Good Things Happen…. My First Gig As A Solo Artist!

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You know how sometimes you go a fight, and a hockey game breaks out? Well, yesterday, I went to an Earthquake zone, and a solo gig broke out!

Here’s the background.

The Mate and a couple of friends went mountain biking yesterday. Their destination? A personal favorite, Parkfield, the self styled Earthquake Capital of the World! I go there hoping to be on ground zero when a decent sized quake breaks loose. Hey, a geology school drop-out can dream!

The town is just over 100 miles from Fresno. It’s very small.

It has one restaurant, and the food there is fantastic! The trip is well worth the drive just for that!

Greg and his cohorts drove 80-ish miles toward the desired destination and stopped at a spot just west of Coalinga, then rode their bikes the rest of the way. That last bit of their route is mountain terrain, and there is no way I could have made the ride without having a series of major coronaries. But, because of my background in geology / seismology, not to mention the fantastic food, I love going to Parkfield and wasn’t going to miss the opportunity on this occasion. So I decided to drive to the town and meet them at the restaurant.

Seeing that they would be riding part of the way, it was a forgone conclusion that their trip would be a longer one time-wise than mine, so I gave them a good two hour head start. They left at about 8 in the morning. I got in the car for the two hour trip at about 10:30. It was a total guess that it would take then a couple of hours longer to complete the Coalinga to Parkfield leg of their trip. I expected it would take them longer, but I had no idea really how long they would take. So, just for the heck of it, I decided to bring my guitar along with me. I figured I would get there before they did, would have some time to kill, so the plan was to sit on the bridge that spans the San Andreas fault, strum some guitar, and wait for either the guys to show up, or an Earthquake, whichever came first.

When I reached the destination of Parkfield at about 1 PM. As is typical, the tiny out-of-the-way town was just about empty. The only humans around were a couple of cowboy-ish type guys doing cowboy-ish type things, and myself. I headed straight to the planned rendezvous point, the Parkfield Cafe to see if the guys were there yet. I asked the barkeep Sandra if she had seen three cyclist come through. Turns out I did indeed get to the little town before they did. I sat and chatted with her for a bit, then just as I decided to go hang out at the bridge and play some guitar, the guys walked in.

The food was served and the beer did flow!

About the food and the establishment. The beef they use for the burgers are all grass fed. If you don’t know if there is a difference, you should really do a taste test. We had the Parkfield Shakin’ Burger, a chipotle confection, with fries. We also got their home made chili…. Absolutely wonderful foods! If you’re the type that likes to go on adventures and eat really good food, this place must be on your map. They also have a hotel if you decide to make a weekend of it. It is in a very remote area, but civilization in the form of Paso Robles is only about 30 miles away.

We ate and chatted for a while, but time was drawing short. The guys needed to get back on the road so they would get back to the car before it started getting dark. During the conversation, I mentioned that I was going to go down to the bridge that sits over the San Andreas fault, and play a song or two. Sandra asked if would bring the guitar inside and play a few songs. I figured “What the heck. No one is there anyway. How badly could I embarrass myself. As fate would have it, I would do just that in a moment. Before I brought the guitar into the cafe, we went down to bridge to straddle two continental plates.

On the way down, we passed the one school in town, and for some reason, there is a horse skeleton erected right by the children’s playground. Greg was fascinated by it. I thought it was a bit creepy.


OK. So we all hung out at the bridge for a bit, some of us made fools of ourselves….. OK. It was pretty much me making a fool of myself. That’s my “science” voice by the way.

And then they departed for the trip back over the mountain.

After the guys were well out of sight and on their trek, I was walking back to the cafe and I heard in the distance a low but easily recognizable rumble. No, unfortunately it wasn’t an earthquake. It was about 25 motorcycles heading up the road toward the formerly quite little deserted town.

Pretty much all the bikers had gone into the cafe before I walked back in. The place was pretty packed. I wanted to wave goodbye and thank Sandra and company for the hospitality. As soon as I caught her attention and started to say thanks and goodbye, she ask me where my guitar was. I said I thought it was too crowded to play. She said no no bring it and play! I shrugged my shoulders, sad OK, and went out to the car and got the guitar.

I came back in, set up at the table near the door, and started to strum a bit. Though it was loud in the cafe, I never the less played pretty quietly. I had not practiced much in the last couple of weeks on my solo stuff and was not prepared for any kind of show. Keep in mind that my experience playing guitar and being a solo act is at open mic, in front of friends. I figured I’d play a few things quietly and then slink off into the day before anyone even noticed I was there in the first place. The first song I played was Blackbird. I played a couple more, and that would be that. During one, I know I stopped once because I messed up. But, all in all, I was doing OK, though everyone was talking to friends and no one seemed to notice.

I was playing what I thought was going to be my last thing… Then, it happened. A couple were leaving, and as they passed my table, they left a tip!

It caught me completely off guard! In my mind, I was just hacking around and though my presence was oblivious to everyone there. I was just kind of practicing, but in a room full of complete strangers. I was wrong. I started treating it a little more serious. I still kept the volume of my singing low, but the guitaring was done with a little more confidence. I played the Paul Simon song “Me and Julio”, and also played Tim Finn’s “Parihaka” which has been giving me fits just lately. Got through it with only minor errors, things only I would notice. Because I really haven’t been practicing much on my solo stuff, I forgot what songs I even play!

Think Mike Think!

I did “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, but with the new strumming pattern i have been working on. Pulled that off pretty well. Was happy with that one! I played the first two songs I had tried to play on guitar during my very first open mic, “Fragile” by Sting, and another Tim Finn gem called “Persuasion”. It took me a couple of false starts on each as I just couldn’t remember how to play the songs, or what the lyrics were for a moment. But once I started to flow on the songs they came back to me. In retrospect, there are a few more songs I could have played, but I just could think of those songs at all in the spur of the moment… And one of the songs is my own original!

By the time I had gone through about 45 minutes of material, I had gotten a few more tips. They are at the moment sitting in my guitar case. I think I’m going to have to frame one of the dollars as a memento to my first gig as a solo artist.


NOTE:  Here is the map of the route Greg, Patrick, and Ben rode yesterday. As you can see, it was pretty intense.


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