It was a rainy Monday night in San Diego on March 28th — the kind that scares SoCalians into little balls on the couch with sweatpants and Thai food. Yet, before this epic storm, I had heard that one half of the majestic comedic rock band, Tenacious D, was to be performing in my town and, by God, I had to be there. Kyle Gass — that 50% of Tenacious D I just mentioned — was bringing his side project, Trainwreck, to a hole-in-the-wall venue in North Park known as Soda Bar. I used to know the joint well, back before North Park got all gentrified and pretty.
Luckily, Soda Bar had stayed the same — welcome to all walks of the strange life.
Driving in a downpour on the San Diego freeways… now, that’s always a gamble for your life. I decided that, if there was ever a band to skid around in sloshy pools of freeway water for, it was the D. Or, one half of the D. Just the tip of the D.
I arrived at doors, not knowing the set times, and realized I had some time to kill before the first set. I noticed fun merch on the walls, but even more intriguing was a stack of graphic novels on the counter. I started chatting up the guy at the table to find out that the opening band, Digital Lizards of Doom, bases their music (and live set) around the graphic novels they create. I was gifted Level Two: Commander E.K.O. by the writer (thanks Gabe!!) and promptly sat down to read it. My friends were running late, so I got a good third of the way through the book, laughing frequently and obnoxiously at all the witty puns from page to page. Digital Lizards, you have me hooked!
Once the band took the stage, it was clear that Digital Lizards of Doom have a look and a style, on top of their fictional narrative. All three men wore neck bandanas and stayed relatively collected, even during a lively jam. The drummer — banging on a single drum — resembled a cowboy of the old west, while lead singer Gabe shined with neon pink sunglasses (albeit playing to an incredibly dark barroom). These boys take you to a whole different realm, one of zombies, aliens and, well, pineapples. A lot of pineapples.
In between sets, I kept looking anxiously at the Rise of The Fenix Tenacious D vinyl I brought in hopes to get it signed by the riveting and regal Kyle Gass — king amongst comedic men. When I mentioned that we could potentially bum-rush Gass outside in the rainy alleyway, my friend jumped at the chance. Off we went to aggressively fangirl the man. Zero shame. Right at the moment we turned the building corner, Kyle Gass emerged with fellow band members out of the green room with umbrella in hand. The show was starting!
Kyle cordially shook our hands and said we can get that autograph after the show (he made good on that promise, too!!).
Running back inside to shoot the show, it was clear from the get-go that this was no ordinary concert. Trainwreck members all have fictitious names: Kyle Gass is henceforth known as Klip Calhoun, alongside Darryl Lee Donald on main Vox, J.B. Shredman on lead guitar, Boy Johnny on bass and newcomer Rimsey on drums. The band didn’t hesitate to rock our socks off, launching into their own theme song for the amassed crowd — train whistle and all! I personally loved the satiating number they do about a “B.L.T.” sandwich, not to mention the flute that Calhoun (Gass) pulls out midway through the set. From originals to a medley of covers (when they segued into “Flashdance”, I nearly lost it), Trainwreck has you transfixed. Plus, transporting us back to the era of early Americana can never be a bad time. There was lots of hanky panky, hootin’ and hollerin’ that night, let me tell ya. By the end of the show, Gass, along with the rest of his younger crew, went back to the merch booth for crowd selfies and signatures. I couldn’t have asked for a better stormy night in San Diego. Thanks again, Trainwreck, and to all who don’t know, this is one train you don’t want to miss if it chugs through a town near you.
Photography by Kristy Rose