It was a muggy August night. The weather report called for rain, but all that came was wet air so thick, you could slice it with a butter knife. I was nervous. It was the first night I’d spent away from my husband and new baby since before she was born (she would turn 7 months old the next day). It was a good nervous. I had spent much of my youth doing this exact thing and it honestly felt a little like a home.
I stepped out of my car and greeted my jubilant friend with a hug and a shout.
“Are you ready or what?” she asked me.
I was beyond ready. ”Let’s get a drink!”
It was a punk show and typically, she was in black Doc Marten’s and I was wearing old school hi-top Vans. We kicked up dust as we made our way to the entrance of the venue—a honky tonk called Winston’s. Winston’s was famous for a few things; it’s famous for being an old Hollywood western sound stage, it’s been featured on a cooking show for its delicious slow cooked barbeque, and it was quickly becoming one of the top intimate venues in southern California.
After getting our wristbands from will call, we found ourselves ordering drinks and laughing about something from the internet. I knew we’d now be back out the door so my friend could enjoy a cigarette.
I enjoyed eyeing the people and sipping my drink. It was a Seven and Seven, my favorite. It was cool and refreshing, saving me from a dreadful desert night. My pants were damp against my legs and the back of my neck was wet. Still, I watched the wide array of concertgoers in awe. There were the typical twentysomething punks, old bearded hippies, hipster scene girls with shorts cut so high they were almost a romper, and the aging punks who grew up going to the Melvins’ shows. They were the ones growing up in punk’s heyday. Now they’re electricians and garage door repairmen who frequent Winston’s, clamoring for a feeling of those glory days.
Winston’s was a coveted place and has recently exploded with huge acts, especially during the week between the two weekends Coachella runs. Some of the artists make the drive and stay in Joshua Tree to avoid the heat of the lower desert and inevitably visit Winston’s and some play unannounced shows. A few years ago, they were doing yearly concerts by The Donnas and now, they have everyone from Sean Lennon to Jenny Lewis, The Pistol Annies, and it was even a stop on Neutral Milk Hotel’s farewell tour.
We heard the familiar sting of a guitar string reverberating through the amplifier and hussled inside. Roger Osbourne is an eccentric individual and his style is the same. It’s the middle of a sweltering August in the Mojave Desert inside a tiny honky tonk stuffed with people producing body heat and he’s wearing a goddamn black hoodie with bright colored paisley designs on it. He possessed an unbelievably large white afro. Some artists have hair that take on a life of their own (The Cure’s Robert Smith is a good example) and Roger’s hair was a fuzzy accessory to shake and flap around while he played his guitar.
They had two drum sets set up. Dale Crover (the original drummer for Nirvana) plays with The Melvins occasionally, and I was hoping I could end this show being able to say I’ve seen both drummers for Nirvana in concert. No such luck. Two young, handsome, sweaty guys were holding drumsticks, both chugging beers from the mason jar mugs that were famously Winston’s. It was a fun sight.
The music was too loud for the space. It was an indoor show and the inside of Winston’s was cluttered. It was a restaurant by day and there were plenty of chairs and tables throughout. It was wood everywhere, with kitschy decor littering the walls: dollar bills signed by famous visitors and musicians, previous show flyers, head shots of old west actors. There was a room in the front left of the building with pool tables and a jukebox, which was rarely ever used. The back of the building held the tiny stage, barely large enough for a full band. A small area devoid of chairs or tables which stood as the “audience space” or dance floor for shows. There was a smoker and barbeque pit outside in the beer garden, along with more seating.
The music was so loud, in fact, it was literally in every cell of my body. I could feel it my bones, in my chest. The drummers battled and dueted, exchanging solos with Osbourne. The whole crowd swayed, a few were headbanging a bit harder. Sweat and whisky dripped off my body and out of my glass, staining my shoes. Every time Osbourne screamed into the mic, his words vibrated through my bones.
This was home; sweaty, excited, exhausted fun. I was ready for the next one. I had just witnessed a small bit of music history, just a fraction of what happens in a year here at Winston’s. It’s amazing the way a sound, a smell, a restaurant can feel like home. Music does that to us, especially live music in an intimate venue like Winston’s. I had broken away from my new self: the mother, the wife, the caregiver and visited the old me. I got to see the girl that risked it all for a concert, drove out to LA with barely any money in her pockets to be in a music video, the girl that waited outside of concert halls religiously early for a good sport.