Los Angeles, CA – “LaLaLand” – The Santa Monica Pier & Luna Park – July 1, 1999

A cold ocean breeze slapped at our exposed skin. It snuck up to tickle our armpits and poke us through holes in our sweaters. We clasped our hands around our chests and shivered into it like musical warriors. The Santa Monica Pier pointed out to sea like a skeleton’s hand and I wondered how July ever consented to such a cold opening day.

Heather, Kenny’s wife, hovered nervously at the entrance of the pier. She’d come to LA to celebrate a long-overdue honeymoon, four years after tying the knot. Heather, terrified of the ocean and unaware that our gig was set on a pier, paced back and forth near the parking lot in a beige hoodie and blue jeans until Kenny slipped her a little something to calm her nerves. Then she began to move slowly, like a tentative fawn, with us towards the inky waters.

Rising defiantly amidst the flashing lights and carnival tunes of the amusement park, the plywood stage stood like a rebellious middle finger in a sea of frivolity. Our set was over before we could blink – a five-song opening gig for a headliner we’d never heard of. Three thousand people were packed onto the pier for the show, all looking up at us from beach towels and blankets splayed on the hard splinter-heavy dock.

Despite the cold, packed, pier, I could easily pick out familiar faces of my friends. Kevin Nealon, the actor and comedian, had graciously agreed to be our LA roadie and stood tall and handsome off stage left making us laugh with his poor miming skills. I was grateful for the distraction. I felt like a fish out of water in this carnival environment.

We barely had a moment to catch our breath after our set before racing through the neon-lit streets toward Hollywood for our second gig at Luna Park. Madonna was hosting a private wrap party for her latest movie in the upper section of the club. As we pushed our gear through the crammed parking lot, we watched clusters of girls in towering hair and body glitter, accompany shirtless boys in chaps and oiled chests. They strutted to an internal soundtrack clearly playing Madonna on repeat.

Photo by Peter Thomas on Unsplash

Compared to the alienating scene at The Santa Monica Pier, Luna Park felt as intimate as my own living room. The show was as effortless and comfortable as wearing pajamas–even with famous faces like James Gandolfini and Dawn Wells in attendance. We took requests and shared plenty of laughs, often disclaiming, “We’ve never played this song before….”

At midnight, Madonna invited us to her soiree upstairs. Someone puked on Moby and we had to load her up carefully so as to avoid getting the “accident” on us. As the July moon bloomed over the parking lot I admitted to myself and to my band that I was too tired to party–The electricity of LA really takes it out of me—and so I left the boys to whoop it up on Madonna’s tab and drove back to the hometel on my own.

I’m glad to be headed up the coast tomorrow.

Reader interactions

2 Replies to “Los Angeles, CA – “LaLaLand” – The Santa Monica Pier & Luna Park – July 1, 1999”

  1. Sally,

    Your sense of fashion was WAY ahead of the time! Like 25 years ahead! The slip dress!! Except I’m guessing yours was actually a slip!

    I hope this was the first last time Moby got barfed on!


    1. Oh Moby has seen more than her fair share of regergitations unfortunately. It’s all part of the job of a touring van I suppose. She was one hell of a white night for the Sally Taylor Band I’ll tell you that much.

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