Disruption, Innovation, Death and Survival
My entire life I’ve been constantly reinventing and reinvigorating my career. Being creative, innovative, and persistent-as-hell has allowed me to move forward. So this complete meltdown of the musical ‘life as we knew it,’ was just another challenge on this rocky career path I chose — albeit a big one.
Some years back I was searching for a new venue for my Wednesday night Wine & Song series. I found a nearly abandoned room, the former pro shop at Arroyo Seco Golf Course. It was rented out for birthday parties and other events on weekends, but sat idle most of the time. I told the manager I could bring 30 to 40 people every Wednesday, many of whom would buy food and drinks from the adjacent diner. We agreed on a price — not to rent the room, but to be paid for bringing in customers. I could have simply asked how much it would cost to rent the room. But then I would not have been able to pay artists much of anything. A year later, I was able to negotiate adding an additional Thursday jazz show in what is now known as the Blue Guitar room.
What will become of the Blue Guitar now? I don’t know just yet. Our first cancelled show was March 12 — Rich Hinman vs. Adam Levy with Jay Bellerose & Jennifer Condos. What a show that would have been! Upon realizing live music was over for the foreseeable future, I quickly transitioned Wine & Song to podcast form, featuring artists who had appeared at the series over the years. My good friend and bandmate, Tim Fleming, also a sommelier, agreed to do a regular Wednesday Wine tip segment as part of the podcast. He was a natural on the microphone, but never had one at our shows. He just sat behind his pedal steel and made complete magic happen. He was a man of few words, but as complex as Bastide Miraflors, a cuvée from old vine Grenache he recommended on one of the first podcasts.
Then on Saturday, April 18 I got this text from Tim:
“Hey there, I thought I ought to let you know that I have caught the virus. In 3rd day of symptoms – not super severe but no fun. It feels like there’s not enough oxygen in the air. There isn’t any treatment available so I just have to wait it out unless symptoms become super bad then check into a hospital, but I don’t think it’s going to get that far. Be safe out there!!! …say hi to the gang tonight for me [at the Zoom concert].
The next night an ambulance took him to Huntington Hospital, and in the early hours of Tuesday, April 21 Tim was gone. There was no time left. This is where I have a hard time continuing. I was able to write a song called “Santa Ana Winds” and express my feelings about this amazing guy. But thinking about never being able to travel and play shows with him again just stops me cold still. I can’t quite wrap my head around it.
In 2015, after meeting Tim at Wine & Song, I invited him down to my studio to jam a bit, hoping he might be the steel player I had been looking for. After thirty seconds of playing a song he had never heard, I stopped and asked “What are you doing on Wednesday nights for the rest of your life?” He replied “Hopefully hanging out with you.” I couldn’t have imagined that it really would be the rest of his life, but I know he found great joy from playing music with me and everyone else he jumped in with.
Last week, I went back to the golf course to join some of the Wine & Song regulars for nine holes. I walked into the dark, abandoned Blue Guitar room for the first time since March. Cables were still plugged into the monitor that sat in front of the stage I purchased through a crowdfunding campaign. I stared at Tim’s corner of the stage where he always set up. I walked behind the stage curtain and glanced at the gear that had been tucked away. Tim’s left-handed golf clubs were leaning in the corner of the closet behind the door. I grabbed mine and headed for the first tee.
A package arrived Tuesday, unexpectedly. It wasn’t scheduled to arrive until Friday. I hurriedly unpacked and set up my new low-power radio transmitter. This is the gear I will use at a limited audience, drive-in concert on Thanksgiving weekend. I texted my friend Dave Clausen who drove around the neighborhood listening to the guerrilla broadcast from the front porch as I played and sang into the air waves on 87.9FM. He said the sound was great! On a Zoom call with city planning department representatives, we discussed necessary steps to be approved for a temporary use permit. My hope is that this parking lot and concrete patio may be the new Blue Guitar stage. Who knows at this point. But it’s sure to be another interesting twist in my quest for musical survival. Here we go, friends!
In an attempt to begin bringing us together during these difficult days, some of our long-time members have shared their experiences dealing with Covid, Lockdown, Boredom, Creativity, Bubbles, etc. We intend to post a column a week at 10 AM Pacific on Mondays, so be on the lookout! For guidelines and submission details, please contact Julie Zipperer at email@example.com or Marlynn Block at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions will be posted based on approval from the Lockdown Lemonade Committee.