[license to krill] Week 5: Big Sur + California's taco heaven + on the road with Ezra Furman

We stopped at a beautiful beach in Big Sur and asked a perplexed middle aged woman to take this photo of us.

After we in KRILL experienced the majesty of the Pacific Northwest (and two days off in the majestic Redwood Forest and San Francisco), our first show in California was in the town of San Luis Obispo, between San Francisco and Los Angeles. We took the winding, scenic Highway 1 on the way down and stopped at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur to take a dip in the freezing Pacific and, in my case, enjoy a blissful seaside nap. We played at a DIY house in San Luis Obispo called Crossroads, run by Cal Poly students who are involved with their school’s radio station. It was one of the most architecturally interesting spots we have ever played—a sprawling property with hidden tile mosaics, spiral staircases, and, likely the only place we’ve ever played that has a sauna. We unfortunately reached our schvitz quota (three heaping tablespoons per member) while playing and ended up not needing/wanting said sauna. The show was one of the big surprises of the tour—lots of people came out and enjoyed our set.

We will never forget the shower at Crossroads in San Luis Obispo. Even without the photo, we would never forget it.

We awoke the next morning and drove towards Claremont after taking memorable showers in Crossroads’ truly bizarre facilities (see photo above). We stopped halfway in Santa Barbara to have tacos at Lilly’s -— a blazin’ hot tip from the bassist in Neighbors, who we played with in Portland. These were as authentic as it gets -— I had pork adobada, tongue, and cheek (cheek was my favorite) and Jonah and Aaron had veggie tacos that they enjoyed. The tortillas were perfect, as was the array of salsas and other accoutrements, and at $1.60 each, these were some of the best deals of the tour. Or so we thought.

Pork adobada, cheek, and tongue tacos at Lilly's in Santa Barbara. "Eye" and "lip" were also available but I had my eyes and lips on other options.

We played at Pomona College, the first of a string of three shows with Jonah’s older brother Ezra Furman and his new band, for which he seemingly improvised a different name every night while on stage. At Pomona they were “Ezra Furman and the Surprise Visits from Jonathan.” Our show was outside and sparsely attended (damn you, midterms!). We will remember Pomona mostly for our ransacking of their excellent dining hall both before our show and the following morning. They have fresh squeezed OJ. Can you believe it?

Our next show was in San Diego at a little punk dive bar/club called Eleven. That evening, it was “Ezra Furman and the Trash People” that we opened for, perhaps the most inspired name of the three nights. Ezra has gone through a few different line-ups since forming a band at Tufts (before Aaron and I went there) in 2006 when he fronted a four-piece called Ezra Furman and the Harpoons. The Harpoons have since more or less disbanded and Ezra either performs his manic rock and roll songs solo or with a bassist, lead guitarist, and drummer. His lineup for these shows included keyboard and saxophone playing the lead guitar parts in lieu of a second guitarist, and they sounded excellent, for “trash people.”

San Diego is where we encountered the single best deal of the tour -— 99 cent fish tacos at El Zarape in the University Heights neighborhood. These weren’t just good for being 99 cents, they were as perfect versions of a fish taco as one could ask for. Crispy battered fish, unobtrusive yet fresh-tasting slaw, light crema, and a superb salsa verde and sections of lime to spoon and squeeze on top. Also, excellent coriander-tinged pickled carrots. I’m not saying there aren’t better fish tacos in San Diego -— there very well may be —- but I’ve never spent 99 cents so well in my life. I ate one with Aaron and Jonah right after loading in, and two more when I went back an hour later with Ezra’s backing band. That’s $2.97, for those keeping score.

This fantastic fish taco was only 99 cents. Big ups to my friend Cassie for nailing this recommendation.

We drove the next day from San Diego to LA, stopping in Redondo Beach at an In-N-Out to collectively experience this staple of California fast food for the first time. We each got the “animal style” fries, smothered with “special sauce,” melted cheese, and grilled onions. Aaron was in such rapture he started pontificating on how this was “a delight” for vegetarians and how perfect In-N-Out has it down. I also got an “animal style” burger and found it enjoyable, if not quite as awesome as the fries.

"Animal style" burger and "animal" style fries at In N Out. These are both technically on the "secret menu" but everybody knows to order them, even three schlubs from Boston and the Midwest.

We played that night at one of our favorite venues of the tour -— a place called The Satellite in the hip Silverlake neighborhood. It was our last show with Ezra (and, that night, “The Wounded Baristas”), and they were truly on fire. He’s now in Europe for five and a half weeks opening for Nada Surf. Before him was a local band called The Peach Kings, a female-fronted bluesy three piece. It was one of, if not our largest draw, due mostly to the two bands who were not us. We played a great set and perhaps felt most like “rock stars” that night of any night. We split up after the show to stay with different friends, and that’s when I met the finest tongue taco I ever did meet.

Ezra Furman and his superb backing band rocking out at The Satellite in LA. They had a different name every night; this time it was, for no apparent reason, "the Wounded Baristas."

My friend Danny took me to the El Flamin’ Taco truck in nearby Echo Park, where we tried a smattering of their excellent tacos -— all either on par or better than versions I tried while traveling in Mexico City this summer. The al pastor —- carved to order off a rig on the street next to the truck -— and campechano (grilled beef topped with crispy chorizo) were sublime, but the best was their tongue. Imagine your ideal partner, both in terms of physical and spiritual attractiveness. Now imagine you are making out with them. Pretty good, right? Now imagine that their tongue had clearly been marinated in garlic and other subtle spices and slow-cooked until meltingly tender and unnervingly juicy. At the moment that taco, which I’ve already eaten and digested, is the closest thing I have to an "ideal partner."

U complete me.


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