Author: Sargent, Geoff

Ramblin Man

Usually when I think of “Ramblin Man”, I have the Allman Brothers song in mind, which is supposed to be based on a Hank Williams song by the same name. But I think today rambling man is going to be a better description of me writing a ramblin column. Why? Well my third Sunday jinx is firmly stationed over my head……if you remember in past columns I make the observation that everything in the world seems to happen on or over the third weekend, and Sunday, of every month, festivals, campouts, meetings, etc that interfere with my concentration for column writing. Last night it was a Mike Compton house concert in San Mateo! Mike performed at the 2011 Father’s Day Festival with the John Hartford String Band, and I believe he also taught at the 2011 CBA Music Camp….anyway for me this was a no brainer, must see concert….and besides I was curious to see how a solo Mandolin player was going to keep the crowd’s attention for 2 hours.
The venue was a place called Joe’s Garage and the music events there are usually billed as “Acoustic Tune-Ups at Joe's Garage”. It is one of the most unique house concert venues I have ever been to……..I guess the best way to describe it is they actually rebuild classic, show quality, cars and sports cars, and yes it is a working garage. During intermission the audience can walk through the adjoining rooms and view the finished projects....and if cars can be eye candy, then my eyes are going to need to get some cavities filled and maybe a few root canals. For those of you scratching you heads and thinking “a garage!!!???? but what about the tools, the oil pans, the hydraulic lifts. Yep, they are all there, but this place is an amazing obsessive compulsive delight for organization….there are bins and boxes for everything, including a wall of nuts and bolts sorted by size and thread.

I would guess the room would hold around 100-150 people so it is a pretty intimate setting and, unlike shows at places like the Freight and Salvage, it has more of a feeling like being at a backyard barbeque, except with a Grammy winning musician gently heckling the crowd. Probably the biggest reason for the backyard ambience is that the organizers of the Acoustic Tuneups, Joe, Chris, and Kelly, greet you, introduce themselves, and from then on everyone is talking to everyone else…….a little like some jams I get to go too.

I was actually a little disappointed at the turnout though….this was after all Mike Compton, and I expected every Mando-geek in the bay area to be there, but no. There were some mando-geeks in the crowd I recognized, some are my friends, so I am used to tolerating their mando-geekiness and listening to them discussing all things mando………after all, I mean it is amazing just how long can these guys talk about the shape of the necks on their axe. But still, where were the chanting throngs of mando-geeks that I hoped would be there?

When I mentioned that Mike was gently heckling the crowd, that is what I believe is so special about some house concerts; the concerts are more of a conversation with the musician. Mike is a great storyteller and spent some time talking about the background to the songs and telling a few stories about growing up in the South and playing with John Hartford. And if he had a misfire on a passage in a tune, Mike would lean over to the mic and say something like “oh gotta play that one again” and bring it back around to play the right way. There were a couple of misfires that made it more the interesting. And believe me, Mike used some of the other mando-geeks in the audience as his unwitting straight men to set up a good joke, and of course there were a couple of obligatory vocal opportunities. But, the real reason for going to this was to see his playing. You don’t have to be a mando-geek to appreciate the good stuff….and there was a lot of good stuff….. a lot of picking like I haven’t heard before. Sitting 10 feet away helps. So guys, when opportunities like this come around, the musician and the venue………how can you not go! But then again I’m a bit of a music geek….which strangely enough is one reason why I ran for the CBA Board of Directors last year.

Speaking of the CBA Board…….there are a little over 2 weeks left to send in your petitions to stand for election to the Board of Directors. This is my pitch to encourage anyone interested in serving to get your butt in gear and get those petitions in! It has been an interesting experience over the past 9 months for my baptism by fire to the is work, but it is truly rewarding work. If anyone wants to contact me to talk about what is involved…feel free to shoot me an email at…but understand that I will also do my best to encourage you to run.

Posted:  7/15/2012

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