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The Length of California

It was only a two-day tour, but it was long in miles and big in heart.

Laura and I drove from Santa Barbara to Napa on Friday-- it's only a five-and-a-half hour drive according to the gods of the google map, in reality, however, the traffic around Silicon Valley was at a standstill because of an early rush hour and good dose of rain, so add on two hours. Luckily, we got to the "undisclosed location" in Napa (ok, it was disclosed as "G-house", the home of Pamela and Sean Gregory, our friends and gracious hosts), with a couple of hours to spare. Pamela cooked up some very delicious and healthy dinner and after a brief visit and a little rest, the concert got started to an attentive house full of listeners.

Home concerts are awesome, especially when there are a couple of old friends from the old neighborhood of Lancaster, CA in the audience (Pamela, and Kris Cox who drove all the way from Walnut Creek). Perhaps made even more awesome when a print of David Hockney's famous photo montage of "Pearblossom Highway" is hanging on the wall, allowing me to map out to the audience the terrain in which we grew up and the desert that inspired many of my songs (I just realized that the last house concert I played, in Lancaster at Susan Lowry and Bob Lundergan's place, they also had a print of "Pearblossom Highway" on the wall...coincidence? hmmmm...). A few songs, a few stories later and it's intermission with delicious Pammy-baked goods (Guinness gingerbread cupcakes with Jack Daniels vanilla frosting--are you kidding me how great these were, alongside Lemon Bars with lemons from the backyard!), and two offers from audience folks to come back and play at their houses, and another to play at an event at the shop Roost Napa. The second set was fueled by sugar and the prospect of returning to Napa for seconds of music, so it was good times. Huge thanks to Sean and Pam for turning their home into a concert venue that night. We hope to get a little more time to visit when we head back up (looks like it'll be June).

Saturday morning, delicious breakfast cooked by Pamela, and a quick visit with her and Sean before he heads off to teach, then we load up the car and hit the road for 5 hours through the rain and the Redwoods to Arcata, CA. It'll be an evening of "Free Folk" with Little Bear (Michael Hagen), a guy whose music reflects the loving soul that he is.

Blondie's Food and Drink is a casual venue-- part coffeehouse, part bar, part convenience store, part internet cafe. We beat Michael there and are greeted with a big hug from a total (and quite drunk) stranger. "You're gonna play live music for us!" he says, "Awesome!"

Michael shows up. A big Little Bear hug. "I fuckin' love you guys!" he says, and he means it, and we know it'll be another special night. And a couple of other transplants from Lancaster/Palmdale are there: Brian Hennesy, as is Phil Irvine. I start playing and people are listening, diggin' the stories between songs, singing along to "99" and "Golden".

Laura gets a big ovation following the kazoo solo on "Longing for Less."

Then, it's time for Little Bear. He fingerpicks mesmerizing patterns and sings poetry over them, but strums hard when he feels it. He sings about nature and peace and love. He runs his voice and guitar through a Marshall acoustic guitar amp, giving his sound a slight wash of reverb, a timbre that perfectly suits his style. Blondie's turns into a listening room, all ears on Michael. He ends his set with an encore, an impromptu version of Whitney Houston's "I Want to Dance with Somebody." It works, the audience loves it.

It was a cool hang for a bit after the show, and then again the next morning with Michael and Letha and Brian meeting up for breakfast at T's Cafe (great suggestion Brian). Talk of music and working in guitar shops (Brian works at Wildwood Music in Arcata, pretty much a dead ringer for Jensen's Music, where I work in Santa Barbara), and potential returns to Arcata and trips for Michael and Brian down to SB over coffee and french toast and omelettes. These folks are the best, and we want to stay for awhile and bask in Arcata's vibe, but it's a quick picture and we're off on the road back home.

It's a 12 hours drive back to Santa Barbara, with some rain here and there, but mostly a pain free drive. A few stops for gas, and a dinner break in Salinas for pulled pork at Salinas City BBQ before heading off again. Very grateful that Bob and Jenny Chaney were staying in Pismo Beach and invited us for a snack and cup of tea, and an all-too-short one-hour visit. Hit the road for the last leg=2 hours later=1 am and we're home sweet home.

Sweet dreams of Napa and Arcata and the 101 freeway ensued as soon as my head hit the pillow.

See you out there...



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