After 10 years in SF, Blythe and I called it quit and moved the studio up north as far as possible from civilization, to start a permaculture-based collective with Mark Dupont and Eva Barnett. Later we were joined by Jean-Luc Ascencio and then Jen Mishkin. At the exception of Jen (though she would be seen partaking on occasion,) this group was known as the Sandy Bar Tenders, mostly because the ranch we had purchased and on which we now lived was called Sandy Bar. Our set list pretty much consisted of the Fillmore House and some Whorl material plus a few newer songs, and we sounded pretty darn good. We were definitely a lot looser than FH or even Whorl, but there was perhaps a bit more fun thrown in the mix that made things coalesce. We lasted a few years, but outside responsibilities steadily took some of the members further away from the band and eventually things naturally fell apart. After a couple of shows with Eva, I got invited to join the Superfines and so I did.

Let’s rewind a tad…

My main objective for co-forming the collective was to set up the studio and create a retreat for “ailing” musicians who needed a place to rest and easy access to a pre-production set-up. We had cabins, a collective kitchen, overflowing gardens and nurseries and a river running along the property in a valley surrounded by mountains and wilderness. The settings were absolutely ideal with much healing powers on tap. The band was responsible for the first Klamath River Music Festival and music was a great catalyst to renewed vitality and exhilarating prospects.

Somehow probabilities must have gotten mixed-up as the result of some cosmic turbulence for instead of thriving, the music took a back seat to the increasingly demanding farming reality, and away flew the dream of a recording heaven as the studio equipment remained locked in storage and the band dwindled into a ghost of its former self. In 1996 Blythe and I called it quit for good and I moved out to start practically from scratch.

I had joined the Superfines, a mountain band that pretty much outlived all fads, trends and whatever social form of knee-jerking makes people decide what is in and what is passé. My ten years with them was as much about musical endurance as it was about back country reality in all of its glory and drama. We tried not to think about it, but it is hard to forget all those that were forever lost returning from late night shows on insanely torturous roads with perhaps a bit too much drinking in the mix. And so we lost friends and fans to the river and we kept their spirits alive through our songs.
Those shows were some of the wildest, and on one of my last gigs with the “fines”, a charming naked young lady hung from my neck as I tried to put order in my playing… I probably should write a separate story about them.

The Sandy Bar Tenders at the 1st Klamath River Music Festival. From left: Blythe, yours truly, Eva, Dave Varley, Jean-Luc Ascencio