Bending and swaying, being tossed and hurtled about by the grace of Newton’s Laws, the Silver Cities party bus to the Viper Room hit Hollywood with all the force of a patented Inland Empire 70-MPH gust of wind.
The charter expedition—essentially a boozefest on wheels—was the brainchild of the Riverside-based band Silver Cities, after scoring a Monday night gig at an Indie 103 showcase event. As bassist Gary Allen described it, The Viper Room was certain Silver Cities couldn’t deliver more than a handful of backwoods locals, but no diehard IE scenester can pass up a chauffeured ride to Tinseltown, even on a work night. So, for 20 dollars a pop, the party was on wheels.
The launch pad for the night was Worthington’s, the venerable downtown Riverside watering hole, and quicker than singer/guitarist Michael Silversmith could spill an entire ice chest on the floor, dozens of Silver Cities faithful boarded, most not even bothering to find a seat, instead heading straight for the bar which was fully stocked with quarts of Jack Daniels, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Bud Light, and plenty of mixer.
The whooping and shouting began immediately, even as some patrons lamented the inevitable 6am wake-up call.
“I’m a school teacher,” said one man in a Run DMC “King of Rock” t-shirt, who refused to be identified. “In fact,” he continued, “we’re all teachers!” This elicited a few groans that soon enough disappeared under the din of Otis Redding and a smoking jukebox of hits for the long ride.
It was at this point the bus became the stateroom scene from the Marx Bros. “Night at the Opera,” revelers squeezing, groping and lurching their way down the thin aisle amidst shouts of “Get that man some rum!” and drummer Daniel Zimmerman crooning along with the Kinks “House in the Country” at the top of his lungs while guaranteeing he would kick in the drum set at the end of the night.
“Oh, it’s going down!” Zimmerman promised.
Once the bus hit the streets of Hollywood everyone standing was getting battered about like a wind swept Semi chugging through the Cajon Pass, all aboard oblivious to the imminent arrival at the Viper Room, still trying to mix that last vodka cranberry.
In fact, after the hour-plus ride from Riverside it was apparent that no one was remotely prepared to actually leave the bus. The arrival hit the party crowd almost by surprise. For some, it seemed, driving in circles the rest of the night would have been perfectly acceptable.
Upon disembarking the inebriated guests straggled out tentatively, some clutching extra cans of PBR to sneak into the club. The charter bus blocked traffic in all directions for what seemed like an eternity, which sent the Viper Room doorman into conniption fits. “You’ve got to move that bus! Move it now!”
Oddly, Silver Cities showed little concern for the staff, languidly removing their equipment from the bus bay and completely disengaged from the ongoing dramas being played out all around them. True rock-star tood.
Strange as it might sound, the Inland Empire was in the house!
And as with all IE-depravity, strange scenes. “Look here,” said the slightly tipsy man to the cocktail server, hiding the can of Pabst Blue Ribbon he had smuggled in, “this is who I am!” He was waving his ID. She hadn’t asked to see it. Yet, it was evidentally important for her to know who he was and where he was from—where everyone was from—all these kids who packed up in a party bus and drove all the way out from Riverside to twist-n-shout for their favorite band, Silver Cities, for their Monday Indie 103 showcase concert. The nine-five-one, yo.
The server took the order politely, trying hard not to roll her eyes.
After dusting over two quarts of booze and at least one case of beer on the ride over, the 50-strong contigent and all that drunk energy dissipated inside the cavernous Viper Room. Just like that they were just another group of loud drunks on foreign turf. The nine-five-one lost its head of steam. Worse, they’d have to wait at least another hour for Silver Cities to take the stage. Preceding them was something called Eskimohunter, a hip LA band that dressed all in white who played a ponderous set of dreary recycled power chords and an iMac (white book, natch). The Eskimohunter crowd typically (and dutifully) hit the exits immediately after the performance, leaving the periah cast from Riverside to watch its own. And people wonder why LA is just a more glamourous nowhere.
Even still, the party bus came to the rescue. With the mass exodus, the interloping carousers suddenly had plenty of swing room and, at approximately 12:15am, the curtain rose! Then, without further ado . . . out came . . . The Knack, nattily attired in suits and ties. Or so it seemed, but was really Silver Cities attempting to wake those buzzes back up with some punchy rock & roll.
“Hey, didn’t we just see you all on the bus?” said singer Michael Silversmith, as he tossed out t-shirts and handmade CDs into the audience. It’s hard to say how effective it was. A girl with ridiculously-sized boobs—the only holdover from Eskimohunter who’d been stalking the keyboard player—danced for about half the set, but then abruptly left. Not a good sign.
Then, when drummer Dan Zimmerman dedicated a song—“this tune is for the couples”—one overly-tanked merrymaker, as if on cue, hit the floor hard, taking others with him. It was bad there for a minute. By the time the show was over, you’d have thought that everyone’d turn into eucalyptus trees. Wrong. Perhaps Silver Cities single greatest triumph was in their ability to convert their fifty strong into true late-nite clubbers, and most danced until closing to every disco hit the DJ spun, even as others passed out in exhaustion.
It was an impressive sight.
On the way home, the bus was split between those rallying around a freshly opened quart of Jack Daniels and those who just wanted sleep. Around 2:30am, near Montebello, the bus suddenly pulled over the side of the road. Someone had become stuck in the bathroom. The busdriver was forced into going back with a pen knife and jimmy the door open. This caused momentary confusion among the zombies.
“Hey, this isn’t Worthingtons!” yelled one particularly fucked-up rider. No, it’d be an hour later before the bus alit in downtown Riverside. The band laughed a hearty laugh, the laugh of champions. They took on the Viper Room and won, against all odds. Then it was back to something a little more akin to IE familiarity—a looming hangover just over the dawn.