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March Down The One-Oh-One

“Woke up the sky was grey, got out of bed anyway…”

It was a drizzly Sunday morning, so I hit the snooze alarm a couple of times. Okay, maybe a few times. Okay, maybe enough times to make the morning a bit interesting (and by “interesting” I mean “oh, shit! hurry up!”). We loaded up the big blue van, scrambled some eggs, hit the shower and we were on our way to the Sandbox Coffeehouse in Ventura, just a 30 minute jaunt down THE one-oh-one (because we’re SoCal, so SoCal, we drive down THE freeway). Surprises are always in store at the Sandbox…and this time was no exception.

It’s the third time at the Sandbox this year, so we’ve got the set-up down. No surprises there (except getting them to flip on the breaker for power). It’s quick with the Bose L1 PA (Bose isn’t giving me any money to advertise the product. I use it and like it. A lot. It’s light in weight and simple and it sounds good—especially for acoustic music. One of the best pieces of equipment I’ve owned).

Not many people on the patio at noon when we start. They are all in line swamping the two baristas who are getting the orders out as fast as they can make them. As the surfers and the sleep-ins and caffeinated deprived wait, I start with “The Long Walk Home,” my first time playing this great tune, a Glen Campbell cover that I’ll be performing at an upcoming tribute concert promoted by Steve Key's Songwriters at Play. The song’s been stuck in my head all morning, so I’m glad to sing it out.

Then it’s to the original material, as the folks in line get their morning/early afternoon brew and take a seat, along with the Ventura regular fans like Tom Jester (also a great musician) ,as well as Erik and Julie Pfeifer (singers extraordinaire).

And I must mention Bob Birk, another fine guitarist and singer, who made the trek over from Ojai. It’s a lot of pressure with the fine musicians in the audience, but the good kind of pressure.

A few original songs in, and I look over. Coming towards the door from the parking lot is a guy who looks a lot like Sammy Hagar. Big head of curly long, blonde hair. Black sunglasses. And wearing a scarf. I double-take. No, not a scarf. A snake. A boa constrictor, in fact. 7 feet of boa constrictor, he says. People lean away as he goes in the door to order. Folks bring their dogs to the Sandbox, so why not a snake. A pet is a pet, right?

At this point, I would normally play a song about a snake, but can’t think of any, and I would have made up something, but who cares about a snake, when Alessandra “Alex’ Stanco shows up to join the audience. All the way from Tehachapi, CA via many, many years in Illinois via the old stomping grounds the Antelope Valley. In tribute to Alex, I hold out the notes in “My Little World” as long my breath allows. Because we've been holding our breath for Alex to come back to Cali.

It’s time for a quick break to catch my breath and to say “hello” to Alex, and talk to Bob. My friend Kristy Bowin has brought some of her pals, too, one of whom is the mother of the Nevermind baby. The Nevermind baby! I’m stunned to be talking to the mother of a true rock music iconic album cover kid! It’s an awesome surprise and as much as I want to find out`more about the Nevermind baby, break time is up and I’ve got songs to sing.

Laura and I start the second set with our “Johnny and June” tribute mini-set, though Alex has goaded me into singing “Ring of Fire” as an impersonation duet between Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra. The schizophrenia takes hold; I’ll drop in and out of Sammy and Frank for the rest of the afternoon, because "you're beautiful cats, don't ever change." It’s a fun set, Laura’s got the June growl down (her dad taught her how to do that when she was a kid).

Then, it’s another reunion moment when one of the biggest music fans I know, Shelley Lee (yes, folks, THE COUNTESS OF CLASSIC ROCK!) arrives (making a side-trip on the way to LA—she lives in Bullhead City these days) right as we’re ready to start set 3. It’s the Antelope Valley set: a song about Johnny, a song about reptiles, a song about wind and then, to seal the day, it’s a song about the golden state and the golden folks who listen.

Shelley, Alex and Laura!

Shelley and Alex both get CDs and make me feel like a rock star by having me autograph them. Tear down the gear, load up the family truckster and we caravan to Duke’s to catch up some more over hamburgers and ahi salads. We distill our parallel paths of lives in music and the plans for the future-to-come into a couple of hours' conversation. Then…back on THE one-oh-one, and home again. Unload the van, upload the pictures.

It looks like a quiet couple of weeks before we're heading on up northbound on THE one-oh-one to Paso Robles…Sculpterra Winery waits on April 3rd!

See you out there…


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