The John Shinnick Web Site
Shinn the Musician (Prior)
Last update:October 7, 2023
I’ve mentioned The Solano Stroll a couple of times here. To refresh your memory, Solano is a large street running through Albany and into Berkeley which features fairly upscale shopping along with numerous eateries and other commercial and professional services. Once every September, the second Sunday, a two-mile stretch of Solano Street is closed to traffic, and a large block party is held.
It’s quite festive, with lots of outdoor food vendors, art dealers, charity and community event booths and, oh yes, entertainment. Lots of music from acoustic to big band to jazz to rock and roll. Even karaoke. It was where I first saw The Back Pages, a local 60’s 70’s cover band which was downright obscure up to that point, but they drew huge crowds that day, and the following weekend when they played at the nearby Circus Pub, people (like me) who had seen them at the Stroll packed the place and a large contingent listened from the street. That was the year the Stroll drew (by official estimate) a quarter of a million people during the course of the day. The organizers decided that the event had become too big and stopped publicizing to a ten-county radius. I played there once with the John Richardson Band. The crowds weren’t as big for us, nor did we see turn-away crowds after our performance there.
I always wanted my band Void Where Prohibited to play the Stroll, but we were never able to do it. Someone would always not be able to make it that weekend. I confess to having been one of them more than once. Shame on me.
Now I’m in the Blues Daddies, who had played the Stroll before my arrival. We are now a band in transition, although it’s been that way for over a year since I joined. Definitely not ready for the Stroll. It was against this backdrop that I heard of a related event that has been taking place the day before the Stroll for some years now, “The Stroll-ish”. That’s right, kinda like the Solano Stroll, but not REALLY the Stroll.
The street isn’t closed to traffic, so there aren’t lots of people strolling about. There are far fewer booths set up, and for most of the stores, it’s business as usual. I’d never heard of the Stroll-ish. I don’t recall any advertising for it. In fact, the explanation I got for its existence was that it was to BE an advertisement for the The Solano Stroll. This year we were tapped to play the Stroll-ish.
We would set up in front of a school administration building which wasn’t open on Saturdays. We would play only two sets, 1:00 and 3:00, or 2:00 and 4:00. Our regular drummer couldn’t make it that day, so I got my friend Ed to fill in. We chose the earlier two set times so Ed could make an evening gig later that day. We had two rehearsals with him, but only one with me, as I was dealing with family matters up north for the first one. We were able to get through the songs but didn’t have time to polish the beginnings and especially the ends of the songs.
Not rock and roll, but so cute. A Stroll-ish attendee takes advantage of face-painting offered at the event. Perhaps in 20 years, she'll be singing for us!
We were also able to obtain the services of a conga / harmonica player who had worked with the Daddies off and on through the years, but he couldn’t attend either rehearsal, so he just showed up at the gig.
So, we weren’t particularly polished. The sound system had some issues that never really got ironed out. The first set actually went pretty well, but the second was, well, I’ll just say that the polish that didn’t get added in our rehearsals didn’t magically appear in the second set. But I tend at times to be overly critical of performances. Overall, the weather couldn’t have been better. We attracted a fair number of listeners who smiled and remembered some of the songs we played, and it gave us a chance to remind folks that the real Stroll was to be the next day.
Ed and I had time to stop at a nearby creperie for a late afternoon snack. It gave us a chance to catch up on things and for me to again thank him for being available that afternoon. He’d done an admirable job all things considered. As it turned out, we would be getting together again in a couple of weeks with the old Beatles cover band in which we’d first met.
So it was only Stroll-ish. I’ve reached a point where music is less about music and more about the camaraderie between the musicians.