Story Time: Opening for Gaelynn Lea, and some fun history...


When local music promoter and friend KC Turner invited Eric and I to open for Gaelynn Lea at Doc's Lab here in San Francisco, we were thrilled.

We fell in love with her music when she won NPR's Tiny Desk Contest last year. She plays the violin like a cello and uses a looping pedal to create gorgeous melodies that support her thoughtful, often inspiring lyrics. He thought our music would go well with hers, which is the highest compliment. 

The show was at Doc's Lab here in San Francisco, which used to be The Purple Onion. Tons of famous folks performed (and even launched their careers) here back in the day, including the Smothers Brothers, Robin Williams, Phyllis Diller, The Kingston Trio, Maya Angelou, Richard Pryor, and Woody Allen. The Purple Onion was the first "big" place I ever played. It's literally an underground venue, tucked beneath a bustling stretch of Columbus Avenue in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid.
I still remember the first time I descended the stairs (more on those in a moment), put my guitar down, and looked up to see an intimate yet spacious room with red brick walls, a full bar,  and tables with white tablecloths. When I got up on stage, the lights (that changed color with the mood of each song) and the flicker of candlelight illuminating strangers' faces in the audience made me feel like I was famous. 

I played there a lot, usually as part of songwriter showcases with friends as well as local folks I hadn't heard before. The host of these shows was a magician/comedian named Greg (can't remember his last name) who has since moved to the East Coast. Before each show, we would stand on the sidewalk and pass out handmade flyers to tourists and folks who had just gotten off work in the Financial District, imploring them to come down for a "An Evening of Music, Magic Tricks, and Comedy". 

One fateful night, I walked down the steep, dark staircase right before it was my turn to perform, and I missed a step. It wasn't a quick fall; it was a slow-motion, awkward sort of crumple and I landed in a heap on the floor. Everyone turned around and I was mortified. To make things even more fun, I spontaneously decided to play piano on one of my songs, which would have worked out fine had I known how to play piano. 

So, returning to 2017: Doc's Lab is sleek and modern compared to the old Purple Onion. I kind of miss the warmth and kooky vibe of the old space but there are some good changes. The stage was moved, which is great. The old stage was a bit awkward, as the audience surrounded you on 3 sides and you faced the main entrance head-on, which was super distracting as the door was constantly opening and closing. The new stage is also much larger, with plenty of room to move around and put all your gear. They also added an elevator, a green room, and a nice restaurant upstairs. The food is fantastic (try the gnocci!) and the cocktails are tasty. 

After soundcheck, all of us talked for a while before the show. Not only is Gaelynn an amazing musician, she's also really fun to hang out with. Her and I have a lot in common: we both started playing at the ripe old age of 27, we love shiny things, we like to joke around on stage, and we write songs about birds. Any nerves I had (after not playing in front of an audience for a YEAR, yikes) disappeared and became pure excitement and joy - this was gonna be a FUN show. 

It felt so good to play and rekindled my love of performing, something I had briefly set aside in favor of more introverted pursuits. And it was wonderful to sit in the audience after our set and listen to such an incredible performer. I'm still high from it all. 

We have another show on May 13th at Bazaar Cafe with Liz Ryder, which is a coincidence - Liz opened for Gaelynn the night before we did. Liz is incredible, one of our favorite songwriters.

Come see us and say hi!! Show starts at 7pm sharp. 

Art, music, love, and new friends - life really doesn't get any better. :-) 

Check out Gaelynn's music and bio here:


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