If I stop I die. Soon I took my friends Lindsey and Amanda to the 7 Grand Club for an overpriced drink before heading over to get some pizza. A solid couple of hours had passed when I got a call from Kendra. Apparently instead of napping, a very drunk Todd Allen gave Kevin Skalba and Dan Hatcher from False Positives “ghost” stick and poke tattoos. I was just drunk enough to think that was a good idea, and rushed back to try and get my own forever blob. Fortunately, by the time I wandered back, it was time to go to the night shows.
For whatever reason, I decided to not jump in my friend’s car and to walk by myself the two and a half miles to the Soda Bar. I made it just in time, sweaty and out of breath, to watch the first band of the night, Oakland’s freshly stick and poked False Positives. I ran over to The Hideout to catch a little bit of The Lucky Eejits before going back to the Soda Bar for The Bigger Empty. Jesus, I was already exhausted. Kevin White and Jimmy Gomez were filling in on bass and drums for The Bigger Empty, and Drunk Todd Allen was there making sure the three foot gap between the band and crowd didn’t go underutilized. He challenged everyone and anyone who would humor him to a runway style dance/walk off. If that does’t make sense, I really don’t know how else to explain it. I could draw up some charts and graphs, but fuck, just figure it out. The Bigger Empty finished right before I could use the only move I had left in my impaired brain, a running drunk somersault that surely would have ended in disaster. Instead, I went to the bar and ordered a tall can of PBR before realizing “fuck, I’m supposed to go back to the other bar” and got stuck waiting for Despero to start.
Eventually I slammed the spit infested bottom part of my tall can and stumbled back to The Hideout to see Matt Woods. Holy shit, I somehow remembered my mental note from earlier. I was on my way back to watch Black Dots when I got stopped by Devito in the street as he yelled at me to go back to The Hideout for Signalman. “Dude, the bands are staggered dummy, I’ll be back,” I hollered at him as I walked by. “$5 Beer and shot,” was all he replied. Instantly I found myself back in The Hideout taking two shots of the finest well whiskey and double fisting High Lifes while watching Signalman. I remembered to check the time, and ran back to the Soda Bar for Problem Daughter. Part way through Problem Daughter’s set, a stuffed animal snake came flying in from the crowd and wrapped itself around Regan. “That’s odd,” I thought to myself. But a couple weeks ago I saw a full grown human in a panda costume dance on stage with a band, so it wasn’t completely out of the ordinary.
A man who never learns from his mistakes, I once again bought a fucking tall can from the bar like an idiot and missed Burn Burn Burn at the Hideout. But I did get the pleasure of having a booth filled with Drunk Todd Allen and the intoxicated Ash Williams guys trying to explain to me why they had a fucking stuffed animal snake. The only coherent facts I took away from the babbling mess, was he is from Vegas, his name was ‘Sneaky Snake,’ and it was a fun name to chant. SNEAK-Y-SNAKE. Thankfully The Shell Corporation started playing dragging me away from the riveting conversation. Shell Corp wasfinally playing as a full band for the first time in Southern California in I don’t even know how long. Maybe since last year’s La Escalera Fest? All I know is that the last few times I saw them, they were missing a member. It was nice to see Jan Drees sans guitar and interacting with the crowd again. I was about to head back to The Hideout for Gentlemen Prefer Blood, but my phone died so I borrowed a charger, and stayed at Soda Bar waiting for it to come back to life.
I’ve seen Western Settings play billion times over the years, but I think with all the out of town folks who don’t get to see them whenever they pay, the energy level was ramped up tenfold. Sneaky Snake and rubber ducks added to the circus as everyone in the room had their arm around someone, singing along to every song. Even seven foot tall Trick Coleman torpedoing his way through the crowd like a human wrecking ball directly into my sternum couldn’t stop the fun. It was the best set I’ve seen them play since Fest last year. Sweaty and with renewed energy, I ran down to The Hideout for Caskitt. It was easy to get up to the front. However, when I looked over and saw Trick already wobbling about, I decided it was time for another High Life/Old Crow and watched content from afar until it was time to go back and see Civil War Rust finish off the shows at Soda Bar. Jan needed a place to stay for the night, so he tagged along with us back to The Hideout for The Bombpops, but when we stuck our heads in and saw the crowd all the way back to the door, we decided it would be best just to head back to Todd and Merissa’s before Todd passed out and we were all left without a home for the night.
We trekked the two and a half miles back and made it just in time to have a drink with two thirds of False Positives and Merissa’s roommate. One drink turned into two and two soon became four. Dan Hatcher was sleeping on the couch and kept pleading for us to be quiet, but since he’s just a drummer we ignored his ass and carried on. Soon, I puled out my bottle of Jameson. Before we knew it, it was 4AM and Kevin Skalba was sleep arguing with whatever the fuck we were talking about and the roommate was sadly eating a cold dry bagel with nothing on it. It was time to call it a night. Jesus, we still had another entire fucking day ahead of us.
Check out the below photos of the day show by the almighty Eden!
Check out the below photos of the night shows by the still learning but trying her best Kendra!