I wonder what happened at Luna’s?
Nothing like some good tacos to help make a man feel like all’s well with the world. So now I’m officially flat busted, at least until tomorrow, but a couple of good veggie tacos with salsa verde and a limon Jarrito soda, and I’m back in the land of happy campers for the time being. I was feeling nice, and thought about heading over to the Fox & Goose for open mic signups, but elected instead to walk up 16th Street to Luna’s, because the Nebraska Mondays jazz nights curated by Ross Hammond tend to be pretty sweet.
I didn’t have five bucks, though, so I felt loathe to hang even though the lineup looked really strong. And I could see Art Luna behind the counter, and he looked at me and didn’t wave or anything. What I should have done is walk up and say hi, but I’m still scratching my head about an apparent frost in the communication between us, which leaves me utterly mystified. I’m not sure what I said or did, but it’s gotten to be readily apparent that Art Luna does not like me much these days. Color me puzzled to the extreme.
I’d played Luna’s a bunch. I mean, for an original singer-songwriter in his 50s, there aren’t a lot of places to perform in Sacramento. What happens is you talk to bookers, and then you follow up by bugging them or contacting them, and what you generally get is this passive-aggressive mumbling about “check back with me later,” and then you see the same young hipster Handsome Family knockoffs or Regina Spektor clones getting booked time and time again.
I sort of expect that from most bookers here. I didn’t expect it from Art; I thought we were kinda friends. The last couple of times I played there, aside from the benefit show for the tuba-playing assembly candidate, I got some people to come out. Oh, yeah, my birthday show was kind of a wash for me, but the one before that, pretty much everyone there, I’d brought in, as the opening act for some guy from out of town who sang for his girlfriend, and then the trio with the kinda arrogant guy who looks like Jeff Buckley, who showed up late and brought nobody. But the past couple of times I’ve gone in during the day to try to line something up, I’ve walked out with nothing new on the calendar. Nothing but a shrug of Art’s shoulders. Mumble, mumble, toil and trouble.
What I’m about to say is not egotism, or arrogance; it’s a statement of fact. I’m a damned good songwriter, or at least I am in the context of who’s actively playing and booking shows in this town. I am really serious about playing my music, working to bring it to a place where I can do those songs some justice and put them across to people, and I am continually frustrated with my inability to get something going in this town. Yeah, I know I make periodic noises about leaving Sacramento, but this is what’s driving that impulse — the idea that I can’t seem to make anything happen here. This is what I love to do. This is what I want to do. I’m not getting any younger, and if I can’t make anything happen in the SMF, I’m out of this bogus excuse for an “arts-friendly” town. And I’m determined to give my music its best shot, which means there’s some tenacious level of determination there, and I can pretty much guarantee you that you’re going to miss me once I’m gone, and I start getting traction elsewhere.
(If you’re curious, you can come see me play Tuesday evening, June 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Dad’s Kitchen, 2968 Freeport Boulevard between Vallejo Street and Fifth Avenue next to Freeport Bakery. It’s free, which means you won’t be blowing a cover charge on me if you think I’m a musical assclown.)
Anyway, I bailed out of Luna’s tonight. I don’t stick around places where I get a strong feeling my presence isn’t wanted. That gentle high I’d gotten from those tacos at La Guarancha disappeared, replaced by a more familiar feeling of slight despair, that I never seem to quite connect, and that I’m just some kind of stupid misfit. Whether it’s girlfriends, wives, employers, club owners or just friends, people suddenly disappear from my life, and I find myself kicked to the curb once again, without the compassion of any kind of explanation. I’m not going to go all weird on anybody; I’m a big boy and I can take it when somebody explicitly tells me why things didn’t work out, or why they don’t like me. Lord knows I’ve eaten enough shit sandwiches in my life, and I’ve gotten deflated at depth by circumstances numerous times, that I can sit there and take the sustained agony of a good postmortem. I’ve lived with agony for years. What, you think I’m too brittle to handle it?
I love this town, but tonight I’m really close to bailing on it. Again. —Jackson Griffith