I simply love this photo by Lane Coder because it looks like a storm is rolling in and Northern California hasn’t had rain in a lifetime. I told my friend the other day, “back when it use to rain on Earth, this place was super cool..” We cracked up for a good minute on that one.
Walking from place to place in my everyday life and I’ve seen pretty much everything other than… well, something I wouldn’t even type on this blog. I pass churches full of screaming faithfuls pouring their mind, body, and bank account into their savior. This all-knowing being who wants nothing but people to be happy seems to throw A LOT of gnarly sad shit our way. This photo from Terry Barentsen made me think about that ever loving savior who’s eyes are always watching and judging and stressing and guilting and condemning and damning and suggesting and controlling and fearing and starving and dying and…
My band, Crashing Hotels, shot a music video down in Las Vegas a couple of weeks back and we decided to do a trailer for it because the imagery we captured was so so magic. Our whole outlook is Electro Goth, we wanted to bring this style to life on the screen because it’s something that holds so much truth in our everyday lives. Brian Chu did an amazing job editing this trailer. It truly captures the feeling we all had while swimming through that neon sea of a desert. Stay tuned for the full video in a month or so!
Blackbird is one of San Francisco’s most popular and forward-thinking drinking establishments. The bar has held its own through 5 1/2 years of change in one of the worlds most expensive cities. This place didn’t just come from nowhere. Shawn Vergara was basically born and raised in the service industry. Having a father who was a chef, Shawn grew up in a world littered with busboys, bartenders, and cooks. Raised on a foundation of hard work and good values, Shawn built a reputation for having an undeniable work ethic which has proven, still to this day to be the key to his continued adaptation and success. He went from losing 200 thousand dollars to a business partner turned drug addict, to having one of the most unique bars in San Francisco’s behemoth cocktail scene. I sat down with Shawn the other week at his new establishment, Brewcade. We got to talking and this is how it went.
Photos by Terry Barentsen
Lackluster Life: Nice and easy. What’s your name and what do you do?
LLL: How’d the idea for Brewcade come about?
SV: Well the concept has been popping up all around the United States and I also had some extensive conversations with my nephew who lived in Colorado Springs, where a couple of Barcades had opened up and how well received they were. I visited a Barcade in Brooklyn…
LLL: Is Barcade a chain?
SV: Yeah, there’s 5 of them now and after visiting a couple of these arcade bars I thought that it’d be great to be the first person to open something like that in San Francisco because I thought they were a new, fun, and different concept for a bar scene that has been hungry for something, new and different.
LLL: Yeah, for sure. The thing you nailed with Brewcade is that it doesn’t look like all the rest of the bars in San Francisco. You know, how they all look like the inside of a log cabin in Colorado and bartenders in caps and suspenders. I think it’s cool that you went with green as your focal color, it works so so well. What was the idea behind that?
SV: Yeah the green is kind of a play off of the opening credits of the Matrix. That’s the green we were going for.
LLL: Ah yeah, that that analog digital weirdness…
LLL: Speaking with a couple of people here during the opening night party, it sounded like there were a lot of laws you guys had to get overturned in order to have this place come to life. What’s the scoop on that?
SV: There were a lot of old antiquated laws on the books in this city. One was from the 1930’s that dealt with gambling in bars with machines. Another law was from the 1980’s when arcades were in play in the city, but people thought that they contributed to the delinquency of minors because they though they made kids ditch school. And then with that, drug dealing started to be associated with arcades so…
LLL: Ah, so people started seeing them as “loser” hang outs?
SV: I guess… I mean, you know… a place where young kids hang out and be young kids. It’s unfortunate how communities can be overeactive but I do understand adults are just trying to look out for their children. I don’t think arcades are going to be a detriment to kids… I think good parenting is what it comes down to. People don’t grow by taking things away from them… they need to get life experience in order to evolve and become who they are.
LLL: Speaking of kids. You ever think you’re gonna have kids?
SV: Uhh, if the right partner came along. I feel like I already have two kids with having two bars. The crew that I work with kinda become your extended family but I don’t wanna call them my children because I don’t think they would like to be referred to as my children, haha but, it’s like a big extended family. Having two bars is like having two kids that you have to constantly look after.
LLL: It’s wild that you go outside of places like San Francisco and you get a lot of different perspectives on same sex marriages raising children. Do you think there are advantages and/or disadvantages to same sex couples raising kids?
SV: I do think that obviously good parenting is good parenting. Set good values, teach your kid not to hate and to have an open mind. I do think that children should be exposed to as much diversity as possible because that’s what’s going to set them up to be a more loving, more accepting, well rounded individual. When you’re raised in one environment and that’s all you know you could potentially have a hard time adapting to other communities or lifestyles. I do see advantages in the parenting of a man and a woman because if your a girl, you can see how a man works and if your a boy, you understand how a woman works. But that’s not to say that a same sex couple couldn’t instill amazing values in a child.
LLL: I’ve always wondered with you, being a gay man that doesn’t come off as being “gay”. In the gay world, it sometimes seems that it’s a badge of honor to “talk gay” because it’s showing that you’re proud and open about being gay. Have you ever had any problems in the gay community because you don’t wear it on your shoulder?
SV: When I was younger I was more easily identified by my peers because I hadn’t become a man and I have to say I was more in touch with my feminine side when I was a child. I played with the girls, I jumped rope with the girls, I played house with the girls… you know, I did what the girls wanted to do. I didn’t play football, I didn’t play baseball, I sucked at it and it just didn’t interest me. That caused a lot of problems for me as a child. I was picked on, but that was just one part of my experience in life.
LLL: How did that change for you when you were a 21 year old man living now in, San Francisco?
SV: Eventually I had to reinvent myself. I wasn’t confined to the confines that I was in school. People weren’t like, “well he’s a nerd so we’re going to treat him like a nerd.” Or he’s a faggot or whatever else names they would call me, I was able to be Shawn. I was actually able to be the person that my family saw me as and I was able to begin to see myself as who I was at the time, which is, you know… just a young guy trying to figure it out.
LLL: What are your failed dreams? What did you wish for that never came true in your life?
SV: Haha! I mean…this is going to sound really cheesy. I use to love to sing when I was younger. I didn’t have a singing voice, but I use to fantasize about being able to sing. I never tried to do it because I just knew I didn’t have the voice for it but yeah… that’s between you and me haha.
LLL: Haha! You wanted to be a pop star? That’s pretty gay.
LLL: What were the nightmares you had to go through in the beginning in order to be where you are today?
SV: The person I worked for and later went into business with became a drug addict… um… and I was doing a lot of drugs…
LLL: Was that because of the service industry culture?
SV: Definitely, definitely! And I’ll be honest, I loved it! I loved going out with the crew until 4 or 5 in the morning. Those were the craziest times of my life. I’m glad I got that out of my system though because I rather have done it back then, rather than to do that now.
Shawn was the manager/co-owner of a bar called “The Transfer” that went belly up 7-8 years ago that forced him into a world that allowed us to meet.
LLL: What happened with “The Transfer”, did you lose money on that?
SV: About a 150 thousand.
SV: It’s actually about 200 thousand dollars because I borrowed money and I had to still pay that back. So I had to find other means to make that money back.
LLL: What were those other means?
SV: Haha, Uh… I got into “landscaping”…
LLL: Haa! I think I met you through “landscaping” huh? Haha Hunters Point landscaping… We got a lot of good work done out there.
SV: Haha yes we did! And a year later, Doug [Murphy] approached me.
LLL: Who’s Doug?
SV: He was a very crass, matter of fact kind of guy. That’s what was really amazing about Doug. People loved him or hated him. There was no middle ground: he either loved you or hated you and he made it very clear. You knew what you were getting from Doug and I think there’s a lot to be said about that and I try to [do the same], but with a lighter touch.
LLL: What happened in the first couple of weeks that Blackbird was open?
SV: A week after we opened the bar, a couple of close friends wanted to take [Doug and me] out for our birthdays, which are on the same month, day, and year. Doug said he wasn’t feeling well. The next day he gave me this piece of artwork that we had bought together. He said he was going to go home to Palm Springs for awhile to rest and try to get better… and I never saw him again after that. He left the day after our birthdays and died three weeks later.
SV: I never even got to see him in the hospital… I didn’t get to go to his funeral which has always been a bummer… it’s one of my goals to get out to the cemetery where he was laid to rest and do a shot of Jegar and drink a Bud Light.
LLL: How did that effect your energy? I mean you just lost 200 thousand dollars, you open this bar with a dude that has his shit together big time and 3 weeks later, he up and dies out of nowhere. Did that make you feel like the Universe just didn’t want you to be in the bar game?
SV: The whole experience of having a friend of 20 years screw me over, that loss and betrayal was none that I have ever experienced ever before. Then having Doug die 3 weeks after we open this bar that was instantly balls to the walls… it was the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. I’ll never forget the opportunity Doug gave to me and I want to always honor that by doing a good job and paying it forward.
LLL: Well man you’re definitely doing a good job because Blackbird is one of the most well received bars in San Francisco and is still running hot to this day… Then 5 years later, you open Brewcade which has to be, from the employee and customer side, one of the easiest bars in the world to deal with.
SV: Definitely, we’ve taken what we learned from Blackbird and opened a concept that not only was different but much easier to operate.
LLL: What was your biggest fear as a chid?
SV: You know… my parents were divorced and I was shuffled back n forth between both houses. I always felt like I was trying to get love from them in their chaos and fighting and I think it’s… [not having] Love. Not having a calm love.
LLL: You think you’ll ever find that true calm love?
Shawn began to blush a little as I watched a puddle of tears congregate in his eyes.
SV: Um… Sorry… caught me off guard… I feel like I’ve met someone who has kinda had a similar experience and I feel like that has helped us connect. Not having that stable family love not only brought us together but It brings up a deeper understanding of why that stable type of love is important to us.
SV: That’s a crazy question.
I haven’t posted on here for a second because I’ve been busy in the non internet world. I don’t consider myself to be anything other than a person with an aggressive imagination. I play music because I like how sounds make me picture situations in my head. With that in mind, it’s only natural that the live aspect to the music I make would be something like a daydream. This is a picture of a test run of the stage design I thought up after watching the movie, ‘Beyond the Black Rainbow’. I felt so much from that movie that was aligned with already existing feelings that I found it only civilized to bring it to life in my world.
I love this picture by Lane Coder right now because it gives me the sense of things fitting together. Sometimes our worlds can seem completely on their head, but those select times, when everything is clicking and being yourself seems to only feed the starving beast… those are the times I love.
The Werehaus banged out this sick video on Travis Jensen’s perspective on photography. They used some music from my band, Crashing Hotels. The reason this random interaction between Travis and me is so intriguing, is because it’s a perfect example of an interesting interconnectivity we all share that I’m attempting to bring to light through this outlet you know of as, Lackluster Life . Ok so, the story goes as follows: In the video, Travis and his friends takes you on a mini tour of San Francisco. In some of the shots I notice a house I’ve been by before. At the release party of the video, I met Travis and his friends… as I shook one of his friends hands we both were like, “hmm… how do I know you?” It turned out that at his house one time, one of his friends pulled a hunting knife on my friend and me after I told him to fuck off for saying some racist nonsense to us. I had to side step this dude as he tried to stick me…cops came but they dropped the ball per usual. Life is so strange, isn’t it?
Made this video and song the other day. Hope I get to show the all mighty Ms. Kate Bush where I went with her timeless piece, Running up That Hill. The original is below, def check it out.
It’s a super nice day out here in the city so I figured I’d put up a nice day type of song from our friend Diane Coffee
So I basically wanted to put this up today because this dude is killing the automobile game 100%. This would be the exact car I’d have if I didn’t live in such a bike friendly part of the world. The T top is too classic and not going for some lame ass 21″ rims was a gentleman’s choice. Stoked Terry Barentsen was there to capture the moment for us.
Stoked to be playing the famous Noise Pop festival in San Francisco Friday, February 27th at the Independent alongside the Cathedrals, Tropics and DJ Turf Yard. It’s perfect timing that the taste making blog, The Bay Bridged, marked Crashing Hotels as one of the best submitted bands of 2014! The show is shaping up to be a magical situation so I hope some of you get to catch it out!
Last night my home boy Johnny from the hot hot band, Cathedrals, hit me up for a jam session. We linked up and instantly showed each other some new fun sounds we’ve been working on. The night wasn’t as cold as it’s been so we both figured since it was a Thursday… we should prolly get some beers. We jammed for a couple of hours and ended up walking home singing and belting like two drunken sailors. Anyway… shit was fun and I wanted yall to check out their video.