This year we knew where to where to park and how to deal with the whole enchalada, so we took a picnic of sorts, pumped up the car radio, relaxed and let the show come to us.
The accolades I heaped on KABOOM last year still apply, so in case you missed it, here’s last year’s journal.
KFOGs 12th Annual Music & Fireworks Show
And a beautiful day it was. One of those perfect San Francisco days when the sky is blue and clear, the sun is soft and warm on your skin and there is just that hint of cooling breeze that makes a loose overshirt feel just right. (Of course, if one has the right body, a tight tee shirt works too. We saw a few of those.)
Sarah came over a little before six and we walked up Polk Street to Nick’s Crispy Tacos for an early dinner. Standing in line to order, I had a chance to scan the menu and select a black bean and corn taco salad with grilled fish. It came on a salad plate piled high with black beans, guacamole and tomato salsa, all topped with thin strips of deep fried corn tortilla. Yum yum. Washed it down with a bottle of Dos Eques. Carol and Sarah each had the usual Carnitas Taco and Marguerita. All for under twenty bucks for C and me! That’s one of the appeals of Nick’s, a taco joint tucked into one side of Harry Denton’s Rouge Supper Club when it’s idle during the day. The other appeal is that the food is real good. Y” got yer tacos, and y” got yer tacos “Nick’s way” which is yer basic taco with extra guacamole, slipped into a crispy, deep fried tortilla.
The place was comfortably crowded, with folks taking a food break after enjoying the sunny Saturday afternoonâ€”including young families from the neighborhoodâ€”at least three strollers were sighted.
KABOOM, on Piers 30 and 32, hard beside the Bay Bridge, draws well over 100,000 people. Just to the south at Pac Bell Park, the Giants and A’s are going at it in the Bay Bridge Series, that’s another forty grand. Public transportation is encouraged, but from here, it”ll take two or three transfers.
I have a plan. Sarah has her car with no place to park on Russian Hill, so we drive to the Ferry Building where the meters turn off at 7, park there and walk the 10 or 15 minutes to KABOOM. “Sounds like a plan,” said Sarah.
But of course there are no spaces on the Embarcadero anywhere, what was I thinking?
“Turn right on Mission, no, Howard, there’s a 7 story parking garage there.” A sign said $20 FLAT RATE. “The robbing opportunists,” said Sarah.
“No, think of it this way,” I said, “The cost of the free concert and fireworks just went up to $10 apiece. A bargain!”
“Go to the sixth floor” said the attendant. Sarah started spiraling up through the garage. This was Sarah’s treat, showing off her Jetta’s quickness and cornering ability in the traffic free garage. There was plenty of room on the sixth floor. We parked and I walked over to the edge to sample the view. “Hey, we”re just at the place by Cupid’s Span where we watched the fireworks last year. We could watch from here, high above!” I said. Another plan hatched. “But we”ve got plenty of time, let’s first go down and mingle with the masses.”
The Embarcadero was teeming comfortably with people in a festive mood, enjoying the spectacular evening in anticipation of the fireworks to come.
The gentle slopes around Cupid’s Span were littered with couples, singles and families on blankets and in folding chairs. There are still plenty of places to sit on the sculptural walls along this part of the Embarcadero. We kept walking , it’s only 7, two hours before dark-enough-to-see-fireworks.
We”re on the walk by the water. Across Cupid’s Span Park hundreds of motorcycles extend along the length of the park, parked on the Embarcadero.
We keep walking, strolling is more like it, we”re not in a hurry, and there are all these things and people and activity to observe. We pass under the Bay Bridge and soon reach the entrance to KABOOM. Might as well go in and check it out.
Piers 30 and 32 are one giant rectangle of concrete where buildings once stood to warehouse and process goods coming from around the world by sea. In the center, a large area is depressed by about six feet forming a “room,” about 100 by 200 feet with the stage at one end, facing the water. Groups have claimed spots on blankets, in camp chairs all over the floor of this “room” and along the edge walls. There is no space left by now, as these people arrived shortly after the gates opened at 4:30. All manner of food and drink stands line the edges of that area on the main level, each fronted by lines of various lengths. The line at the Stella Artois beer stand is pretty short, so I get me one of those. Ummm, nice and cold and wet, and only six bucks.
Booths also line the edges of the piers. Everything from E-Loan to MetLife to Toyota to Volvo, proud KFOG sponsors. People are walking and sitting and moving everywhere, we”re easing our way around to observe the sceneâ€”here’s a 40ish blonde in a tight black tee shirt with SEX KITTEN emblazoned in sparkly letters across her very good breasts, her companion, tall and graying at the temples proudly acknowledging the furtive glances of passers byâ€”we move along, gently toward the exit and there’s a guy drinking through a straw from a whole pineapple, replete with umbrella. The Wallflowers band is playing by now and a soft orange, almost full moon is rising. Golden twilight shows the city off, while inside lights twinkle from the buildings. What a great place to be!
Back on the Embarcadero, we find a wall near the slope rising to Cupid’s Span to sit for a spell. Walkers are heading in both directions now, as the ball game is overâ€”Giants win 3 to 2â€”and Pac Bell Park adds its contents to the swirling masses.
I have my Walkman tuned to KFOG and the guy beside us has a combo cooler/boom box going full blast. When Dave Morey said to Annalisa that the fireworks will begin in about 20 minutes, I suggest that we go look at the motorcycles on our way back to the parking garage.
These machines are not basic transportation, like you would find at the motorcycle parking zones in the city, these babies are here for show. About two thirds Harleys, the colors range from basic black to gaudy, replete sparkling chrome and perfect paint jobs. There’s a really nice aqua and cream bike, but my favorite is a pewter Harley Softail Fat Boy with solid steel wheels; so simple and so elegant, the cool-gray leather seat fitted to the body like the saddle on a sleek race horse.
We take the elevator to 7, top floor of our garage, walk up the ramp to the edge overlooking the bay and take a spot at the four foot high concrete wall under a wood pergola. We have a fantastic view of the crowds below, the bay bridge, and ferries and party boats, all lit up, drifting lazily toward the end of the piers. We”re standing in front of a parked white Lexus. The next car, a black Jetta, has parked back from the wall to leave room for a tailgating party. What a great idea! Next year.
The fireworks at KABOOM are like no other fireworks. For one thing, they”re performed to music broadcast by KFOG. They”re cutting-edge; there are always “4 or 5 new shells.” They are displayed in two layers: a lower layer of sprays, dancing bubbles, pinpoint sparkles of light, and the high sky of exploding and showering light. From our vantage, eight stories up, the Bay Bridge slashes perfectly between those layers with its tracery of steel and horizontal movement of lights.
I can”t recite the music and fireworks, but Annie Lennox sang Why to softly silvery willowy misty sprays with spewing orangish light streams below; Ray Charles” Georgia on My Mind was set to soft peachy fluffy hanging light puffs, Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams (I walk alone,) was all green, acid green lashes of light, dancing shamrock green balls below, willow green sprays above. There were displays of pairs of dice, exploding lights of green orange yellow red and blue. Lights hung in the air; lights danced and played, streaked and billowed. I thought of the 4th of July fireworks with the Boston Pops on the Esplanade. Those fireworks were majestic, patriotic, hearthrilling and heartwarming. These make you clap and jump up and down and sing and laugh.
Specfuckingtacular! No other way to describe it.
Watching from the top of the parking garage has another advantage; we walked to the car and drove right out while people were standing in line at the elevator. Genius.
We”re driving away on Howard and all the streets south of Howard are blocked off. The Embarcadero is closed to traffic from the Ferry Building to Pac Bell Park. Wow! Someone at KFOG had an idea to have a party with fireworks in Justin Herman Plaza in 1994 and call it the KFOG Sky Concert. Twelve years later, KFOG rules the city on the Saturday before Memorial Day. Way cool.
Let’s make it a full-fledged party next year. Maybe Tom can come.