Bopping Through Bougainvillea Bushes to Reach You!


Salutations Friends!

How do you say happily hunkered in Swahili?

It’s been 2 and a half months since we all spoke and the world’s spinning differently now. Me and my gang have been holing up in Leucadia, living a quarantined life in one of the most beautiful spots on the globe. I have to be safe as I’m one of the potential “at risk” humans with not only my age as a factor but also a med that I take that on purpose suppresses my immune system. Happiness is staying healthy.

We have super compassion for all of those that got sucked into the whirlwind of covid. And it’s still a factor.

And then the money went funny. That’s not over with either.

And then the protesting and the riots. I’m not into the looting but all systems ahead with folks gathering and inspiring change. The world will be such an improved setup if humans of all color and belief systems were experienced as ONE.

One love
One heart
Let’s get together and feel alright
— Bob Marley

I have one friend that passed away from the virus. His name was Ray Phoenix and he was a full on magic person. If you were ever part of the Roxy Thursday music sessions that I did a few years back, you might remember Ray coming up near the end of the gig and joining me with some scat singing and dancing on “Amazing Grace”. This dude had freedom as his middle name. Creative and funny, a true example of a life well lived. Ray and his wife Linda recorded music at my studio and we shared a ton of spontaneous revelations every time we crossed paths. I miss him and am sorry he had to go.

Excellent human Ray Phoenix. He will be missed.

Once the virus took hold of humanity, for us musos, ALL gigs disappeared! For the first time in my life since I was a little kid the calendar transformed into a blank canvas. The last place that’ll get OK’d for humans to inhabit will be concerts and clubs where folks are squished together.

First thing I did was revel in the open days of freedom from details. I wrote some new tunes, learned some songs and solos that had been on my list for years, and edited up some backlog of concert vids and jettisoned them off to my YouTube channel.

Practicing in paradise during the beautiful quarantined month of May. photo by Stefanie Sprague

On the home front, my wife Stefanie got furloughed from her job and with the extra bandwidth in our life from not working we decided to adopt a doggie. Along came Ruby! Aside from being shy in the beginning you should of seen her last night romping with Cooper who is twice her size! It was amazing.

Ruby! photo by Kylie Sprague

Our daughter Kylie lives in Portland and works in the mental health field and her job morphed over to working from home because of the pandemic. In April she zipped down here in a car and hung with us for a couple of weeks. Bliss having her close and we’re hoping that she can make another SoCal tour in August. Kids are cool!

Pandemic family portrait with Kylie, Stef, me, and Ruby. photo by Kylie Sprague

The surfing part of my life got spun around a bit during these last few months. First, it was all beaches closed. This would of been torture except during those 3 weeks the surf was lousy. I kept track of it daily (that’s one of the first things I do in the morning—fire up the SurfLine surf report and check the cams) and it was just one of those funky streaks of surf.

Next, a few beaches were open this led me to mostly biking down to Ponto in Carlsbad or doing the long beach route to Beacons, which is right down the hill from my house but with the trail closed this meant going to Moonlight Beach and biking from there.

Now it’s free sailing and summertime is upon is and the surfing life is alive and well!

Walking on water is once again legal! photo by Hall Sprague

On the music front I took some of my new tunes and dusted off some songs I’d written but never recorded and held weekly recording sessions at SpragueLand with my brother Tripp on sax/flute and harmonica, Mack Leighton on bass, and Duncan Moore on drums. Each player was in a different room (my studio SpragueLand has 5 different rooms to record from, each player hearing the music through headphones) and so we were properly social distanced to stay safe.

So far we’ve recorded enough music for two albums and in the coming months I’ll let you know about the release dates and details.

Also coming up is my new solo guitar album called The Secret Chord. It’s all complete except for the album graphics. Details in the next coming months.

This is how my control room looks now. Guitars everywhere, each for a different season.

During the days of covid, emerging out of the YouTube data stream were some beacons of humor and inspiration.

First up, fantastic jazz muso Bill Mays plays his reworking of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” 

Here’s Bill and I from a 2018 duo hit at The Merc in Temecula.

I’m such a fan of Jacob Collier and here’s his latest song and video bringing together pop and jazz harmony with a clever visual angle:

And finally, I think a real highpoint in the creative endeavors brought on by the pandemic, John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” — 8 episodes of goodness emerging out of the darkness of the virus.

OK, this brings us up to pretty much the current moment.

What creative music adventure can I launch into now, now that live gigs are a thing of the past?

That’s the question that’s been stuck on a repeat cycle inside my brain for the last couple of months. The answer that’s emerging is the idea of livestreams —live concerts from my studio where we’re staying safe and making music for you out in the world while you’re staying safe too. It could be a bunch of fun presenting weekly shows, each with different angles and highlighting different musos. Hopefully we could get some interaction going with you, the listeners, via the YouTube chat feature to make up for what’s lost in the translation of not all being in the same room. You know that situation of ending the song and there’s no applause? I realize it’s through the audience applause that we partially gauge how we’re doing. It’d be fun to figure this out together.

One big deal in pulling off a livestream concert is to have in one’s possession GOOD INTERNET. This was my first hurdle to get over because at our house our DSL service was too slow to make it all work. When I inquired with both AT&T  and Cox, both said we were not eligible for faster service because ours, and a few other houses around us, were “on an internet challenged island.” In order to make it work they’d have to dig the streets up, lay a cable, then trench our long driveway, and then finally connect us to the great internet in the sky. Oh, yeah, one other detail, they’d need $12,000 in cash too. Urgghhh!

My brother-in-law Paul suggested I call Tony Kranz (a neighbor, a friend, and also an Encinitas City Council member) and see if he had any ideas. Tony then put me in touch with a gal named Debbie who works for Cox and she in turn lined me up with a field technical specialist named Andy. He was cool! He said “I can’t connect you up the regular way by hanging a cable between the telephone poles because it’s too far and the cable will droop. Instead, if you’re willing to get permission from your neighbor and then you trench and lay a conduit through their yard, I can pull the cable through that and you’ll be in business”. 

Rosemary, our ultra nice and generous neighbor said yes. Next Brian, a longtime best friend and a technical wizard offered to help and the two of us set out for 2 long days navigating 3 inch conduit, PVC glue, hacksaws, pulling string through the pipe, bopping through bougainvillea bushes, dodging cactus, getting behind a pool maintenance building with a minuscule 1/4 inch clearance, bending the pipe around a beautiful old palm tree, and then finally to the telephone pole. 375 feet of uncertain outcome! Uncertain because are we doing it correctly? Will they be able to pull the cable that far? Will the string break? Is the distance so far that the signal will be too weak?

Most DIY projects start with a Home Depot run, and so that’s me and a bunch of 3 inch conduit pipes getting ready for a 2 day manual labor adventure. photo by Brian Balthazor

Next we dug our way to the bushes. photo by Brian Balthazor

I’ve traveled inside the tube in the ocean waves but this was the first time I’ve ever been “tubed” with a PVC tube and a bougainvillea bush. photo by Brian Balthazor

I’ve been playing guitar strings for 3/4 of my life but here again, first time playing with a string threading it through the pipe. photo by Brian Balthazor

This was a great day when Andy pulled up in the Cox truck and proclaimed, “we will get ‘er done!” photo by Brian Balthazor

The great news is, it worked! It wasn’t easy (the section with the bend around the palm tree was an issue and they had to cut open the conduit and pour lubricant in the pipe to help the cable to pass through). But now ladies and gents, we have FAST internet and let there be music!

The final hurdle was gathering up the right video gear and learning said gear—tricky stuff with a steep learning curve. Plus key components were sold out for months because everyone else in the world is wanting to do this very same thing.

This brings us right up to now and tah dah, we’re ready to present:

Here’s a link to the concert.

We’ll be playing some of the new music that I’ve written plus one sparkling Beatles song that’s worth the price of admission alone.

Price of admission? Actually the concert is free but we will have a “virtual tip jar” complete with Tripp’s (he’s the band account plus sax player) PayPal and Venmo info for you to donate whatever you feel good about. We’d love that to work out too.

We did a test run two nights back with all of the gear running and us musos playing too. Boy am I glad that we weren’t legit live ‘cuz there were issues. The main one being that YouTube stuttered and eventually froze up. We pulled ourselves out of the wreckage and got it going again but this is pretty much uncharted territory for all of us. It’s a wild world of HDMI cables and bitrate upload speeds and we’re doing our darnedest to share the music that we love. 

Fingers crossed!

I’m feeling that the slower pace is good. I guess what happens when folks are granted open space is that they fall into what they love and for me it’s making music.

I hope to see you Thursday night for the concert and say hi if you can. Our plan, if this goes well, is to present weekly concerts from outer space into your living room or phone (if you use your phone, you won’t have enough bass in the mix and you’ll miss Mack, the bassman’s insane solos!). Our music series is called (with help from Stef on this) Live-ish From Spragueland.

That’s it for now and I hope that you are all staying safe.

see you soon, best, Peter