Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First Some Firsts, But First...

This past weekend was a weekend of firsts for The Bay Area Wilbankses.  The first first came on Friday night when Traci and I went with Josh and Emily to one of their (and now our) favorite restaurants, The Banana Leaf in Milpitas, a city near Fremont.

It is a Malaysian restaurant and Traci and I had never eaten Malaysian food - FIRST!  It was fantastic.  The restaurant's one downfall is its own popularity - that and the lack of a proper waiting area.  It was (and apparently always is) super busy so we were among probably 20 other people waiting for a table.  The restaurant is on the small side and so we were all waiting in a very small area near the front door.  The good news (since it was cold and rainy that night) is that they have big overhead door heaters to keep the cold out, so we were able to stay warm while we waited.  Those heaters made me wonder if we were standing in a kitchen area because they were big radiant hot lamps like you use to keep food warm.  I was assured that they were there only for heating people, not food, and not soylent green which I guess would be a combination of the two.  Speaking of food, it was absolutely delicious.  Malaysian food is similar to Thai food.  They have some of the same soups and they serve curries that are reminiscent of Thai, and they also make a mean iced coffee (and presumably tea).  The service at The Banana Leaf was amazing.  Our waiter was happy to accommodate special requests, brought everything quickly, and was friendly enough.  The food was the best Thai I've had since moving to California and we will definitely be going back to sample more dishes.

We finished up our meal leaving just enough time for us to make it to the movie theater which was our final destination that night.  We went to the Mercado AMC 20 in Santa Clara (another city near Fremont) to see Rango, the animated movie starring Johnny Depp as a lizard.  It was our first movie-going experience since moving to California - FIRST!  Movie theaters - especially AMCs, are about the same everywhere apparently.  Nothing too different or odd about the setup.  We got into our seats just in time for the previews to start.  I think we all enjoyed the movie immensely and all agreed that although it's animated, it's not really a kid's movie.  It was often surreal and had some crazy adult references that kids would not have gotten, but they definitely made us smile.  Amazing animation, and a great, quirky story with a message.  I recommend it to all my adult friends who like animated films.

Saturday we went to a local Bank of America branch to get our shiny new California bank account all setup - FIRST!  We did some shopping and Traci got a new raincoat and we both got some silk long underwear - FIRST!  We also had our first meal at Five Guys in CA - FIRST!

Saturday night we had VIP tickets to see KRS-One in San Francisco at a little club called the Red Devil Lounge.  As you might have already surmised, this was our first concert-going experience in San Francisco - FIRST!  We started by driving around the area where the lounge is, trying to find street parking.  The nearest garage was going to charge approximately $40 for our evening of fun.  Luckily, Traci has a great eye for that sort of thing and pulled a mad dog Uie into a nice spot about a block from the venue.  It was cold, windy, and rainy so we were glad to be decked out (or in as the case may be) in our silk thermals, and Traci was very happy with her new raincoat.  The umbrella we were sharing provided minimal water-proofing for us thanks to the wind buffeting it around.  In fact, I accidentally clobbered Traci on her head with the metal part of the umbrella - FIRST!

We got to the club at a little after 9 which is when doors opened.  The venue's website suggested that opening bands normally start about 30 minutes after doors so we figured we'd be sitting for only a few minutes before things got started.  We went to the front of the line and were escorted to our reserved table upstairs in the balcony.  When we got there, someone was already in our seat (FIRST!).  They pretended that they were supposed to be there and the bouncer asked us to wait while he figured it out.  They were summarily kicked out of our seats and we sat down to enjoy a cocktail.  The opening band didn't start until after 10.  It was a local San Francisco rapper named Richie Cunning along with his DJ, "DJ Bad DJ".  Richie Cunning is the first local rapper I've seen live anywhere - FIRST!  He was super dope.  I loved his set, his lyrical style was very clean and clear and easy to understand, plus he really got the crowd moving.  I also liked all the local references in his raps (BART, Clipper Card, the Giants, etc.).  I was hooked by the time his set ended, and extremely happy we showed up in time to see the opener, which we don't always do so as to minimize our standing around time.  At the end of the evening, I saw him heading outside and stopped to tell him what a great set he had and ask where I could get his CD.  He said he'd be right back and thanked me for my praise.  While I stood in line for the bathroom inside, Traci stood outside (we had gotten very hot in the club which is self-described on their site as "hot and sweaty") and ended up chatting with Richie.  He was really nice and down to earth, especially for a rapper and Traci texted me to tell me that he was out there with CDs (I must have missed him coming back while focusing on my incredibly full bladder).  I met up with them outside and bought both his commercial CD and his mix tape (which included a lot of the tracks from his set).

Richie Cunning
KRS-One took the stage just before midnight and after a couple of songs introduced his DJ as his son.  A family affair and another FIRST!  Krs's set was good but I felt the sound was a little muddy.  They definitely upped the volume for his set, which is the norm for headlining acts vs. opening acts I think.  He played some classics and then did some pretty crazy stuff like rapping over Pachelbel's Canon and another classical piece.  The balcony seemed to be open to anyone who wanted to climb the stairs so despite having a table, we had some people in front of us.  The club is so small though, that merely standing up provided a great view of the stage for us and it was really nice to have a dedicated seat when needed.  The  male of the couple who stood right in front of my seat in the balcony was a SUPER FAN.  He had obviously been to see KRS many times before and knew all the words to the songs and was super excited to be there.  His girlfriend and I traded a knowing "oh boy he's a little out of control" glance at one point.  He was jumping around like a madman (as were some other people) and I started pondering exactly what might happen if the whole balcony fell into the crowd below because it was shaking something fierce.  I figured we'd make it out alive and decided to not worry.  At what turned out to be the end of the show, Krs jumped into the crowd and apparently that was the signal that the show was over, a fact that we recognized because super fan and his crew took off at that point.  Krs's son continued to spin for a while after but it seems like hip-hop acts don't really do encores.

In addition to being a rapper, KRS-One is a political activist, conspiracy theorist, and general whack job - in a lovable sort of way. I've posted two videos below, one of which shows him in that role and the other is a clip of the Pachelbel's Canon rap he did.  They're both kinda muddy sounding, but it gives you a good idea of just how small the club is and just how close we were.  Feel free to drop out of them at any time, I know I did.  This marks the first time I've ever posted rap videos taken by me, to a blog while living in California.  DRINK IT UP!  FIRST!