Just say no

Miami, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco: These are cities that carry within their very names a mythic significance built from a particular cultural strength, a kind of cohesive social vision that permeates one’s understanding of them—even if we’ve never actually visited them. Certain cities are able to accomplish this because of some distinct, defining characteristic.

I am here to tell you that Auburn—my hometown—is also one of these places. This is largely because, in many ways, it is the antithesis of the others. There is no better single location to truly understand the madness and mayhem Auburn has to offer a music lover than the Shanghai Restaurant and Bar on a Saturday night.

The Shanghai is one of those bars that feel really, really lived in. Housed in a historic building in the Old Town district, the Shanghai fosters a junky, decrepit vibe that Old Sacramento can only dream about. This is living history, not recreated history.

The DirkLangBand (all one word, according to its press materials) was there to provide the musical accompaniment to that living history—which, last Saturday night, included increasing drunkenness, slurred love and man-on-man dancing.

Lang’s band performs 1980s-era classic-rock tunes with relatively solid ability. Lang himself is a decent guitarist in particular. Although his voice has limitations, it shines well on the time-honored numbers that require less in that department. Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” is a good example; it’s a song the band covers well. Lang’s performance of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” was particularly good, obliquely underlining the weirdness of being an adult cover-band musician performing songs originally sung 30 years ago by 20-year-olds. “I’m a boy and I’m a man,” indeed.

One of the highlights of the evening was watching a trio of men sporting the red shirts that denote membership in the foothill fraternity known as the Clampers—a social group that is well-known for its members’ interest in drinking. In the darkness of the Shanghai, the trio tried unsuccessfully to cajole a group of ladies into dancing. The men became frustrated and danced for a few songs by themselves. Then, in increasing drunkenness, they danced with each other. Finally, they tried the ladies a few more times, to no avail, until the bartender came over to break up the action.

Lang and company launched into a slightly sped-up rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” We might need no education, but that night, those Clampers needed some instruction on the definition of one brief, powerful, two-letter word: no.

Johnny Cash did it, and now local punk legends 7Seconds have done it, too. Turns out that Jesse James, the host of Monster Garage, is a huge fan of classic punk and invited 7Seconds to perform live on the show while he and his crew turned another ordinary street machine into a weird hot rod befitting the show’s name. This episode found James working with an inmate crew on the grounds of Folsom Prison, so it was just a short jump downhill for the Reno boys and uphill for Sacramento local and 7Seconds vocalist Kevin Seconds. No word on which songs the band performed, but the episode will air sometime in the spring.