Twenty-four years ago, the Loma Prieta earthquake shook the San Francisco Bay Area. It caused the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to collapse. The eastern span was fixed, but a plan to build a new, safer eastern span was put into place – hopefully protecting commuters from an earthquake. Over the years, the bridge closed for long durations, typically on the three-day weekend of Labor Day.
Fast forwarding to yesterday. My girlfriend’s mom invited us to go kayaking in the bay. “Heck, yes”, I believe my response to be. I didn’t think the outing would carry any significance until we were gearing up to go out. Ms. Mae Rose exclaimed, “I can’t wait to hear how quiet it’ll be under the bridge.” I hadn’t forgotten that the Bay Bridge was closed for the final construction efforts to open the new, earthquake resistant easter span, but absence of countless commuters roaring across the western span hadn’t occurred to me.
After paddling out to the bridge, we sat underneath taking in the eerie, yet calming absence of the empty bridge. I wanted to … I needed to capture this experience. This video, recorded from my phone, doesn’t do it justice until you fully understand the industrial hum and noise is coming from the city.
If you’re thinking “big whoop”, understand that the construction of the new eastern span is complete and the likelihood of the bridge closing to traffic for a considerable amount of time is … well, unlikely. Maybe I’ll go back another day to record video for comparison. Until then, use your imagination.
In 2004, my best friends and I journeyed to from Louisiana to California to attend the Coachella Music Festival. Years later it stands out as one of the best concert experiences I’ve ever experienced. One of the highlights was an impromptu performance by Beck Hanson. Thousands of us packed into a tiny tent stage to witness the musical genius orchestrate an entire performance with noting but a hacked Gameboy and a mic. Years later when Beck would release an album in sheet music form only, needless to say I wasn’t surprised by the advant garde surrounding it.
Last night, for the first time, I was able to experience Beck’s vision through the Song Reader issue of PopUp Magazine. PopUp is easily my favorite event to attend in San Francisco and this issue was something special. Beck and a few hand picked musicians performed pieces from the Song Reader sheet music. This mixed with PopUp’s signature editorial content provided a refill of inspiration that I needed badly.
Everyone from Dan the Automater to John C. Reilly contributed to the evening’s musical entertainment. Folks like Susan Orlean provided interviews while others like Dan Handler, of Lemony Snicket fame, provided compelling storytelling. It was a departure from the PopUp I’m used to, so I have to say that I left still wanting something. Don’t get me wrong, the music was amazing but the night was about 90% music and 10% storytelling. And yes, songs are storytelling but I’ve grown used to editorial format of each issue and will have enjoyed the Song Reader issue as a form of lagniappe. That translates to “a little sumthin’ extra” where I’m from.
As with every PopUp issue, it’s one and done. Never recorded, never filmed. It lives on as a memory or a oral history. So in the end, isn’t that at the heart of what makes PopUp special? If not one else is listening, I still ask myself.