Last Monday afternoon's gala (September 3, 2007) for the Bridgeway Music Foundation held at Sausalito's Plant Studios, offered an exceedingly rare opportunity to prowl the modest-looking wooden building complex at 220 Bridgeway where dozens of platinum and gold records have been recorded.
The Foundation's mission is to use the facilities at The Plant to reinvigorate the San Francisco music scene. Though the bayside studio has not often opened its intricately carved doors to the public during its 35-year history, once inside, it felt like The Plant's three recording rooms have been a neighborhood hang from day one. Guests strolled in and out of the control room of Studio B, where Huey Lewis' Sports, Journey's Raised on Radio and Prince's Graffiti Bridge were recorded. Others plunked down beside a particularly rapt John Prine on the Garden Studio's couch to watch a documentary about the making of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, which was also laid down in Studio B. And as is customary at most parties, the biggest throngs gathered around the open bar and gourmet finger-food spread, featuring shrimp, crab cakes, cheeses, dips and veggie salads prepared by Bay Café's Joey Altman.
The atmosphere in The Plant was as welcoming as can be. The warm, decorative wood walls -- one even adorned with a depiction of a piano player and his music crafted from a mirror and colorful plush fabric -- gave way to oddly shaped wooden hallways and the occasional kitchen or lounge. The Plant is surprisingly spacious, but has a cozy feel, surely part of the reason why so many great artists felt at home here. I was told at one point that I was standing in Sly Stone's bedroom, a spacey-looking room off the Garden Studio, also known as Studio C.
A happy throng of people also seemed to feel right at home sitting in the sun on the garden patio outside Studio C, sipping drinks and catching up. Many of them looked as if they may well have attended the opening of the studio almost 35 years earlier.
The event was definitely on rock Â‘n' roll time. No one seemed to know when or where anything was happening, and just about everything went off about an hour behind schedule, but no one seemed to notice.
The one part of event that did go off on schedule was the opening photography exhibit and signing in Studio A, where Heart, The Dave Matthews Band, Metallica and Mariah Carey made albums. On Monday, the walls were graced with former Rolling Stone shutterbug Robert Altman's iconic rock photography covering subjects like Tina Turner, Keith Richards and Iggy Pop. Altman was on hand, signing books and shooting the breeze with fans and friends.
Later in the evening, the schedule abruptly resumed with seven or eight minutes of very entertaining footage from an upcoming documentary on Plant owner Michael Indelicato and his vintage guitar business. After that, a listening for a few of the songs that appear in the documentary, covers performed by Journey's Neil Schon, Clarence Clemons, Sammy Hagar, Bob Weir, Jerry Harrison and Ratdog guitarist Mark Karan -- the latter two there to talk about their contributions.
But perhaps the most enlightening part of the evening was a trip to the bathroom, notable for its tall wooden door with an extremely high knob, which also features an image of Frank Zappa that has been written on by many of the famous and less-than-famous names who have come through this commode on their way to creating an album. That alone was worth the price of admission.