Wurlitzer Organ at Berkeley High School, Jan 13, 2018

Was walking by Berkeley High today and saw the door to their fantastic 1930s-era auditorium open; turns out the NorCal Theatre Organ Society was practicing on the High School’s excellent vintage Wurlitzer Orchestra Organ. It was basically a bunch of guys taking turns making this anachronistic beast sounds awesome. Two thousand of these organs were produced, for use in accompanying silent films. Somehow one ended up at the high school. Who knew.

David Grisman at Manning Music, Jan. 6, 2018

Got to see David Grisman close-up today at a small workshop he did at Manning Music in Berkeley. He told lots of great stories about his creative journey, and talked about the importance of learning melodies, learning from other musicians, practice, and knowing when not to improvise. He discussed writing, the value of being honest and thanking other people, and even at one point suggested “some good weed” if you need to get out of a rut! And he played a lot.

At the end, he was joined by George Cole (guitar), Danny Barnes (banjo) and Chad Manning (fiddle) for this closing tune:

Bangers and Grass with Keith Little, June 24, 2017

I hosted this great band at my house last weekend (more details here). Here’s an awesome clip of them playing a bluegrass version of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown,’ with incredible fiddle playing by Chad Manning:

Cowboy Junkies at Freight & Salvage, Apr. 27, 2017

Didn’t know what to expect when I bought these Cowboy Junkies tickets, but they still have it. In other words, Margo Timmins can still really sing. Since they don’t allow video or photos at their concerts (social media mistake?), I’m substituting this recent ‘approved’ video instead… they did sing this song on Thursday:

Jim Hurst at Sam’s Backroom, Mar. 9th, 2017

Stopped by and caught 45 minutes of Jim Hurst tonight at Sam’s Backroom, a great venue four blocks from my house. He’s an inspiring storyteller and guitar player.

Alan Doyle at Freight and Salvage, Nov. 15, 2016

Stopped in to see who was playing tonight after my bluegrass jam class at the Freight and Salvage, and it turned out to be this guy Alan Doyle and his band The Beautiful Gypsies. He’s a Canadian musician, known for having been in a folk rock band called Great Big Sea, plus a few acting gigs. And he can really rock.

Drumline at Sproul Plaza, Oct. 21, 2016

I was at the Cal library today reading David Lance Goines’ book about the Free Speech Movement, of which he was one of the organizers. I stopped reading just as he describes how the Free Speech Movement erupted in 1964, culminating in the mass arrests which were the opening shot of student campus protests nationwide. The trigger was the contested strip of land near Sproul Plaza. I walked by this area on my way home, which was a good call because I got to see this awesome drum corps:

Pete Madsen at the Monkey House, Oct. 14, 2016

Saw Pete Madsen tonight at The Monkey House, a cool hole-in-the-wall venue right around the corner on University Ave. Pete plays a mix of blues/rag/slide guitar reminiscent of players from Leo Kottke to Robert Johnson, and he’s great! I took Pete’s “Surf Guitar” class this summer at the Freight and Salvage, which was a ton of fun.

Amazing Swedish Singers in a Thai Restaurant, Oct. 4, 2016

I stopped at the corner Thai restaurant on my way home from watching the VP debate tonight. I vaguely noted a large group of guys seated at a long table, some kind of party, I thought. Then they started to sing. Loudly. But it was no drunken birthday… they turned out to be a Swedish university choir that had just landed for a week of concerts and touring in Berkeley and the Bay Area. They sang for a couple minutes, and it was awesome. In a tiny Thai restaurant. Life can surprise you. Listen:

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