I'm very excited that arty Brazilian electro pop punks Cansei de Ser Sexy are returning to San Francisco in December. I've been trying to see CSS for almost two years now, missing numerous shows on at least two different continents along the way. I even had tickets to see them play the Mezzanine in June last year, and I made it to the venue on the night, but I still didn't get to see them play. Why?
Well, as a relative newcomer to the Bay Area, I've had real difficulty adjusting to how late live music shows seem to start and end here. I lived in London for many years, where most gigs finish by around 11pm, or midnight at the latest. This is because, until relatively recently, most pubs and bars there weren't licensed to stay open past 11pm, and the Tube doesn't run much after midnight (an important fact of life when you live in such a big, sprawling city). There are many things to dislike about the London music scene, but the civilized hours it keeps isn't one of them.
Here, venues seem happy when shows drag on much later, regardless of whether it's a weekend or a school night. I've been trying to adjust, and I didn't even bother turning up to the Mezzanine to see CSS until what I took to be the fashionably late hour of 11pm. As I walked in, I was slightly disappointed to see a different act only just walking onstage. Maybe this was the opener doing a quick encore? Nope, it was the start of their set. Then I realized that this wasn't even the final opener, but the second of three support acts. At a rough estimate I reckoned CSS wouldn't be on stage until at least 1am (allowing an hour per opener is a remarkably accurate rule of thumb in these situations).
As I absorbed this news, the keyboard botherers who had just taken to the stage were doing their avant garde best to let me known exactly how long the next two hours would be. The Mezzanine has a muscular sound system, and it relays music at impressively high volume to pretty much every part of the venue. This is great if you're enjoying the music, but not so much fun when you're an unsuspecting punter trying to flee the sonic assault of an act you didn't come to see.
I really wanted to see CSS. I had been trying to see them for a year. But I realized that I also couldn't take another two hours of aural abuse, expensive beer, and shouting hipsters, so I did something I rarely do at live music shows: I walked out.
To be fair to the venue and promoters, the show was advertised as an "afterparty" for Live105's BFD concert. But I took this to mean that there would be DJs playing music for several hours after the live acts were through, not that the headline band wouldn't appear until the early hours. Plus, judging by other gigs I've been to at the same venue, most shows there tend to run absurdly late, even by San Francisco's insomniac standards.
Now, I'm fully aware that this is going to make me sound like an old codger, but me and my comfy slippers don't care. Just because I like seeing live music doesn't mean I'm some sort of nocturnal party vampire. Is a midnight curfew really too much to ask for?
CSS play Bimbo's 365 on December 12, 2008. Keith hopes that this time they'll take the stage well before his bedtime.
What do you think? Should shows start earlier? Or do you enjoy rocking into the wee hours? You can leave a comment below.