One hundred and ten degrees. The searing Sonoma sun bakes the Prius as it barrels down Highway 101 towards San Francisco. The green, latticed hillsides whiz past at 80 miles per hour as I sit crammed between two panting dogs. The monotony of the eight-and-a-half-hour trek from Eugene, Oregon, began to take its toll on the vehicle’s occupants. Legs cramped, bladders full, and eyes fried from the unforgiving rays of the California sun, a stop was inevitable.
“Let’s just drive for another ten miles, and then we’ll pull over for a bit”, insisted my sister as she plugged an address into the GPS. “I think you’ll really dig where I’m taking us.”
I nodded my head in agreement, slipped my earbuds back in, and slammed the shuffle button. Many of the playlists and tracks had been exhausted on the flight from Pennsylvania, and I was in need of something new. Earlier that week, my brother had handed me a stack of CDs to download for my journey westward. Nothing really struck a chord with me. A few metal albums, some punk EPs, and a mix of hip/hop records flooded my recently added playlist. As I scrolled through, one album piqued my interest. Fever, by Sleepy Sun. The beautifully painted watercolor artwork, bursting with blues, greens, and reds, separated itself from the other albums.
“Let’s give it a try”, I thought to myself.
A single, fuzzy guitar note fades in. The drums and bass soon follow. An immediate wave of warmth washes over my body, as I’m taken on a psychedelic trip without a drug. An almost angelic voice appears over the acid-washed guitar. The wail of a harmonica pierces the ear. I’m hooked.
The car comes to a stop.
“We’re here!”, my sister exclaims.
I rip out the earbuds right as the second track begins. As I glance out the window, my introduction to West Coast craft beer awaits – Lagunitas Brewing Company. Although the air was blisteringly hot, the whole scene at Lagunitas was exceptionally cool. Bands jammed, beers flowed and bratwursts burst on the grill, while patrons looking to beat the heat hid under pavilions and umbrellas. I laid claim to a shady plot suitable for our canine companions, while my sister made her way to the taps. Soon she returned with two overflowing pints, and some water for the dogs.
“What’s the beer?”, I asked.
“Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Pale Ale”, she said, handing me my drink.
I found the name comical, but after taking a sip of the ice cold beer, I realized it was no joke. The wheat-based ale, was a clean, golden color. The aroma of oranges and other citrus continued into the taste, adding piney, hoppy notes. Crisp grapefruit, resin, and lemon dance on the tongue. The beer was perfect for a blistering day in the desert. We hung out for another pint, and said our peace. The car slid back into the traffic of the California interstate, and I slipped back into the fever of Sleepy Sun’s music.
As the sun set over the sun-scorched hills, the California psychedelic rock continued. “Desert God,” the sixth track on the album, my idea of a masterpiece, began. An almost sitar-esque guitar pervades the track, accompanied by the slap of bongo drums. Vocals cut through.
“Oh, barren land,” he sings. “We are searching higher, for the one who walks alone under the circle around the moon. A dry spell is here. The river has turned to coal. Send us on a trip to find the nectar of our god.”
The lyrics become almost a metaphor for my trip through the massive landscape of Northern California, ending up at Lagunitas, only to find “the nectar of our god.” The angelic, female vocals return and perfectly match her bandmate’s. The track begins to slow, almost fooling the listener to think it is over. And then, all hell breaks loose. The bass drums kick fast and loud. The cymbals crash like the crack of thunder. And the wail of the harmonica returns, reminiscent of a locomotive’s whistle, almost an homage to Zeppelin’s, “When the Levee Breaks.” The track continues at a fast pace, and then slows again, to an almost a lullaby-like finish, saturated in distorted guitar. Exhausted by the heat of the day, I drift off, only to unknowingly wake in Sleepy Sun’s hometown. San Francisco.
Throughout the course of my week on the West Coast, Sleepy Sun’s Fever album remained on repeat. Following me to the rugged, empty beaches of the Oregon coastline, the nine track album became the soundtrack to my trip. Always resting on ice in our cooler, was a Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ just for me.