SONIC REDUCER Looking back at Outside Lands and ahead to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and the last lingering Indian summer sighs and huzzahs of the festival express season, I'd say we all have plenty to be grateful for. At Outside Lands, I was thankful for Sharon Jones' sass, Radiohead's nu-romantic lyricism (amid two moments when the sound cut out and Thom Yorke's jesting "OK, who put beer in the plug?"), Beck's persistent pop groove as fence jumpers leapt the barriers, Regina Spektor's and Andrew Bird's old-time songcraft, Los Amigos Invisibles' and Little Brother's bounce, and Primus' pluck. No doubt the bison are grateful for the quiet betwixt gatherings and we all envy them after those night strolls through the cool, darkened park, passing kids listening to the music echo through the arboreal cathedral.
I could go on about how gratified I am for a somewhat chiller city now that burner getups on Haight Street are discounted and their would-be buyers are happily grilling on the playa. But the most grateful of all has gotta be Sam Adato, who I chatted up last week on the eve of practice with his hard rock band Sticks and Stones. The group has a Sept. 5 show at Slim's, for which he's likely grateful, but most of all he's happy to be alive and not buried beneath some beater. He was on his way to his store, Sam Adato's Drum Shop, July 31 when, he says, a woman driver running a red light at Ninth Street was hit by another car heading down Folsom. "The impact made her swerve and go directly into my shop," he says. "It had to be quite fast to crash through the storefront." Adato usually gets to the store by 11 a.m. he missed colliding with the driver by about 15 minutes. "Thank god," he marvels. "I probably would have been dead." His wife rushed over thinking he was in the store when the crash occurred, and their tearful embrace outside was captured by at least one photo-blogger. "Thank god no one was hurt," Adato adds. "Walking on the sidewalk or in the shop it could have been a bloodbath. Things can be replaced people can't."
Adato's alive, but half the storefront was wiped out, and he estimates that about $10,000 in inventory was destroyed. Now everything is in storage, the store is boarded up, and repairs have begun. Meanwhile he's been producing a CD for his other band, The Bridge, which opened for Deep Purple at the Warfield last summer. "That's been keeping me busy, but the ironic thing is Oct. 12 will be my 15-year anniversary it just might be the grand reopening, 15 years after I first opened," he says wryly. At that time he was at a crossroads. "Rather than audition for touring bands, which is great but it's hard to make a living and more often than not you're just a hired gun, I decided to open a drum shop. I had no doubt in my mind it would succeed," he says firmly. "There are no drum shops like it anywhere. A drummer can come in and say they need their drum fixed, and I'll fix it right there and then."
Until a certain car crash, he was living the drummer's dream. Though Adato now throws down his sticks in South San Francisco, he actually resided in his SF shop for its first two years. "It was great," he recalls. "Stay up late, get up, take a shower, turn on the lights, open the door, and you're ready for business, surrounded by drums day and night.