Six years ago Will Castro and Ezequiel “Ziggy” Pelayo started a record label to help out their friends’ 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 Mous Tache Bar in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.
I fully expected to wake up Sunday feeling like a nice, steaming pile of dog shit. But always one to defy expectations, I felt pretty okay. Maybe it was the Uncrustable Todd made me, or maybe it was remains of the Jameson which Jan and I polished off. Whatever it was, after a cigarette and a shower, I was ready to start the fucking day! Everyone gathered in the living room as we made a list of things we needed to accomplish over the next few hours: Bloody Mary’s, burritos, pickles, Buzzballz, and Mexico. We all piled into my 4-Runner and headed for The Small Bar to knock the first objective off the list.
Ricky from Western Settings was working and we were greeted at the bar by other buddies also making the trip to Mexico later in the day. Jesse from Caskitt handed me a cup filled with a vaguely described mystery booze. I took a sip and did everything in my power to not throw up. “What the fuck is this?” I cried out between dry heaves, but all i got in return was more vague descriptions and the third grade style taunt, “you touched it last, it’s your problem now.” It came back to the table with me in hopes someone else would get curious and finish it. They didn’t. Halfway through my first Bloody Mary I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I stopped on a picture of a bloody hand with the caption: “Just want to say thanks to the 7 foot tall douche bro that slammed me onto the stage during the Caskitt set last night….” And just like we were in a shitty teen comedy, we looked up and who walks in but the only 7 foot tall douche bro it possibly could be, Trick Coleman. I ran over to show him the post. He stared at it, looked at me, looked back at my phone, then back to me and muttered, “they talking about me?”
We stayed at the Small Bar for a good portion of the day. A Bloody Mary and two Greyhounds later and I was starving. Kendra and I hit up El Zarape next door for tacos and burritos. It could have been that I hadn’t had a solid meal in almost 24 hours, but that was the best surf and turf burrito I had ever had. Back at the Small Bar the out of towers were getting restless. It was time to move this party to a different country. I gathered up Kevin and Chris from False Positives, Jan from Shell Corp, Trick Coleman, and Kendra. With Mexico in our cross-hairs, we made a quick stop at a liquor store to stock up on Buzzballz and we were on our way.
Somewhere in the middle of Chula Vista I heard the familiar crack sound, followed by a timid sip, and then the inevitable, “Oh Jesus FUCKING Christ why?” Trick was in the passenger seat next to me and we just turned up Elton John’s “Rocket Man” full blast and let the idiots in the back suffer. Soon enough, we were parked at the border and I chugged my Buzzball while other Kevin tried desperately to get people to actually drink some water. At the customs counter to get into Mexico, the Buzzballz kicked in. I slapped my passport down on the counter with a drunken confidence. The guy just looked at me and said, “Go.” That’s why it was such a shock when I caught up with everyone and noticed Jan was missing. “He got detained.” Fuck. We all stood around the outside of the building trying to decide what to do for what felt like forever. That’s when we noticed Jan down below being escorted in the general direction of America by armed guards. Oakland Kevin’s phone still had service so he sent over Todd Allen’s contact information. We stood around for a few moments longer, but with nothing else we could do we began our journey to the Mous Tache Bar.
Trick decided to take the lead and for some reason we all thought that was a good idea. He marched down the street with us following, turned around the side of a building, and immediately led us onto what looked like a freeway. We scrambled down the road, and found the bridge that we were supposed to cross to get to our destination. The problem was that it was fenced off and inaccessible. So naturally we hoisted ourselves and each other up the side instead of going around, because when in a foreign country, it’s best to just do whatever the fuck you want. It’s the American way. At least we were back on the right track. Plus somewhere along the way, we made a scrappy dog friend who followed us for blocks that we dubbed “Fuzzbutt Kevin”. Dodging street vendors and lab coat clad “pharmacists” offering Vitamin K, we finally made it to the bar where we were immediately greeted with hugs and a table filled with our favorite Mexican chips courtesy of the best person in the entire world: Lex Followill.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we missed the first band, Media Vida. But, I was able to grab a beer and catch 22 Missiles from the awesome rooftop above the stage. I never wanted to leave, but I ran out of beer and eventually had to venture down for a refill. I was suddenly handed a shot of what tasted like tequila mixed with Sriracha, and was told if I wanted to go across the street and just buy a 12 pack of beer that was cool. So I bought two 12ers of Tecate, came back, took a shot of what tasted like tequila mixed with Jager, and went back to the roof for the last half of Despero.
The roof was filled with garbage, various plastic flowers, and a long wedding veil, and shoes. So many fucking shoes. Tom from Western Settings jokingly poured some of his beer in one for a “Mexican Shoey” which Devito almost drank. But, at the last second, he thought better of it and handed it to me. There are just some lines you don’t cross… until someone calls you out for having standards. So you muster all your trash might and pound that roof shoe full of Modelo and a rusty nail out of spite. I spent all of Burn Burn Burn trying not to puke. Luckily there was a line of crushed up Adderall waiting for me on dilapidated rooftop “bar” we found to help ease the pain.
I descended the roof to go down and watch Problem Daughter at ground level. I liked the band before, but something about the way they were playing this weekend made me a fan. I had another shot at the bar which tasted like tequila mixed with tequila, and Eastercore Dan Gardner and myself had a blast singing along to the 1, 2 punch of Western Settings and Caskitt. I made my way back up to the roof for more Adderall and a final roof beer. When Civil War Rust began playing, I descended down from the roof for the final time. This was when a single beer slipped out of the box I was holding. I watched in horror as it fell 2 stories and thankfully missed Sean Stepp by less than a foot. I ran down the stairs, pushed everybody out of the way (including Sean), crawled onto the stage, and grabbed that dented beer. It was my last one after all.
DFMK was supposed to close out the night, but some of the band members couldn’t make it so they ended up canceling. Everyone finished their drinks, we took a group photo, and began to part ways. But, some of us were not done with Mexico just yet. I found myself crammed into Western Settings’ van on our way to ‘Taco Blocko’ with the world’s worst tour guide, Ricky Schmidt. “If you look out to your left, you’ll see Tijuana. And to the right, Tijuana. And in the center, Ricardo!”
We had some tacos and stretched out our time in Tijuana for as long as possible. But like all good things, it had to come to an end. Lex was once again nice enough to throw Kendra, Dan, Jeff, and myself into a cab and it was as short drive back to the border. When I made it to the US customs counter, I slammed my passport on the counter again and declared, “All I have is this giant bag of assorted chips. Oh and a half a pack of smooookes” in my best drunken Menzingers impression. The lady looked at me and just waved me through. A short drive and were back at Todd’s, where we were relieved to see Jan sleeping on the kitchen linoleum. “He’s alive!” I thought as I promptly fell onto my couch bed and died.
I woke up around 10:30, well past the time Kendra’s alarm was supposed to go off. I looked at my phone and was horrified. “Today is Merissa Jones’ birthday.” Mother fucker. Not only was she nice enough to let all of us scum bags stay at her house, she gave Kendra and me a special spot to sleep in her bedroom. AND she did it all knowing it was going to be her birthday? That’s a special lady Todd Allen; you better be good to her!
Kendra’s flight was scheduled to leave around 2-ish, so we did the only logical thing and went to Lancers for a drink or four. Kendra, Jan, and I were soon met by Dan and Jeff and eventually Adam Kissell, who we nicknamed “Better Will” since Will Castro straight up told us “Nah dawg” to our morning beverage party. Then we were joined by Matt Caskitt because he just so happened to be in the neighborhood and saw Dan’s Easter ass pastel plaid shirt. Then Devito! It was too much to say goodbye, so Kendra changed her flight to the next morning and we spent a solid twice hours drinking yet again. Slowly one by one everybody peeled off to go home and soon it was down to Kendra, Devito, Jan, Better Will, and me drinking where we started five days ago: Toronado. We stayed there until it closed and we got kicked out. That’s when we realized, we didn’t have a place to stay for the night since all of us were supposed to be home by now. Luckily, ya boi Pat (Ash Williams) came through and was generous enough to let us sleep in his living for a couple of hours. And I mean a couple of hours, because 4AM rolled around way too fast. Suddenly, I was dropping Kendra off at the airport and Jan at the train station and calling my work to tell them I was going to be late because I absolutely HAD to get a couple more hours of sleep.
La Escalera’s sixth birthday party was a success! Despite being completely exhausted (I still don’t think I’ve fully recovered), it took a few days for the smile on my face to wear off. I was able able to see so many great people, make so many new friends, and watch so fucking much awesome music. I cannot express my gratitude to this scene and especially to the La Escalera family. I’ve been entrenched for about four years now, and the fact that you don’t see people for months on end but come back on some fucking random Easter weekend and pickup like you saw each other yesterday is awesome. Throw on top of that all the amazing talented bands they are cultivating (Seriously. Problem Daughter. Get on it now!), I can’t wait to be doing this for years and years until I finally actually kick the bucket at La Escalera Fest 43.
See you turds at La Escalera Fest 7. We never got our pickles, god damn it!