I don't often miss California or Berkeley, but last week saw a very special event that I wish I'd been there for. Pinhead Gunpowder, the long-lived but very occasional band featuring peripatetic wordsmith Aaron Cometbus and Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong played a series of secret and not-so-secret shows capped off by a triumphant return to their spiritual home at Gilman Street.
Actually, I could have been there, but having just been in California for what seemed like a very long week at Christmastime and also having foreseen (fortunately I was wrong) a dire outcome for the Gilman show, I elected to stay put in New York. I had feared that too many people knew about the Gilman show and that the club's capacity and infrastructure would be completely overrun by hysterical Green Day fans, but such was not the case; while there were long lines to get in, everybody eventually did get in, and the total crowd was not even as large as some I've seen for memorable gigs in the past like the last Operation Ivy show or the Green Day-Neurosis-MTX-Samiam record release party.
Oh well; everyone I know who was there says it was simply amazing and wonderful, etc., etc., but then they always say that about any event I miss out on. Apparently the band members were similarly stoked, and I've been hoping that this warm afterglow might result in them agreeing to play the Fest this summer in Baltimore, but so far Aaron is steadfastly dragging his feet on that one. Well, actually, he's doing more than dragging his feet; he's saying just plain NO, and has done so a number of times. I'm actually even starting to believe him. Which is probably wise, since in the 22 years I've known him, I should have learned by now that butting heads with A Cometbus over anything is unlikely to produce anything other than a sore head. Still, a guy can hope, and I may ask him just one more time on the grounds that the Fest is today's closest equivalent to the glory years of Gilman Street, underlined by the totally unexpected appearance this year - their first time on stage together in about 16 or more years - of Gilman's original pop punk heroes, Sweet Baby (for whom, as you old-timers will know, Aaron once drummed).
Anyway, don't buy a Fest ticket hoping to see Pinhead Gunpowder, because you almost certainly won't, but even without them, you'd be nuts to pass up a trip to Baltimore this June. And bear in mind that tickets usually sell out almost literally before they go on sale, so keep your eyes peeled. You might get a heads-up by reading this blog, but don't count on it.