Hi Friends!
In August, we will be headed up to Washington and Oregon for a few shows. Then on August 29th, after celebrating my mother’s 90th birthday, we will start driving across country for my first cross-country tour. My longtime friend and magic-fingered guitarist, Peter Andrews, will be joining me on the tour, as well as for all of the August shows. Paul Fifield and Bob Hahn will be joining us for most of the Bay Area shows. I hope you are having a great summer!
 
AUGUST SHOWS
SATURDAY August 14th 2 to 4 pm and SUNDAY August 15th, 11am to 3pm, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND SUMMER STUDIO TOUR, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WA
Various locations on the island.
 
SATURDAY, August 14th   7:30 to 9:30 pm, STEPHENS HOUSE CONCERT SERIES, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WA
James May and I will be sharing songs at this intimate house concert series in beautiful Bainbridge Island. For reservations, email info@stephenshouseconcerts.org, or just show up.
191 Winslow Way, Bainbridge Island, WA
 
TUESDAY, August 17th, 6:30 to 9:30 pm, SECRET GARDEN CONCERT SERIES, PORTLAND, OR
We are looking forward to returning to this magical garden concert series at the NW Portland International Hostel. Come and enjoy the music….and a dinner from the grill.
NW Portland International Hostel, 425 NW 18th (and Glisan), Portland, OR.
 
SATURDAY, August 21st, 9:00 pm, LUNA’S CAFÉ, SACRAMENTO, CA
Peter and I are returning to our hometown to play at this hip downtown café/club. We had a great time here in June.
1414 16th Street, Sacramento, CA
 
SATURDAY, August 28th, 3 to 6 pm, HERCULES FARMERS’ MARKET, HERCULES, CA
Enjoy some tunes while you are picking up fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables.
Hercules Market Hall, 4000 San Pablo Ave, Hercules, CA
 
SATURDAY, August 28th, 8pm to 11 pm, FIRST STREET CAFÉ, BENICIA, CA 
This is our last gig in Northern California until October. We will be driving across country the next morning. Stop in for some fine food, beverages and tunes and wish us Bon Voyage!
440 First Street, Benicia, CA
 
 
 
August Story...
 
When I was 7 years old, I loved Superman comic books. The first day of every month, I would ride my bike down to the corner market to scoop up the latest edition. Sometimes it wouldn’t be there, and I would ride back home slowly, trying to accept that I had to wait one more day. But when my journey was successful, I would pedal home as fast as I could, then hide out to revel in Superman’s latest adventures. If my parents or sisters were looking for me, I would ignore their calls until I turned the last page.
 
One episode I remember vividly was when Superman placed a lump of coal in his fist and, using every ounce of his super-strength, squeezed the coal into a stunning diamond. I wasn’t quite old enough to realize it would take a lot more coal to make the 5-carat diamond he held in his hand, not to mention the years and pressures involved. But then the laws of science didn’t apply to my hero. I immediately went in the backyard and grabbed a charcoal briquette from the barbecue supplies. I placed a concrete block on top of the charcoal. Knowing that I did not possess Superman’s super strength, I allowed a few days under the weight of the block. Several days later I went back to claim my prize--but the briquette remained unchanged. Figuring that it needed a little more pressure, I jumped on the concrete block…. which succeeded in pulverizing the hapless briquette.
 
I learned something from that un-cooperative lump of charcoal, but sometimes I forget the lesson. Five years ago, almost to the day, I was growing stressed from work. Through eight years of ups and downs, I had been working on a very demanding project that we were finally ready to sell, but I had to get away. I looked in Acoustic Guitar magazine and found an ad for a songwriting camp in Sisters, Oregon, which started two weeks hence. I immediately signed up.
 
I was apprehensive driving up to Oregon. I had no idea what to expect. I had never been to music camp before. I didn’t know anyone at the camp. I hadn’t even heard of the nationally-renowned instructors. I had started playing music again several years earlier, but my writing and much of my playing was done in isolation. I would be low man on the totem pole. People might not like me. They might think my songs suck. Then the fantasy side of my brain would take over: “Maybe I’m special. Maybe these experts will see a hidden genius in my songs, and anoint me.” I couldn’t stop the comparisons—would I be better or worse than others and how would my songs, voice, and guitar playing compare to theirs?
 
After an inspiring start to camp, it took a complete collapse of my ego on the second night to let go of the comparisons. I was not going to be the anointed one. Nor was anyone else. There was no anointed one. There was only our internal calling and our response. What would we choose do about it? What I wanted the instructors to say was “That is a perfect song, and I will help you get it played across the land.” Instead, they would point out things that worked well in a song, and things that might be changed to make the song better. And sometimes they suggested starting over. In other words, they showed us that there was always more work to do.
 
I have found the musical journey to be hard and tedious at times. The playing and performing side is often pure joy. But I don’t get to do that without spending a lot of time and effort behind the scenes, and sometimes that behind-the-scenes work is drudgery. Writing songs can be a wonderful flow of creative inspiration. At other times I spend hours staring at a blank sheet of paper and nothing comes. And then there is the business side!
 
I used to believe that work was something that you had to do, until you could save enough to retire. But no one is making me work at music. No one expects that of me. On the contrary, I think some people are puzzled why I bother. I have no excuse for what I am doing except that I love doing it.
 
I am awed by the talents and gifts of the musicians and people I have run into on my journey. But I am even more in awe of the effort that goes into honing their craft and getting their work out into the world. I think of the Thomas Edison quote: “Invention is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” That rule applies to so much in life. When I see someone who is thriving in their musical journey while others with similar gifts are not having the same outcome, I no longer think “Why are they so lucky?”  Now I think: “Good for them! They have worked hard to achieve what other people dream of.”
 
Peace and joy,
Steve
 
Steve Meckfessel  •  Alameda, CA