In the mid 1990s, there was an area in San Francisco known as China Basin. It existed under the southern shadows of the Bay Bridge, and although it had incredibly beautiful waterfront views and access, it was generally avoided by most who lived here as a somewhat industrial area with nothing to offer.
For me, and many of my musician buddies, this area was known most for being the location of Lowdown Studio, a recording studio that was home to many of the best Bay Area independent recording artists of the time.
Lowdown was the child of Greg Freeman, who built the studio and manned the engineering controls. This was a time when everything was done using reel-to-reel tape; recorded on 2" and final mixed onto 1/4".
Greg was also well known as being the bass player for the instrumental pop band Pell Mell, who's critically acclaimed music is still regularly heard on tv commercials, NPR suegways and other places. Greg was a zen master at recording, and his reputation was far reaching.
In 1997, out of the blue and in the middle of a recording project I was working on there, Greg got a notice from the landlord of his building that he would have to close down in order to make way for a new baseball stadium.
We were able to complete our recording, perhaps the eighth or ninth that I completed at Lowdown, in the final months before Greg evacuated.
From what I know, he was paid respectfully to vacate his lease there, and the rest is history. Over the course of three years, the entire area was raised, excavated and built anew. PacBell Park arose, defining a new era for this area of San Francisco, which is now known as Soma - South of Market. The park was designed to frame the incredible waterfront view, which was never really quite appreciable in it's former shape.
Back when we used to record there, the only place within walking distance to get any food was Happy Donuts. They made great cheap sandwiches. Incredibly, they are still there, right across the street from the stadium, surrounded by fancy schmansy restaurants and sports bars.
Now, whenever I am there at this incredibly beautiful ball park, watching my favorite team, the 2010 National League Champions The SF Giants, I always look at third base and think about all of the great music and dear memories I have that were made at that exact spot. It's sort of weird for me, not sure what the symbology of it all means to me.
This is now what the old front of Lowdown looks like, directly under the giant Coke bottle behind third base, which is also sort of weird because our band van at the time was an old Coca-Cola commercial van.
Brian Stauffer encouraged me to post about this when I mentioned it to him recently, and I realized he was right.
These days, I regularly jog from my house down past the ballpark, which is now called AT&T Park. It's a gorgeous area and a joy to be able to jog to and around; from our house it's a 7-mile round trip. Whenever I do, I have to reflect on the history of the area, for me and for the city. In fact, Cynthia and I just did it this morning in order to see the hustle and bustle that's going on in preparation for the series. Cynthia used to record at Lowdown too.
This is the old front of Lowdown, right about where the white car is in the above photo I imagine. We would load all of our drums and crap in through that loading dock.
As for now, GO GIANTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This will be the second World Series played in this ballpark, and the first one where the Giants have home team advantage.
It's also a really great team. Not to dis the Bonds era team at all, but the whole steroids controversy has really cast a shadow on the club for a while now, and at last they have emerged with a fun, scrappy bunch of misfits, hopefully steroid free. Bluto, Pat the Bat, The Freak, The Rodeo Clown, The Red Thong, Kung-Fu Panda, Oooooorrrriiibbbay. I wish them well.
Anyway, Here are a couple of songs recorded in those waning days of Lowdown, from the band that I drummed and wrote with, Little My. Paint That Tree! National Park Style
I recently learned that National Park Style had been regularly played on the great John Peel's BBC show in the late 90s. I had no idea at the time he was playing our music, so it was a great honor for me to learn that he was. In the outro of the tune, singer Nathaniel Parsons sings "Outta my way! you get outta my way - All the way around!" Appropriate words for a ball game.