To celebrate public transit by way of music and a strong sense of community, dozens of people gathered at South Pasadena’s Gold Line Station this past Saturday and piled on board to join a concert on the train, called Rail to the Fret.
Organized by So Pas singer-songwriter Brad Colerick, Rail to the Fret featured a rolling concert on a Metrolink train bound from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles out to Covina where Colerick was playing a show at the Fret House.
“I’m a big public transit supporter and I wanted to do an event where people didn’t have to get in their cars and go,” Colerick said as he walked to the Gold Line station to meet the gathered crowd waiting to board the Gold Line Saturday afternoon. “I did a similar thing for a couple of shows I played at McCabe’s with a chartered bus. This time we are doing the train. It’s a way for people who maybe don’t normally get around in L.A. using public transit. It’s a chance for them to get out of their cars and see what it’s like. A lot of people don’t utilize our great transit system and it takes a little nudge to get them to try it.” McCabe’s Guitar Shop is a long-standing music venue in Santa Monica.
This is nothing new for the enterprising Colerick, who recently released his latest album, “Nine Ten Thirty,” which is the postal code for South Pasadena. He is the musical director of the renowned Eclectic Music Festival, which attracts 12,000 to 15,000 people every spring to downtown So Pas. He puts on the annual and local summer concert festival known as BradFest as well as the regular weekly shows in the Blue Guitar room at Arroyo Seco Golf Course that feature singer-songwriters on Wednesdays and jazz and blues music on Thursdays. In fact, as one fan said as she waited to board the train with the other concertgoers, Colerick has put South Pasadena on the musical map.
“I love Brad,” said Sharon Hannah, a So Pas resident since 1994. “You know when he came to town, South Pasadena came alive. And I love taking the train and I love the music too. I have fun doing this because I had other plans, which I’m in trouble for because I had to cancel, but this is worth it.”
The concertgoers unanimously agreed, saying this is a once-in-a-lifetime event.
“I think this is fun,” said Charles Nestle. “My girlfriend is a big fan of public transportation and Brad has used public transportation for years. He used to have an office in Hollywood. He would take public transportation then and that was 20 years ago and he wrote a song about that.” That song is “Superhero of the MTA.”
Colerick’s concert on the train began earlier in the day with him getting a straight razor shave from the So Pas barbershop, Square Deal at 1108 Mission St. It was the first time in more than two decades he has been without his trademark beard. He did it, he said, because he considers public transit to be a clean way to travel, and he wanted to have a clean face to support it. In fact, he had his two bandmates got a straight razor shave and he even convinced the editor of the South Pasadena Review to go under the careful straight razor of Emmanuel Fuentes of Square Deal.
“I just love this community,” Colerick said. “I love South Pasadena. It’s just the best place to live and raise a family. This really is all about the community.”
Meanwhile, Colerick’s concert on the rails was going to begin when the group boarded the Metrolink bound for Covina. It was nearly a 40-minute ride and he had to make sure not to annoy other unsuspecting riders.
“I got an email from the Metrolink manager,” Colerick said. “Basically he asked me to be polite, which I was going to do anyway. We have about 23 people meeting us here. Some South Pasadenans. We have a few coming from all over. Some have come from Altadena, Pasadena, somebody’s coming from Orange County on the train. There are some people from the Westside.”
When the Gold Line arrived at Union Station and the group of now 23 concertgoers boarded the Metrolink for Covina, Colerick was ready. He handed out a song list with lyrics so the group could join in. The list featured the Roger Miller classic, “King of the Road,” “City of New Orleans,” made famous by Arlo Guthrie and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Colerick as promised went to the other passengers and asked if it was OK to have the concert. All said yes. Except one. One passenger objected so the concert regrettably was off.
“I can’t do it,” Colerick said with an understanding smile. All this effort for naught. There was a wave of disappointment but everybody understood and accepted the cancelation.
But then as fate would have it, the objecting individual suddenly vacated the car. The concert was back on to the sheer delight of all gathered on board.
Laughter and song filled the second-level of the Metrolink train as it careened toward Covina and even the unsuspecting joined in the revelry. Colerick was even joined on lead guitar by Jordan Sollitto and the music fete was on.
“I thought this idea of Brad’s to do this on the train and go out to Covina as a group was great,” said Sollitto, who is a local songwriter. “We are going to enjoy the train ride and Covina and the show. It’s just a wonderful idea. I wanted to be a part of it.”
The Fret House concert that featured an opening act of singer-songwriter Leeann Skoda and then Colerick’s trio was well received by the packed house in the Fret’s downstairs venue.
The show appeared almost to be an extension of the train ride with reference upon reference about it by Skoda and Colerick. Then it was time to go, Colerick said from the Fret stage.
“We have to catch the train at 10:15,” he told the audience.
Later that evening, after the concert at The Fret, as Colerick was resting on the train ride back, he summarized the event with a smile and a nod.
“I think everybody had a really good time,” he said. “I think it’s good to get us out of our routine. Things like this are good because you gotta shake things up a little bit in life. This is a beautiful little town (Covina) and there are a bunch of people that discovered it today who had never been here. And I think that’s a wonderful thing. I really don’t know why community is so important to me, but it is. It really is. I think back to my college days and I would, with a couple helpers, put together virtual clubs. It would bring people together and it was always a wonderful experience. Music is something that everybody can agree is a good thing.”