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Brian Wilson and The Bay

Last week, I went to see Brian Wilson (one of my all time favourite songwriters) of the Beach Boys (one of my all time favourite bands) over in Saratoga, near San Jose, California, of all places. I saw it announced on a friend's Instagram about 3 weeks ago that she was attending one of his final performances of Pet Sounds (one of my all time favourite albums) the 50th Anniversary tour. Out of intrigue, I checked if there were still tickets - and there were. So I bought a ticket..!

After a few days of intense (failed) planning, I was scrolling through Instagram again, and noticed that said friend, who had posted about the concert before, Melanie - actually lived in Oakland, California - the town adjacent to San Francisco, adjacent to San Jose, adjacent to Saratoga...

Then followed a few messages back and forth, we arranged to meet in San Francisco for a day of vintage shopping, geeking about the Beach Boys, and tiki bars. I expressed my problems finding a place to stay in the Bay area that wasn't astronomically priced and/or felt safe to stay by myself, and after a few more messages, she very generously offered me a place to stay whilst I went to the concert. For some reason, we didn't realise we were actually due to attend THE SAME concert on the same night until a few days before, which was even better!

Since I was flying from Orlando, which is about an hour and a half drive away, Cat drove me and we made an afternoon of it by visiting Disney Springs, and had lunch in the Homecomin' (Florida themed) restaurant. The food was incredible, as per usual... don't think I've had a bad dinner yet, but it was certainly tasty. We shared a slice of hummingbird cake, which I'm mainly mentioning as note to remember to download a recipe, because it was life-changingly good.

I flew from Orlando into San Francisco, which was a taxi ride away from Mel's. I was greeted by her and introduced to her husband Blaine, their three fur baby cats, and one hell of a record collection.

Thursday I spent by myself wandering around the city of San Francisco. Although I'd brought cardigans and light jackets I was so cold - I almost forgot what actual seasons are like, since it's still in the mid 30s over in the Sunshine State, despite being the middle of October! I hopped on the underground, then on the overground vintage trams and found myself at the touristy (but must-see) Pier 39.

Hello Alcatraz!

Of course had to see these guys.

The air was smoggy and the sky was orange due to the wildfires over near LA. It was a scary thought knowing that it had blown all that way and yet was still so heavy on your chest.

I also took a ride on the famous cable cars, which were so cool. I also took a stroll through Chinatown, and all along the sea front which of course meant a stop in In-N-Out burger, the fast food place I've been literally dreaming of since I last visited with Imogen in 2014. It was as good as I remember. I also ate 3 mini pickled chilli peppers by mistake, I didn't really realise what they were until I was practically crying in the middle of the cafe on my own, hahaha.

That night, after Mel and Blaine got out of work, we went out for dinner in Oakland. We had some amazing fancy hot dogs, and I sampled lots of strange beers. Over there, everything is customisable, and the Californians certainly seem to have a crazy palate, it's amazing.

Friday was concert day. Unfortunately we didn't manage to get on the same Greyhound bus to San Jose, meaning we were an hour or so out of sync. But after I arrived at around 2:30pm, it was time for them to make their way up to Saratoga. The concert was in Mountain Winery, this amazing venue that is unfortunately miles from anywhere, meaning it was about 40 minutes from the centre of San Jose. They had VIP tickets to actually MEET Brian Wilson at 3pm, and so wanted to get moving. I only had a ticket to the actual show, which didn't start until 7:30.

But, wanting to maybe have a 'be-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time' moment and somehow get into the VIP meet and greet, and at the very least share the costly taxi ride up the mountain, I joined them.

The view at the top of the mountain was incredible, despite the wildfire smoke. Sprawling dusty red hills were dotted with Bond-style mansions, including a circular house that looked like a donut. Apparently the creator built it for his fiancé, instead of an engagement ring?

But, despite being in the right place, it was the wrong time for me, and I was denied entry to the meet and greet which was fine, except I was denied entry to even the winery venue itself, meaning I had to sit on a little garden wall outside for about 2 and a half hours on my own, haha! Although I did have the pleasure of meeting Spud, one of Al Jardine's (original Beach Boy) entourage who passed by the entry gate where I was sat. He said he liked my 'Help Me Rhonda' (Al Jardine's song) top I was wearing. No big deal. I also got to hear all of the soundcheck from outside, which was 'pretty neat'.

Then when I was finally let into the venue, we had some dinner and I bought a tour t-shirt (you can't not) while Mel and Blaine filled me in on what it's like to actually be in Brian's presence!! We took our seats and, strangely, we were only a row apart from each other.

I had a great seat, it was unbelievable! Almost in the centre, only 8 rows from the front, with no-one directly in front of me. The venue was intimate anyway, it was an incredible experience. It was great to be in an arena full of Beach Boy fans, and during breaks and a trip to the loo, it was fun to be able to talk geeky about obscure albums and favourite songs/ eras/ fashions haha.

Unbelievably, Spud coincidentally sat in front of me during the show, and during the playing of 'Help Me Rhonda!' he took my picture, handed me a postcard with Al Jardine's autograph on, and told me I'd made it to Al's Facebook page! Was an amazing moment I'll never forget.

On Saturday, Mel and Blaine took me vintage shopping in Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco. It was a side of SanFran I'd never seen before (none touristy) and was insane! So many amazing shops and restaurants. We had a Thai lunch, and I bought a vintage coat, because I never wanted to be as cold as I had been the night before - ever again. We stopped by Amoeba the Record Store, and I bought my first Beach Boys vinyl album - Wild Honey. Mel invited a lass from her vintage girl gang, Eileen, out with us. She has amazingly accurate 1940s style!

From there we went on to Pagan Idol, this really cool tiki bar in the middle of the city. The interior looked like an upturned boat, with portholes and big fish tanks. It was almost a shame to drink the drinks, they were so pretty! A few more of Mels vintage friends joined us, then, at 7pm, a back door opened leading to another room, with tiki huts, volcano eruptions and giant Tiki idols. It was amazing!

After that, we piled in a taxi and headed on over to Trader Vic's, an original Tiki bar from the 1930s - 'home of the first Mai Tai'. Although this place was a rebuild, it was on the same site, which is pretty cool. They had a live band, and we got up to dance! I bought a lovely little Seahorse tiki mug, it now sits pride of place on my desk.

When we got back to the apartment in Oakland, me and Mel stayed up til 4am (!) listening to records, and watching Beach Boys documentaries. It's not often I get to really geek out about my music taste, so this really was a binge!

The next morning, Sunday, we were all feeling pretty stale and so headed out for a hearty breakfast at an amazing diner called The ButtercuP. They managed to fashion me a sort of full English, which I'd been craving, with about a pint of orange juice!

We took the ferry from Oakland over to San Francisco again for the afternoon. It was a beautiful morning, the smog had finally cleared. We spent the afternoon perusing through the Mission district, buying more records and clothes and smoothies.

I flew back to Orlando on Sunday night and landed Monday morning. Legit feel jetlagged even though there's only 3 hours difference!!

Cat's parents had flown down from Connecticut the night before and her dad fixed the car!!!! We had a barbecue, and as usual I gained a few mosquito bites.

Sohmer left today for a cruise to Cuba and back! Going to miss her a lot, even though she only comes back on Monday, lol!

It was such a great trip, Mel and Blaine were the perfect hosts, extremely generous and I can't thank them enough for letting me stay. We're already talking about future trips, maybe even over to LA?! Until next time!!

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