They paved paradise and put up a parking lot….Last Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 marked the last Laguna Songwriter’s Showcase at the famous town’s beloved Marine Room Tavern.
After the Tavern’s change of ownership last fall, the promise was to not mess with it’s treasured Tuesday nights, hosted by Beth Fichet Wood. It was a favorite of locals and visitors alike for almost nine years.
You would never know who would show up. From a European band touring the U.S., Eagles hit songwriter Jack Tempchlin, Cristopher Cross, Kenny Logins, and many many more – to up and comers from all over the country. Everyone was equal, everyone right sized, all brave and fearlessly trying out their newest song or happily performing favorites shouted out in request. And Beth led the way by example, both in her performances to open and close most nights, to her “hands off” way of being “hands on” to allow each evening to unfold into another memory. Some of my best moments were not so much watching the locals smile non stop in appreciation (which I did often), but to witness the new listener who happened to stumble upon the night while on holiday in Laguna. Even this night was not without that, as a couple from Canada sat in amazement listening to the world class musical talent perform the final showcase. They also watched the packed house rise up for multiple standing ovations for Beth and her husband Steve throughout the evening, and even one for our favorite bartender Robbie – the best!
You could tell they realized they happened upon an amazing, this will never happen again, moment. it was beautiful to see.
I reflected as I watched and listened. Many of my songs that went on to be credits were worked out there. We even basked in the Grammy nomination glow during one performance there with my fellow songsmiths, fresh from local press cheering us on. Then there was my one on- air interview with the Laguna FM station D.J. “Mookie” where we joked about cutting it short to get over to the “Mar Bar” to catch the evening’s acts. I looked around to connect so many friendships and collaborations born from the showcase. Not to mention how we all marked nine years of historic events looking up to the muted T.V.s mounted up high.
But progress marches on I guess. When we heard the news that Beth was ending the Mar Bar showcase, the first most natural question was “Why?!” She replied “I don’t feel comfortable asking artists to bring their talent into a noisy bar atmosphere where thery are not appreciated. The owner does not want me to ask people to be quiet during the performances anymore, (This was very seldom necessary to the supportive crowd. But when she had to it was well received.) so it was time.” If you think about it, it was somewhat a bar room miracle how for nine years there seldom if ever was a noise problem.
As soon as word spread of the last four showcases, everyone who usually came, used to come, came some of the time but not as much as other times – everyone started coming every week in a newfound appreciation of the magic of the night. I was one of them. I used to be on the bill every 6-7 weeks, a regular for sure. Not to mention subbing for Beth when she was back east, the numerous benefits, and holiday celebration showcases. But life and music took me in different directions the last few years, and I only hung out and played every four months or so. As soon as I heard I become one of them – every week for every minute.
Looking back, I think one of my favorite moments was when I played with Jack Tempchin. He was singing his mega hit “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and forgot the words. Isn’t that funny?! But he didn’t miss a beat as he picked up from everyone singing the lyric for him. His eyes got heavy from emotion while smiling ear to ear in a full circle moment realizing he wrote a song that touched so many millions of lives that he would never have to worry about having to remember the words anymore. It’s the stuff songwriting is made of, and what songwriter’s live for. And I got to be a part of it.
As the final showcase drew to a close it was evident that no one wanted to go. All standing shoulder to shoulder, clapping and singing, some crying, all smiling. The love was in, around, and in between. So bitter sweet. I walked quietly backed to my car and drove Hwy 1 north towards home with just my thoughts – wondering how I was going to fill the vast void left with the passing of this era. But I have learned that music has a way of finding it’s way, and connecting the people who cherish it. So that’s what I said to my buddies in parting – let’s just follow the music, and we will soon find each other again.
Thank you Beth, Steve, Rob, and the Marine Room for many years of priceless memories on a Tuesday night. If a parking lot could talk…..