Ah Los Angeles.
The first time I was in LA was late Summer 1988.
I was the opening act for The Pogues. It was an outdoor theatre called the John Anson Ford I think. An amazing night in an amazing venue.
Then in 1990, my album, RIVERSIDE was mixed in Ocean Way Studio by the legend that is Mark Linnett. That meant a few weeks in an apartment in Hollywood.
One of the strange quirks of age, is that I actually remember the name of the Santa Monica bike store where my bike was rented from: Cyclelogical, it was called, I think.
I remember that detail from 30 years ago, but not where I left my glasses 5 minutes ago!
I have visited LA many times, singing in a lot of places. The Roxy, Variety Arts Theatre, Troubadour, Knitting Factory, McCabes Guitar Store.
The interesting thing about LA for me is that I never felt a desire to go there.
A city with no native water supply, no river, just held no great attraction for me.
A big, sprawling metropolis of over twenty actual cities; I had no urge to go. And yet, every single time I went to LA I met the most wonderful people. I experienced great kindness, had amazing conversations, with really creative and interesting people. Really great gigs. And in the end, I came to love LA. The night in this photo is an example of how I came to love LA. It was probably April or May 1990. We had just released Riverside. For a few years I had been playing mostly in the East coast of America.
It was decided that it was time to do some singing in Southern California, especially as the
(Warner Bros) was based there.
So we had the idea to come to LA and do a string of shows to launch Riverside to an LA audience.
The last of these small shows was to be in an Irish venue in Santa Monica called Molly Malones.
It was going to be fun. I would be joined by the genius that is David Mansfield, a sublime musician who had played mandolin on Riverside.
Here’s how I remember what happened:
We were in the little dressing room behind the stage, and could hear the audience building in the venue. Thirty minutes to go, before show-time. Suddenly the door opened and I was informed that the gig would not happen. Seemingly, the venue had let too many people into the room.
California is REALLY strict on numbers entering gigs, understandably. A venue in Ireland that sells out at 400 people, would be sold out at about 250 in LA, as far as I remember. This was devastating. We had been working so hard, and this was the last night in LA, and suddenly with 30 minutes to go before stage time, the gig was off. For some reason, probably tiredness, I got angry, I went out onto the road in front of the venue.
People were leaving and gathering on the street, a bit confused.
Everyone was pretty relaxed though. There were three squad cars, about eight armed cops.
And a fire truck. No fire, just a truck. I went to one of the cops and asked who was in charge. I was directed to the driver seat of the front car. Walked up and just stood there, looking in at the police officer sitting in the car. He rolled down his window slowly, and asked coldly: ‘Can I help you’? ‘May I speak with you please?’
He opened the car door, stood out on the road in front of me, stared at me and asked:
‘What do you need’? I remember saying something like the following – ‘Look, it is not my fault that the venue allowed too many people into the room. I am a singer from Ireland. I have travelled 6,000 miles to do my job here tonight. And while I appreciate that you are doing your job; doing your job so strictly is denying me the opportunity to do my job, which is to sing for these people. Look around you. Nobody is stoned or drunk. Nobody is causing a problem. Nobody is aggressive; and in fact the only people armed and dangerous are you and your colleagues’. He then asked: ‘How can I help you sir?’ To which I replied: ‘Let me go into the venue, bring out my guitar, sing 2 songs here on the street and tell everyone to disperse immediately. You get your result by closing down the gig; and I get a small reward for good behaviour by getting to give these people two songs, before we leave’.
He thought for a moment, looked at me very seriously and said: ‘two songs’.
I ran into the venue, got the guitar. David joined me. Found a spot by the wall, and just stood there. People came out, and formed a semi-circle around us, creating an instant pop-up amphitheatre. And of course, I sang three songs, just to let the officers know that the song actually has the power……!
It was so gorgeous. Everyone was smiling and happy.
The gig didn’t happen, but there was this lovely moment of theatre that brought us all together.
And then it got better. I sang the third song, and suggested we leave quietly to keep the law happy.
As I was about to go back inside to pack away the guitar, the cop in charge approached me, and said: ‘I need something from you Mr. Bloom’. ‘How can I help you sir’? I asked a little cheekily. ‘I need a photo for the station’. He goes to the car, and opens the boot. He takes out the camera they probably use to photgraph a crime scene, and brings it back to where we were all standing.
Suddenly, there we are, sitting together on a bench, like best friends.
Everyone smiling and having a nice time.
I got my songs. He got his photo. Off we went on our separate ways, sad to lose the gig, but smiling at the grace in that unexpected moment.
Oh wait, there’s more…….
The woman doing PR for Riverside in LA was called Doreen Rosato. I don’t think Doreen was present at this gathering, but the next day she heard about it. She found out the name of the station the police were based in. She got a copy of the photo. She used the photo to tell the story in magazines and newspapers around Southern California. And got more publicity for Riverside than if the gig had happened.
The man beside me getting his cheeks squeezed was the cop in charge. The man in the white t-shirt on the very right of the photo is Tom Prendergast, my co-manager at the time. We had some fun.
Hope I get to sing again in LA some day.