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Chief

Chief arranged to meet us at a friend’s house in Malibu. A bonfire had been planned. It was raining over Los Angeles, a light but unrelenting drizzle; it was dark and had been raining since the morning. In the car, I tried to spot the ocean. John told me that it was too bad it was dark, since the scenery was incredible all along this route from Venice to Malibu. Too bad. Face pressed to the window, I never saw more than the size of the homes perched on hilltops, the fancy-looking restaurants along the roadside, the size of the cars passing by us. Palms. Rain. The ocean, black and invisible.

We finally found the street and parked in front of an ordinary looking gate. The drummer greeted me in perfect French, the product of several years of study at the Sorbonne. The house seemed enormous to me, but when he led us to what I thought would be the garden, when my feet sank into the sand and when I heard the waves crashing into the rocks, I stopped, looked at John, and silently mouthed WHOA. The garden, this garden, was the beach. And the ocean. Just for us. A piece of private sea. The owner of the property, a member of a well-known band, greeted us, offered hot dogs and Bud Light, and we joined the group that chatted and laughed around the fire. The drizzle hadn’t stopped and it was beginning to get cold, but the wind made it perilous to edge closer to the fire for warmth.

Chief were nervous, but they were surrounded by friends. As they started to play, we saw that everyone there knew the words, and once they’d started they didn’t stop. Next we took them aside, to the patio, nearly broke a glass table and a statue, played with the lights, lowered the curtains, raised the curtains, and they played us a second song. And when we rejoined everyone sitting on the sand, after a couple of beers, we forgot about the drizzle, the cold, it was all part of the jam; we sang Weezer songs and a few others, without knowing all the words. Sitting in a beach-yard in Malibu, facing a small end of the ocean.