On 9-11, in 2013, I was in Napa Valley on a Harley-Davidson rolling to Will Call for my ticket to see the reigning master of Americana music. That night, John Hiatt and his Combo played Uptown Theatre, a historic theater in a historic town on a historic date.
Napa is very old-fashioned but it’s also a gateway to the American palate of advanced agriculture, great wine & food, fine art…and music. The Town is a diverse ramshackle El Norte community of church-goers — at mass that week, the priest had us all pray for a 49ers victory — together with farm-workers, winemakers, and elderly hippies all under assault by upscale B&Bs, exorbitant real estate, and tasters in long black cars with tinted windows. Napa has a split personality and Uptown Theatre personifies that perfectly.
The Theatre is a time portal transporting you to an 1890s where musicians sing into microphones and play electric guitars under cool lights for an eccentric audience swirling Duckhorn Merlot in a misty noire. It’s like a Fellini movie without the sex. Still, Uptown has it all: decor, vibe, great wine, and vintage fans. Looking through the curved glass of Duckhorn, I noticed a shimmering visage of beautiful silver-gray. When I was young, I never thought gray would look so fine. But it does. Uptown is a place to be around old people and not feel old.
When I think back on it now, the night is rendered in a strange sepia patina. Hiatt’s music is partly responsible but it’s more than that. I remember riding away after the show wondering about a lot of things to the rumble of the Harley. The air was thick with Americana.
At Uptown Theatre September 11th 2013