The sidewalk is blocked by a crowd. There is shouting and I stop to look. Two Chinese women are standing, arguing without a care over what seems to be a turnip. From the tone and volume of their voices, I’m guessing it’s an exceptional turnip. I walk on. A few minutes later, the pavement is once again blocked. Men in vests and shirts with rolled up sleeves are talking at speed in Italian. Although I’m not entirely sure what they are on about, the gesticulation, the differences in opinion and the passion flying across the corner cafe tables, means they can only be discussing one thing. Football. If you’re reading this in American, that’s soccer. I carry on up the same street and fairly soon, I’m one of a handful of people without a healthy beard and slightly too short trousers. The remains of the handful are women. The landscape is dominated by coffee shops. Not the ubiquitous costabucks, but independent, eco friendly, probably vegan and reassuringly expensive coffee shops. It’s a bit like being in Shoreditch but with post ironic sunshine. I arrive, hot and jet lagged at Fisherman's Wharf where the sweet smell of boiling shellfish overwhelms the early flowering Jasmine of the nearby residential roads. I skipped breakfast and the lure of the seafood is irresistible. I dive in to a restaurant, take a table looking out across the harbour where the towers of the Golden gate bridge thread through the masts of the fishing fleet. I order shrimp, and relax. I realise that for the last thirty minutes, I’ve been walking around with a huge grin on my face. San Francisco does that. The trouble with touring is that whilst I’m having a great time, at every turn I see something else that I wish my family were here to share. The criss cross slopes of Lombard street, the cable cars, the bridge, Davies Symphony Hall with our name on it, Alcatraz...and so it goes on, it’s easy to fall in love with this place and to be honest, if my family were here, I have a hard time of it. I left my heart in San Francisco, or so says the song. I love the city, I really do, but I left my heart somewhere in Surrey.
On my way back up the very steep hills to the concert this evening, I am thrilled to see a couple of old hippies. They are going for the full on tie-dye t-shirts, flip-flops, beards and beads and jazz cigarettes vibe. In their 60’s, they look like they haven’t noticed the last few decades. It makes me feel happy that people like this still exist, and in San Francisco of all places. It is then, a jolt, when they stop next to a massive 4x4 parked on the road, get in and roar off at speed. Turn on, tune in, get 0% APR on a new SUV.
The lazy blues of the second movement of the Gershwin piano concerto fits my mood perfectly. Solo pianist Yuja Wang, in an eye popping lime green dress, sits and smiles as Phil Cobb lingers over the lazy trumpet line at the start. If the frenetic first movement seemed to fit well in New York, this laid back song sums up San Francisco for me. New york pushes and thrusts. San Francisco goes its own way but pushes in a different tempo. It is go-getting, but hey, time for a great coffee too. I love it.
At the end of the concerto, Yuja plays an encore. She places her iPad on the stand and swipes the pages past in a blur of notes. At the side of the stage listening, is MTT. I’ve seen plenty of conductors come back on to listen to the soloists encore, but on this occasion there’s a more valid reason. He wrote the piece. It goes down a storm and they both take a well deserved bow. It's called, “Do you come here often?”
The answer to that is, not often enough.
This is my personal blog. All views are my own and are not endorsed by any of the organisations I work for.