Claw Hammer

As we check out of the San Francisco Mandarin Oriental hotel I leave behind all thoughts of the ‘E’ word.. Not so much fear as an unnerving curiosity as to what it might be like to experience a tremor so high up. I know full well that these buildings are built to withstand such events with counter-balances and anti-sway technology such as tuned mass damper systems but nonetheless I’m sure it would be quite a ride. Although I’ve experienced a few smaller shudders, thankfully, hopefully, I’ll never know about a big one.

We board the buses and make our way across the Bay Bridge once more. Ahead of us, a relatively short 90 mile drive over to Sacramento. I sit at the back of bus number one with Pete as watch in amazement as Michigan play Michigan State in a Saturday morning college football game attended by no less than 115,000 screaming, pom-pom waving fans. With 9 seconds to go, Michigan convert a field-goal to win the match and the crowd explode in scenes of pandemonium and joy as if it’s the most important moment of their lives….. until the next game. Wonderful, and only here in America.

Out the windows we see a rural, dry landscape as we leave behind us the moisture and chill of the Pacific influence on the Bay area. We’re into desert now and as we ‘de-bus’ (my new Americanism of the tour) at the venue, the dry warmth is evident. We enter another vast, generic arena, this one being the home of the Sacramento Kings, a professional basketball team that has origins its origins back in the 1920’s in Rochester, New York making it one of the oldest teams in existence. I was amazed to learn their history as I had no idea teams moved around so much in this great land. Although successful on the court, they failed to make any real profit in the small market of Rochester and moved to Cincinnati becoming the Cincinnati Royals. Then it was Kansas City, Missouri, initially splitting games between Kansas City and Omaha, Nebraska, and taking up the name Kansas City Kings. The team again failed to find success in its market, and moved to Sacramento in 1985. Not that anyone is here to see them this evening as thoughts of the show tonight are in our heads. Bob’s band arrived at roughly the same time as us and we greet them in our usual friendly manner. They really are lovely guys and we share many laughs and chats backstage in our respective dressing rooms.

With the ‘NO BANJO’ signs still appearing regularly on every dressing room door, I am reminded to get the old girl out and practice my claw-hammer technique. Rather like golf, mastery of the 5 string banjo seems impossible but I’m going to sure have some fun trying. I head out to the backstage area where there are no grumpy middle-management types who don’t appreciate the dulcet, soothing tones of such a fine folk instrument. Donny is on hand to give me another brief lesson. Donny is a fabulous musician and a his friendly, jolly demeanor make him a pleasure to be around. We joke about how I have far too many teeth to be a real banjo player and he shows me a few more tricks of the trade.

We sound-check and once again, before we know it, it’s show-time and we’re out on stage once more. Memories of last night’s fabulous hard-to-beat Berkeley show are still fresh in the mind but we had a great time up there regardless and the crowd certainly seemed pretty pleased!

A couple of after-show drinks in the dressing room and we were aboard the buses once more this time heading for Sacramento airport where our plane awaits. Diane greets us and serves the drinks and soon we are flying South towards Van Nuys and the greater Los Angeles area. Smiles all round as the overwhelming majority of us have family waiting in Santa Monica. Myself included. Laurie, Leon, Max and his girlfriend Beth arrived yesterday and are settled in the hotel. As part of their jet-lag reduction technique, whilst I was tucked up in a San Francisco bed, they all went surfing at Malibu at 6am this morning…as has become the tradition when the Fletchers arrive in L.A.