Can Jack White save music? No, Jack White cannot save music. Generally, the public's taste just isn't that good. But he can save my type of music. And he is.
I landed at LAX on Friday afternoon, and as per out-of-state residency requirements, my first stop was In-N-Out burger. I met up with my old buddy, Jeopardy Paul, and proceeded to dig in. Animal Style juices running down my chin, I checked a text on my cell phone. It was from @ThirdManRRS. It said, "Jack White B show. B there. B square. Mariachi Pizza. Boyle Heights. 3:30 p.m." The time of the text was 2:34 p.m. I didn't even know where Boyle Heights was, let alone a Mexican pizza joint. The Double Doubles went in the trash, and we ran to the car.
I had been following Jack White's B shows for the past week. Chicago's was a small record store, and Denver's had been at an automotive parts shop. But a pizza joint, East of the L.A. River? We hopped on the 10 and headed for downtown. There just isn't any way to get anywhere in L.A. on a Friday afternoon. From Venice, it was a 20-mile and possibly hourlong drive to our destination. We were gridlocked and split time zigging and zagging and making good use of the shoulder.
Jeopardy Paul was having a hell of a time googling Mariachi Pizza. Maybe it was Jack White's sardonic sense of humor, having us look for an Italian restaurant in a Latino neighborhood. Or maybe I can't read my Lilliputian cell phone screen. We found Mariachi Plaza just in time.
Charro-suited trumpet players were just walking off the stage as we rounded the corner and Jack White announced his presence with a feedback intro to "Sixteen Saltines." There were maybe 70 people in the audience in front of a beautiful stained-glass-encrusted bandstand surrounded by farmers' market stands. White played a jail break half-hour set to fans who had also braved Friday's Los Angeles' rush-hour traffic to make the effort. And that's just what White wants. He wants you to care as much about the music as he does.
This isn't anything new with White. He's been spearheading the vinyl re-revolution since the early days of the White Stripes. He goes out of his way to make sure the people who want his music can get it, at the expense of eBay flippers. He braved the heat and traffic the same as everybody else. And in a town like L.A., where he was sure his sold-out show at the Shrine Auditorium later that evening would be attended more by industry people than by true fans, he showed everyone that he'll come sweat it out for free with the small crowds as well as the big stages. And he still cares.