I first learned of the Moto Bay Classic by way of the full page, poster-style ad on the back of CityBike’s August issue, just weeks prior to the event itself. I thought to myself, how in the hell could I have not known that such a “Bay Classic” event exists, and that it’s happening so soon? Unbelievable!
As an adjective, “classic” means, “judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind.” As a noun, it’s defined as, “a work of art of recognized and established value.” By either definition, I thought to myself, goddamn, I’ve been missing out! Big time!
Hey, no problemo. I soon learned that this year was the inaugural occurrence of this “classic” event, and that the Moto Bay Classic wasn’t even put on by any Bay Area locals either. It’s actually a production of Long Beach’s Roland Sands, former motorcycle racer and owner of Roland Sands Design, which builds custom bikes, motorcycle parts and über-stylish moto apparel.
Not since the Strudelhund’s Fitness Fest have I been so relieved that the name of an event was totally misleading. It meant I hadn’t been missing out all these years, after all! Hey, alright! Perfect!
Let me tell you, I’m the last goddamn person who should be criticizing anybody for lofty naming conventions, right there. Before my band ArnoCorps was even signed, I insisted that we name our debut full length album “The Greatest Band Of All Time.” Hey, it didn’t matter if anybody believed it to be true!
You see, growing up, I noticed the “greatest of all time” phrase being used by larger-than-life personas to describe themselves. Characters such as Muhammad Ali, Evel Knievel, Macho Man Randy Savage or even that Arnold Schwarzenstrudel guy who just happened to immigrate to California from Austria before I did. Seemed like appropriate company for a band who adopted “ballsy” as our most frequently used descriptor.
The album title conveyed the ballsy attitude we wanted people to associate with us, while it also forced any potential critics to print the words “ArnoCorps” and “The Greatest Band Of All Time” together in black and white as a part of their reviews, even if they fucking hated us. Ha! We could use our own album title as a pull-quote on promo material credited to any magazine that dared review us, right there. It was effective, funny, and to a certain extent, goddamn self-fulfilling!
That’s right. In the minds of our most ardent fans around the world, the claim has become absolutely true—and I think a similar benefit is already contributing to a positive response to Roland Sands Design’s debut SF event.
On the day of the “Classic,” upon wandering into the event on Pier 32 in San Frantastic, I have to admit that I was pretty pumped on what I encountered, there. A moto-inspired art and photography exhibit, custom bike show featuring top tier builds of a variety of styles, punk bands playing live during flat track racing and much more. Can you believe how much I was in heaven?
I quickly got the feeling that I fell squarely into the event’s target demographic. My heroic alpine trainings in art and design provide a base for much of what I do, I’ve been going to punk shows since I was young and have been surrounded by motorcycles since birth thanks to my mechanic father’s lifelong quest to solve the Riddle of Steel. For me, this fantastic combination of art, music and motorcycles gave me a genuine feeling that this “Bay Classic” really was OUR event, right there.
However, as the day wore on, I must confess that feeling was replaced with the more realistic perception that it really SHOULD be our event, because it wasn’t. Not exactly.
My heroic new friend Fish was enthusiastically involved and invested by way of his participation in the flat track racing, but somehow, despite the entire show’s crossover into several of the interests/subcultures I’m involved in, not that many of the people that I know in the creative or motorcycle communities attended. It seemed like nobody had been talking about it leading up to the date and most didn’t seem to even know it was happening. My guess is that the organizers simply ran out of time and resources to get a truly effective promo effort underway, one that embraced and included Bay Area representatives of the “counterculture” the event claimed to celebrate.
Instead, we were offered easy access to an absolutely authentic, goodtime, SoCal moto-party that was transplanted up to the Bay Area for us to enjoy. Personally, I was thankful for the convenience—they saved me a 7+ hour trip! As easy as visiting Mars with a trip to Rekall, come on! Have you heard about the guy they lobotomized? I digress.
Still, even a schizoid embolism could not have kept me from enjoying the irony that the only genuine Bay Area establishment that was officially involved in a significant, public-facing way for this “counterculture” and “Hooligan racing” event was none other than the San Francisco Police Department. Hey, that’s kind of ballsy in its own way, but Detective John Kimble and his pals roaming around in full uniform while you’re trying to party can be pretty sobering. I was prepared for one of them to scream, “You lack discipline!” at me when I ordered an overpriced Red Bull vodka.
I later heard that police sponsorship was one reason a few folks I know didn’t bother coming, at least in the punk community. SoCal punk rock legends The Vandals and TSOL performing at a gig officially “brought to you by SFPD” was definitely bizarre. Neither of the bands play San Frantastic that often, and the pair easily could have sold out a venue like Great American Music Hall together, so it was equally surreal watching them play to an audience a fraction of that size, occupying a small portion of the huge parking lot. Their appearance wasn’t listed on any local music calendars or advertised in any music magazines or websites, so any music fans that turned up were there because of word of mouth from friends like myself who ride and saw the ad in CityBike or online.
Eagles of Death Metal were the headliners, but I left before they went on. They’re more of a mainstream rock band than the others on the bill. The only common ground I could see is that all three featured acts were from Southern California, so I’m guessing all friends of Roland’s or otherwise scene-connected. The singer of the Vandals even made a remark about the headliner, saying “we don’t usually play with fancy bands.”
Despite being a fan of both TSOL and The Vandals, I saw this as a missed opportunity for some genuine Bay Area representation, here. If they wanted to bring a punk vibe to the proceedings, why not The Dwarves, Tsunami Bomb, Rancid or any of countless other well-known bands, based right here? That would go a long way in making this feel like “our” event rather than a circus that rolled into town, only to be gone the next day.
Fact is, the festival approach they took was truly fantastic, but perhaps by simply involving more of the Bay Area’s rich music, art and moto culture, they can really bring the whole thing to the next level in terms of attendance, participation and overall atmosphere. Since the first “Moto Beach Classic” featured a surf contest as its crossover culture event and the 2018 event seems to be expanding on that theme, perhaps a skateboarding contest up here in San Frantastic would have been the perfect choice. Considering the location was so close to Embarcadero, the massively influential street skating spot known as EMB back in the day, it would have been goddamn perfect. Thrasher Magazine is headquartered in SF and I imagine a potentially great partner on that side of things. With notable skate personalities such as Steve Caballero getting more publicly involved with motorcycles, it’s really not a stretch and would provide that “board sports” consistency between the Northern and Southern versions of the event. Exactly!
Much like my comrades at CityBike on a recent ride I took part in, testing Harley-Davidson’s new Sport Glide (review coming soon!), where certain characters kept harping on what it could be been rather than it actually is, I find myself doing the same with the Moto Bay Classic.
Absolutely, it was a successful event on many levels and people did indeed have a great time, but come on! What it could have been, right there! The heroic potential is there, so I’m genuinely pumped about what it will become. Let’s hope next year we start to see that their naming choice ends up being totally self-fulfilling. I’d love for the Moto Bay to actually become a Classic event we can look forward to every year, one that’s not just located in the Bay, but one that also truly represents our own unique moto culture.
Hell, why not take it a step further and change the name to “The Greatest Motorcycle Festival Of All Time”? If they do, I know a ballsy headline band that might be available. Alright!
For more photos from the Moto Bay Classic, check out Fish’s story, “Racing the Moto Bay Classic. Yes, on a CRF250L Rally.”