Steve at the Pikey

An encounter with a unique young waiter at West Hollywood’s The Pikey

Steve is his name. He is a waiter at The Pikey on Sunset Boulevard. He was sporting a bushy, hermit-like beard when i entered for lunch. It did not diminish his friendly smile.

When I commented on the beard, he said, “I went to Alaska and grew it so that when I was there they wouldn’t think I was from Los Angeles. It completed my goal of visiting all the states of the union, which began with a family trip to Hawaii when I was 11 years old.” If my arithmetic is correct, this makes Steve 27 years old now.

 

In Alaska he met up—via facebook—with an old college chum who dons scuba gear and goes underwater to count salmon.

It’s amazing how much one can learn when one just wants fish ‘n chips.

Steve is a musician—a bass player, both stand-up bass and guitar—and most of the states were visited while performing with his band.

I asked him the following 10 questions.

1. Is Los Angeles what you expected when you decided to move here?
I’d say it’s actually better than what I had expected. I’ve been coming here since I was 6, and a lot more frequently the last couple years. It was a deliberate move, and it’s definitely tough out here, but it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made. It’s been just over a year, and I’m looking forward to the next ones!

2. The state you visited that you most liked…
Tough to say. Every state has the best and worst of it. Crossing into Montana at 5:45 in the morning from Canada was something I’ll never forget. There are mountains, plateaus mesas, and bizarre rock formations that when back-lit by the sunrise makes you feel like you’re on a different planet altogether. That’s just one story—every state has one. If I have to pick, I’ll keep my current situation of California/Pennsylvania as a tie for first. I’ll keep the beach and the weather here, and I’ll take the fall, the mountains and people of Pennsylvania. I can do that, right?

3. The state you visited that you were most disappointed with…
This is a tricky question. Every state has something interesting about it, and plus, I have friends in most of them. While I try to keep my friends, all I can say is that driving through Ohio is particularly cumbersome—as are the Great Plains. Sorry guys, but I know you know this. Three hundred miles of next to nothing is a pretty huge bummer. (I’m looking at you, Oklahoma.)

4. The best concert experience you had as a musician…
April 30, 2010, I played a hockey arena in Finland to over 5,000 people. It was the biggest crowd I’ve ever played to, in the biggest place as well. I turned the amp up so loud it blew up and was sparking behind the speakers.  The energy that was in the air in that place was overwhelming in intensity. It’s like you’re part of something that feels and sounds like a train, and you’re the conductor. That memory will stay with me forever.

5. The worst concert experience you had as a musician…
I’ve played shows to literally no one before. That’s always really disheartening—when you drive 10-12 hours at night to make it to the next city, and either it’s a bad night for weather or the promoter didn’t tell anyone. Whatever the case, it’s rough. But aside from that, I’ll never forget when I played in Sterling, Virginia (just outside D.C.). On one particular occasion, I sent the singer of my band to the hospital to get six staples in his head.  I swung my bass around as hard as I could and didn’t see him standing there. He hit the floor and a pool of blood started growing behind his hair. I thought I had just killed him. He laid there for a minute with his eyes open, and then he tried to get up, but we forced him to stay down while we called an ambulance. On top of all that, I broke the headstock on my bass because of it. Tour injuries happen all the time, so there wasn’t bad blood after it, though we were a lot more careful at the next show.

 

6. Best concert you attended as a member of the audience…
At Silver Mt. Zion in Pittsburgh. I’ve always been a fan of Godspeed You! Black Emperor (their parent band), but when they played, it was cathartic. When they set up onstage, they face each other and not the audience.  They don’t perform for you—you are witnessing a performance. They put together sweeping vocal rounds over the top of a mix of strings and distorted guitar, upright bass, and jazz-influenced drums. The kicker for me was when the main singer pulled out a megaphone and recreated the studio effect live on “Microphones in the Trees.” There’s just so much passion and care to go that extra mile for your art. It’s inspired me ever since.

7. Your favorite song…
This changes all the time, but the song I’ve been listening to most frequently is “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. As an artist, that song still holds so much relevance. It’s a comment on the times—war, oppression and how we’re a part of it. It pushes that analysis of how I interact with the world and helps me center my thoughts and actions. As a bassist, that song has the most musical, groove-oriented bass-line ever. James Jamerson is one of my heroes, and you can hear his influence everywhere. It’s the song I practice most and still listen to anyway.  

8. Your favorite singer and/or group…
My all-time favorite band is The Clash. They’ve always been the ultimate for me. The attitude, the DIY ethic, the interaction with the fans and the ability to incorporate so many different styles of music. If I could be a member in any band, it would be that one. Or even just be to part of the audience at one of their shows. They broke up before I was born, and Joe Strummer died before they did a reunion. I don’t really get star-struck anymore, but I think if I met any of those guys, I’d have to tell them what an impact they’ve had on me. 

9. Do you have a girlfriend at the moment?
What day is it? Tuesday? Not today… In the interest of not sounding like an complete asshole, the real answer is, “No, I don’t.” [Laughs]     

10. Boxers or briefs?
Boxer-briefs.

Steve is a very likeable young man, and he has endless stories from his life. He wants readers to know he is touring and playing around Los Angeles with Justin Ruane and also with Lena and the Stone. Catch him if you can.

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