My California Guitar Gigs

I recently had a few nice gigs down in California, and wanted to write about them here.  If there is a mecca for instrumental music on acoustic guitar it may be the Bay Area of California. Many prominent guitarists live in the area, and there are a number of good guitar shops such as Guitar Solo in San Francisco, Gryphon Strings in Palo Alto, and Schoenbergs in Tiburon. In Santa Cruz you can’t throw a rock without hitting a luthier’s shop. So as someone that likes fine guitars and music I was excited to visit and gig, as well as see some friends and family.

I’d like to say thanks to Teja Gerken, Doug Young, and the Windsor Acoustic Concert Series for arranging gigs for me, hosting, and making the trip possible. Its always great to play for an attentive audience, make new friends, and sell a few cd’s.

My first gig was Teja Gerken’s acoustic guitar showcase. Teja is a senior editor at Acoustic Guitar Magazine, and has been running a monthly showcase at the Bazaar Cafe for ten years. The Bazaar is a great little place, with owners that love acoustic music. The gig is totally unamplified, and with fifteen people there it seems like a full house. Fellow celtic guitarist Steve Baughman joined Teja and I on this gig, so it was a great night of music. Steve and I played a duet on guitar and banjo which loads of fun. I got to meet Az Samad, a fantastic local guitarist, and Hengsure, who brought his Alberico OO for me to check out. Its a very nice, comfortable guitar.

I stayed at Steve’s house that night, and we were up to late playing tunes and drinking Scotch, though I did most of the drinking. Steve is a good friend and teacher, and it was great to spend some time with him.

A few days later Doug Young and I played a house concert up in Sanoma at the Windor Acoustic Concert series. Host Scott Nevin cooked us a great filet migon dinner before the show, and we had an intimate, attentive audience. House concerts are so much fun, and probably my favorite venue for music. They are usually in someone’s living room, played unamplified, and often include a potluck or dinner beforehand. There is a suggested donation jar, which usually all the proceeds going to the artist. House concerts are really taking off, with websites like Concerts In Your Home helping to put artists in touch with hosts.

My final gig of the tour was at Doug Young’s Acoustic Guitar Showcase in Santa Clara. Doug is another good friend, and let me stay at his place during my trip. I even managed to get a track recorded for an eventual second album while I was there. I have played Doug’s showcase before, and its always a good time. We were joined by Jennifer Martin, and played about eight tunes each. There was a nice crowd, and we even managed to webcast the show using Ustream. This was the first time trying this and it worked pretty well. Doug and I played two really fun duets. Created Hens, and an original tune of Doug’s in which i played a harmony part. Guitar duets are so nice, and Doug’s tune had some really fun passages where we both get to play fast.

Besides the gigs I managed to get to a few guitar stores. One of my favorite shops in the Bay Area in Gryphon Strings. They always have a nice selection of guitars. There was a particularly sweet Santa Cruz FS in cedar/cocobolo that I played for quite a while. From what I understand the FS was designed partly by Jeff Taugott when he worked at Santa Cruz. It looks similar to Traugott’s instruments, and is designed primarly for the fingerstyle player. The one at Gryphon seemed super responsive, and I would have loved to have taken it home. You don’t see the FS around that much, and it was great to be able to play one. I also played some very fun ukulele’s by Collings. Super light with a quick responsive sound, and ideal for clawhammer banjo technique. It would be nice to have a uke to take along on camping trips.

Another guitar shop I was very excited to visit was Schoenbergs Guitars in Tiburon. Its a fairly famous guitar shop, but in my previous visits I had never managed to get there. I had some time the day after my San Francisco gig, so I drove the half hour north of SF, across the Golden Gate bridge, to the touristy town of Tiburon. Schoenbergs is a super small store, but every inch is packed with guitars, all of them interesting. Some standouts included a Tony Yamamoto semi-baritone fan fret, a hundred year old Washburn parlor, and an Alberico OM. The Washburn was particularly cool, very small, lightly built, and super responsive. A guitar with a very old vibe. I also enjoyed the Yamamoto, and would not mind a baritone or semi baritone guitar one day. That low register is something totally different. It was also nice to play another one of Fabrizio’s OM’s and be able to compare it to my own. He does not build that many guitars, so coming across two in the same trip is rare indeed.

I had really great time in California and am looking forward to going back and doing some recording. Thanks so much to Steve and Doug for providing me with a place to sleep, and Teja and Scott for the gigs. It was also nice to be in the sun for a week and somewhere where it is not cold and raining. Now its back to regular practicing and putting tunes together for the next cd.

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