New Black Pontiac

For the second year in a row, California Jeff cooked up a video for the NPR Tiny Desk Contest! His 2018 entry was a homespun recording of New Black Pontiac. Special guest appearances by Molly the dog and Chester the cat. Their input and contributions were invaluable!

There are 1000’s of amazing entries every year. Check them out if you have some time to spare. The “unknown” talent that surfaces for this contest is unbelievable. You can also watch tons of great Tiny Desk Concerts by pretty much any artists you can think. It’s a nice rabbit hole to go down! 

P.S. Look for John Prine’s from 3/12/18!

Rachael's Cafe Album Cover

The Story of Rachael’s

On June 19th, 2015, the final weekend of spring, I set out for Bloomington, IN with my guitar and my girlfriend. We were all completely unaware that we were about to record my third album. We headed east, then southeast by mistake, then northeast, and finally east again until we arrived at Rachael’s Cafe in plenty of time to prepare for my short opening set. The gig was to be a warm up for an ill-fated music festival. The cancelled festival would’ve been my first had heavy rain in the area not changed our plans. We made ourselves at home, got set up on the stage, and waited for the other musicians to arrive.

The eclectic bill consisted of five acts. There was me, Nashville songwriter Patrick Kinsley, pop punk superstars Unamused Dave from Peoria, IL, the best metal band in Colorado and possibly the world, Scarlet Canary, and local band The Cancuners. The musical spectrum was covered and at 7:20 the barista asked me if I was ready to begin the show. I told her that I was definitely ready to go, just waiting for 8 o’clock to come around. Much to my surprise and contrary to my previous notions, she politely informed me that Facebook said the show started at 7. As everyone knows, Facebook is never wrong. The show started at around 7:30.

Show Time

As I stepped up to the mic, I realized that the audience was largely, almost exclusively, comprised of the other musicians. I stuttered, I strummed awkwardly, I missed the first line of my first song, and then I began to get my bearings. Being nervous on stage is healthy. Being bad is not. I pulled it together, got out of my head, and let the music take over. It’s not about making magic but it is about being in the moment. Musician’s refer to it as being on or in the right head space and my aim is to get to that place as fast as I can when I am on stage.

Zen. Let what happens happen. Make mistakes. Make jokes. Most importantly, make music. Some nights it is instant, some nights it takes a few songs, and other nights I just do what I can to make it through. On this night, I found my space by the end of the first song.

I don’t normally work with a set list, I like to let my mood and the audience’s response dictate what I play next. On this night, however, I preselected the songs that I would be playing in order to stay within my 30 minutes. You join me in the recording at the third verse of the first song, When You Die. Why start at the third verse? It’s simple. The record button got pushed a little late. You didn’t miss anything. As I said, the start was shaky at best. By the time you settle in to Rachael’s Cafe, grab a drink, and get seated I have it all together and am feeling the groove.

Have a Seat in Rachael’s Cafe

Throughout the set you’ll hear bits of insightful commentary from the table next to you. The recorder gets bumped once or twice. There’s a bit of static here and there. If you have the volume turned up high then, first of all, thank you for enjoying it and rocking out a bit. Secondly, that’s not your speakers or headphones that are crackling. It’s in the recording. I’m about to tell you something that no musician has ever said in the history of the world; you might need to turn it down a bit to fully enjoy it!

This is a timely recording of a show that kicked off what turned out to be a very successful summer for me musically. The weekend wasn’t perfect. My performance wasn’t perfect. The recording wasn’t perfect. The post-production wasn’t perfect. I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I write this I am, by far, the closest I have ever been to achieving the goals I set for myself many years ago. I invite you to grab a cup of coffee or a few bottles of beer, have a seat in Rachael’s Cafe, and enjoy this moment in time with me.

-California Jeff Cordes