Thursday, June 2, 2011
Three miles east of the powerplant smokestacks in Moss Landing lingers a sweet-smelling, 3-acre sanctuary of green pastures and flower gardens. Colleen and Jim Goff, of Dahlia Farm, have been growing and selling 550 varieties of the bushy perennial (plus an expansive collection of hydrangeas and daylilies) for 14 years.
A few years ago, Colleen – also a singer-songwriter – told her husband that she wanted a place to play her music outside, among the beautiful hues of pink, orange and purple.
“He ended up building this great bandstand,” she says.
The outdoor stage sits under a couple of massive oak trees, giving any sounds emerging from it an organic reverb that can reach out to the surrounding rolling hills.
“It’s not loud-loud, but it’s loud enough so you can be a couple acres away and hear the music,” Colleen says. “It’s very peaceful.”
After the stage was built, Goff began casually inviting her musician friends to experience the serenity of performing in the middle of the private garden refuge.
“We kind of grew into a little hub for songwriters,” she says.
In its third year, the Goff’s garden concert series, dubbed “Summer for Peace,” will bring different singer-songwriters – including Amanda West, Steve Graves and Kate Van Horn – to Elkhorn Slough every Sunday through Sept. 25, beginning this week with San Francisco musician Garrin Benfield and opening act Dino Capito.
Benfield – who has shared stages with Boz Scaggs and opened for Page McConnell of Phish – explains his recent release, The Wave Organ Song, as a fluid cycle of songs “in an age when tracks have taken over the art of the album.”
“People seem to be consuming music now on a song-by-song basis,” he says. “The way albums used to be sequenced was more important than it is now and I wanted to make something that was a mood piece; you could put it on and never have to jump up to switch songs.”
The unadorned 13 tracks run together at a calm tempo and each song feeds off the previous one, including a cover of Alex Chilton’s rebel ballad, “Thirteen.” Benfield’s looping station – in the tradition of Keller Williams – and innovative guitar style add the illusion of a rhythm section, resulting in a much fuller feel on pieces like the classic blues-driven “Walkin’ Time Blues,” which strolls along at the pace of a Sunday drive as the narrator ponders “staying in the Mission all night.”
Though Benfield has five full-length albums under his belt, he feels most comfortable in a live setting, where he creates soundscapes on the fly.
“Improvisation has been a part of my music education since the beginning,” he says. “I pick up the guitar and start making sounds and it just evolves from there. Also, I was exposed to a lot of improvisational rock and roll – like the Dead and Allman Brothers – from an early age, so it’s in my blood.”
Benfield looks forward to providing a fitting soundtrack to the lush natural backdrop of the Goffs’ farm.
“I like the whole concept that people can wander around in the gardens and listen to the music,” he says.
GARRIN BENFIELD and DINO CAPITO play at 2pm (gates open at noon) Sunday, June 5, at Dahlia Farm, 14581 Tumbleweed Lane, Elkhorn Slough. $10. 763-9251.