Dave Alvin receives pardon from Davis mayor, Blasters no longer banned from playing there


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Dave Alvin has been a member of two seminal bands, the Blasters and X, penned a rock anthem, ‘4th of July,’ traveled the world as an ambassador for the folk-blues-country amalgam known as roots music, and, over nearly three decades, crafted one of the great California songbooks.

But until early Wednesday, he suffered a more dubious distinction: banned in Davis.

In 1982, Alvin and the Blasters were performing at a small venue in the college town near the California capital when, out in the sardine-packed crowd, push literally came to shove. Next thing, a riot: police, helicopters and, in the days that followed, a civic ban on all things Blaster. (Which apparently extended to its members, emeritus).


‘We were innocent,’ Alvin protested, recalling that fated night. ‘We were just doing our job.’

Late Tuesday, Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza -- a serious Alvin afficionado -- set out to rectify the long-ago injustice. Shortly before midnight, just outside Berkeley, he boarded a Portland, Ore.-bound train and presented Alvin a formal proclamation -- calligraphy, gold seal, much ‘whereas’ -- absolving him of any wrongdoing and welcoming (no, practically begging) him to play again in Davis.

Twenty or so beery passengers, joining Alvin on his Kings of California Roots on the Rails tour, attended the ceremony and offered all the solemnity they could muster. (A few even offered to riot, for old-time sake.)

Krovoza rode along as far as Davis, and used the 40 minutes to coax Alvin into a discussion of several of the mayor’s favorite songs. (‘Abilene’ was about a girl, it turns out, not the Texas city.)

A bemused Alvin declined the chance to give a speech, though he thanked the mayor several times and took time to thumb through the lengthy resolution. Despite the late hour, he whipped out his cellphone and rang his brother and Blasters cofounder, Phil, suggesting he’d never guess what just happened.

‘He says, ‘Oh, wow, that’s great,’ ‘ a grinning Alvin related to Krovoza, who smiled in turn. ‘Scot free!’


-- Mark Z. Barabak, aboard the Coast Starlight