Thursday, April 9, 2009
These days, Mike Beck lives two lives. Most of his days and nights are spent in the tiny Montana town of Willow Creek (population: 200). There, he lends his guitar playing to a band called Montana Rose, which is fronted by female vocalist Claudia Williams.
“They’re like a very successful regional band,” he says. “They do a lot of Lucinda [Williams] stuff and original stuff.”
But, about once a month, Beck returns back to Monterey County to play some shows with his Byrds-influenced country rock band Mike Beck and the Bohemian Saints, which features the extremely talented Tom Ayres on guitar. It’s clear that those moments when he is up onstage with his own group are what Beck looks forward to. “It feels like I’m coming home,” he says.
Even though he moved out to Montana a year ago, Beck and his band managed to put out an EP simply titled Four Songs at the end of last year. Four Songs includes the Tom Petty-meets-outlaw-country of “Cheyanna” and “Itty Bitty Girl,” a country rock nugget that Beck’s clear, powerful guitar playing rushes through like a mountain stream.
One fairly substantial departure is “She Run Away,” which starts out as an atmospheric ballad hinting at a storm on the horizon. That storm comes midway through the number with a squall of heavy riffs before the end, when a mandolin duels with an electric guitar. “I was really influenced by the Led Zeppelin sound on that,” Beck says.
Currently, Beck is writing a batch of songs for a new CD with the Bohemian Saints that he hopes to start recording this June. The six new tracks he’s written so far includes a number about a 13-year-old Beck seeing Jimi Hendrix burn his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival. But the musician says that other songs eschew narrative songwriting for abstraction. “It’s really about the listener defining what they want, like a painting,” he says. “It might take you someplace different than the person next to you.”
Beck also hopes to further tap into listeners who were introduced to his songs by local Americana radio station KPIG. With the Americana station now broadcasting in Chico, San Luis Obispo, Redding, and the Bay Area along with the Monterey Bay region, Beck is planning on getting his group to secure more gigs in the other KPIG markets.
It’s a strategy that could pay off. KPIG DJ Ellie Mae says the station frequently plays songs including “George Orwell’s 113th Dream” from his last release Rooted.
“KPIG listeners love him,” Mae says. “I get requests for him all the time.”
MIKE BECK AND THE BOHEMIAN SAINTS play 8pm Friday and Saturday, April 10 and 11, at Pelican Tavern, 125 Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove. No cover. 647-8200.