Saturday, January 01, 2011

At The Mountains Of Madness

Click HERE to read the H.P. Lovecraft story At the Mountains of Madness.

DO... IT... NOW.

High On Fire / Archons
Brookdale Lodge, Brookdale, CA

December 30, 2010

"Doubt of the real facts, as I must reveal them, is inevitable; yet, if I suppressed what will seem extravagant and incredible, there would be nothing left." - William Dyer from At the Mountains of Madness.

It was a pleasant surprise when local boyz High On Fire announced a trio of hometown-area shows to close out the year and to start the new one: Brookdale, New Year's Eve in San Jose, and New Year's Day in Oakland. Of course, the obvious show for Umlaut to hit was the night at the HAUNTED Brookdale Lodge in the Santa Cruz Mountains! Click HERE to learn about Brookdale's paranormal history. Metal in a haunted mountain lodge?! FUCK... YEAH! I just hoped I wouldn't end up on the wrong side of an axe fight or in the trunk of a car by the end of the night...

Brookdale is approximately 70 miles south of San Francisco so we hit the road early in order to make it into the mountains, check into our room at the Brookdale (Metal Slumber Party!), and meet up with friends for a pre-show dinner at Scopazzi's, an Italian restaurant that's been in nearby Boulder Creek for 98 YEARS (!). It was a full-on Umlaut Nation onslaught with Skychick, Lori Acid King, Timo, Teri (Italia!), Mary Ann, Jerry, and Crow joining me for my final gig of 2010. They say a picture is worth a thousand words... Well here's 1,000 words about The Brookdale Lodge:

High On Fire...
Gator Alley Band (a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band).

After checking into our room and dropping our bags off we returned to the lodge and found our way inside. There were 2 fireplaces blazing and 2 bars serving up drinks (actually 1 1/2 bars since one was in the middle of being renovated and only had beers in a cooler). One advantage of seeing shows in the mountains: CHEAP BEER! $3.00 for beers that normally cost $6.00 at shows in The City. FUCK... YEAH. I might have laughed out loud when I saw that the stage was not much bigger than a drum riser, with Dez's drum kit taking up practically 1/3 of it.

I got that "tingly" Music Geek feeling that I get when I know a show is going to be a F-U-N epic experience. Archons from San Diego played a good opening set that reminded me of some of the AmRep bands that I followed back in the 20th Century. They also sold the merch item of the night: A white glove packaged with a monocle and labeled with the phrase "Adds More Class To Your Act". I never found out the reason for this item but the band sold out of them. Hmmm.

Although they hail from the 'burbs / big city, High On Fire have always wandered "the mountains" psychologically. Appropriately they opened the night's set with 'Frost Hammer' and then charged straight into 'Turk'. So perfect... and I think I had the biggest smile on my face from the onslaught (or maybe it was from the beer). As it got colder and colder outside, the lads blazed through a great set.. 'How Dark We Pray'... 'Waste Of Tiamat'... 'Rumors Of War'.. 'Blood From Zion'.. 'Bastard Samurai'. I never looked at the clock but the set lasted 3 beers for me and finished off with a nice version of 'Snakes For The Divine'.

This was my 4th High On Fire show this year (in 2 states and 4 cities) and easily my favorite. The crowd and the vibe of the show felt like I was seeing the band 10 years ago again... They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well here's 1,000 words about the vibe during High On Fire's set:

Fireplace blazing in the foreground... High On Fire blazing in the background. 'Nuff said. After High On Fire finished we hung out near the bar... briefly said "Hi" to Matt... and I looked at my watch and it was only 11:00pm. WTF... I imagined our evening ending in very boring fashion back in our room drinking beer and watching t.v... and that's when MAGIC struck.

We talked and chatted amongst ourselves as the vast majority of the crowd trickled out and left to find their way out of the mountains back home. The dozen or so people who were left were either Brookdale employees or guests who were staying overnight like us... and that's when one of the employees got our attention and asked "Do you guys wanna go on a ghost tour??!" FUCK YEAH WE DO! So for the next 2 hours we followed a skitchy female Brookdale employee on a rambling but informative tour of the Brookdale Lodge and the surrounding grounds.

There is a secret entrance to a tunnel at the back of that fireplace that was built by gangsters in the 1950's (!). At that time the lodge was in decline and a criminal element took over The Brookdale and built a series of secret passages and tunnels on the property (!). In its glory days from the 1920's through the 1950's the Brookdale was a secluded getaway destination for A-List celebrities including Marilyn Monroe (!), James Dean (!), Rita Hayworth (!), Mae West (!), who were among other movie stars and politicians who stayed at The Brookdale. The debauchery that took place within those walls back then must have been EPIC!

Marilyn, Joltin' Joe... and James Dean at The Brookdale

The Meat Locker: During the 1950's when The Brookdale became a hub of criminal activity, The Meat Locker is reportedly where mob murders took place because it was soundproof. Only the locker's door remains intact in a wall and the actual space has been opened up to become part of a bar area that's currently being renovated.

The Mermaid Room: What remains of The Mermaid Room is around 20 feet from the stage where High On Fire played. Back in The Day it was a bar area and features a large window that looks into the lodge's swimming pool (which we visited a bit later in The Pool Room). At one time in The Brookdale's sordid history, prostitutes in bathing suits would swim past the window wearing numbers so patrons could select them ("Mermaid Room"). Once selected they would rendezvous across the road in The Brookdale's cottages; the patrons would be discreetly delivered to their "dates" via a secret tunnel that began in a closet behind The Mermaid Room's bar.

The Mermaid Room's window looking into the swimming pool..

In 1972, a 12-year old girl drowned at the bottom of the swimming pool in full view of guests in the Mermaid Room... and the pool has been closed ever since. Yup, there's been an unusual amount of death at The Brookdale!

The Brookroom Dining Room: This mindblowing space was built in the 1920's and encloses an existing mountain stream so that the water runs down the center of the restaurant!

The Brookroom from downstream at night and in the morning..

It's hard to describe just how brilliant The Brookroom is in person... the sight, sound, and smell of the mountain water gives the space a magical quality. I could almost imagine the room packed with Hollywood-types 60 years ago partying and living like they were immortal... but now they're dead and The Brookdale is a reminder of their faded fame and beauty. The debauchery that took place within those walls back then must have been EPIC!

The Brookroom from upstream..

The Brookroom from one of the dining areas..

In the 1940's, 9-year old Sarah Logan (the neice of the Brookdale's then-owner) fell into the stream and drowned. Sad... but her ghost is evidently the headlining paranormal entity at The Brookdale. Upstairs from the stream on the 2nd level is the room that was Sarah's playroom. Our skitchy tour guide wouldn't go inside because it freaked her out... but of course we did:

Kind of spooky.. but not really... and Sarah didn't come out to play. She was probably scared of that guy's Down hoodie.

The Pool Room: Located behind the main building, this is where the indoor swimming pool featured in The Mermaid Room is located.

The swimming pool..

The Pool Room (where a 12-year old girl drowned in 1972) was huge, cold, and dark. We hung out in there for a bit as our tour guide told a few more stories... and as we were leaving there was a loud noise and "something" hit one of the far walls. I shit you not... and I was not drunk. I think the ghost of the 12-year old girl was pissed at us for disturbing her.

After a short break back at The Lodge to gather more beers, our guide led us across the road to the cottages where hookers had serviced their customers back in The Brookdale's bad old days. Here in the 21st Century they serve as staff housing.

Stumbling around in the woods at 1:00am in the Mountains of Madness...

As our guide led us into a specific vacant cottage I had a VERY intense sense of deja vu and realized that I had been there before... and then it hit me that our friend Mary Ann (who was with us) had LIVED in this very cottage for 5 months when she had rented it 10+ years ago from the Brookdale's previous owners!! We had even helped move her into the place! I had completely forgotten about it... BIZARRE!! If the guide's story was to believed (and at this point her skitchy, speedy demeanor was wearing thin) a man had murdered his wife and 3 children in this cottage back in the 1960's or 70's. However, as compelling as I thought our friend Mary Ann's story was... and eventhough Mary Ann was sharing details about living in the cottage with other members of the tour group ("YOU lived HERE??!")... the skitchy guide blew us off and continued on with her "tour". Oh well... As the clock passed 2:00am our tour ended up back at The Lodge and we made our way to our room and promptly passed out... and, for better or worse, none of us experienced any paranormal weirdness during our slumber. Bummer.

Despite its glamorous and bloody history The Brookdale here in the 21st Century is kind of a dump that's in the middle of numerous renovation projects under its latest owners (who bought the property 3 years ago). Some of these projects seem kind of half ass and sloppy... but I wish the owners all of the very best because The Brookdale has so much potential to be a really cool and kitchy destination spot again. The fact that The Brookdale is so infamous for all of the murder and death that happened on its grounds makes its revival potential even cooler. By the way, although High On Fire stayed at The Brookdale like us, they opted not to participate in the Ghost Tour. Not very Metal of them... Just saying. However, I will now forever associate the song 'Frost Hammer' with The Brookdale...

Beer count = 5. If you bought one of every High On Fire merch item you would have paid around $150. On the way back to San Francisco, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. According to the Umlaut Archives this was my 78th and final gig of 2010... and I visited the Mountains of Madness and escaped with my sanity intact (I think...).

"At the time, his shrieks were confined to the repetition of a single, mad word of all too obvious source: "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!"" - from At the Mountains of Madness.