After three decades with his rootsy New Jersey outfit Blues Traveler, vocalist-harmonica hurricane John Popper never looks a gift horse in the mouth, no matter how ghoulish. When word leaked out about his passion for collecting obscure historical weaponry, spooky presents started appearing. At one concert in Hartford, Conn., a stranger presented him with a crusty, blanket-wrapped sword that didn’t look like much. After having it cleaned and appraised, he was shocked to learn it was a 500-year-old family katana, blessed with the emperor’s personal seal. “It’s so much older than me that it can never truly belong to me, so it’s just staying with me while it’s on its own little journey,” he says, philosophically. He hopes he and his 2-year-old daughter Eloise Ann one day can visit Japan on a quest to return it to its rightful clan; now, he has a new Blues Traveler album, “Hurry Up & Hang Around.”
You’ve gathered so many diverse weapons, you even have stiletto-tipped umbrellas like Batman’s nemesis The Penguin, right?
Yeah, but they’re a little wobbly, and the sword part isn’t really stable enough to be a sword, and the umbrella part isn’t really good enough to be an umbrella. I’ve got a ton of ‘em in what I call my crap file. But of course, now that I have a daughter, everything has to be locked in the garage; there’s really no choice. And all the guns have to go in a giant safe that looks like something Wile E. Coyote would drop on the Road Runner.
All cartoon animals get unlimited credit for weapons at Acme.
I know! I made a $13,000 purchase of a knife sculpture by Gil Hibben, who’s a great knife maker. But really, the only thing you can use it for is ruling the galaxy — it’s some sort of glove, but every side of it is just blades, and you can’t pick it up without cutting something. But I think if you start spending too much on your hobby, you should sell some of it and buy different stuff. So eventually, my collection could be someone’s college education. Or several college educations.
Where did all this originate?
I like the aesthetic of weaponry. There’s something really beautiful about the design of things that are supposed to be life-saving — they have to work. If you look at the broadsword, you had to be really mad at the guy you were running across the battlefield at, because that thing was heavy. So there was a time when we were just running at each other, swinging sharp, heavy objects. That was how world policy was decided.
IF YOU GO
Where: Warfield, 982 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 15
Tickets: $29.50 to $40