COral Reefers @ The Coach House

A few weeks ago I found out Mac McAnally was scheduled to play at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. Though it’s a fair trek from Santa Barbara, I was hoping others would be interested in making the journey. I’ve enjoyed Mac’s music for a long time and have always wanted to see him perform his music outside of a Jimmy Buffett concert.

Over the last few weeks, six of us Santa Barbara Parrotheads bought our tickets. Meanwhile, Stars on the Water, and Peter & Jim Mayer were added to the bill. Stars on the Water are always fun and Jerry Gontang’s energy gets the crowd going. I’m also a fan of Peter Mayer’s music and haven’t seen him play outside of a Jimmy Buffett Concert. I have to admit, I was more excited about this concert than the Buffett concert in Vegas…though that whole weekend was also a blast.

With Peg already down south for a job interview, Mike, Jack, and Steve loaded into the Sebring and Janet & I in my pickup headed south at about 1pm yesterday afternoon. There was a fair amount of traffic and off and on sprinkling, but with the use of the carpool lanes we had a pretty smooth trip down to SJC.

As we exited I-5, Janet had the directions to the venue and Mike had directions to the Double Tree. The four of them were staying down there for the Buffett concert the next day in San Diego, while Janet and I were driving back to Santa Barbara after the concert. Janet got on her cell phone so we could meet up with them at there hotel until the concert started. What commenced was not unlike Mr. Toad’s wild ride and a scenic tour of SJC, Dana Point, and the Pacific Coast Highway. Janet was trying to get directions from them over the phone and we were trying to track them down. Then it became apparent that they were lost. I think my quote was “Why are we trying to find them if they’re lost?”. We circled the town a couple times, laughing and enjoying the scenery. As it turns out their hotel is straight down the street from the venue veering to the right. Our first instructions from them were to veer to left. Which is what they had done, but they were lost at the time. If anyone ever needs directions to The Coach House, The Double Tree, or anywhere else in the area, I now am thoroughly familiar with the locale.

Once at the Double Tree, I got permission from the valet car to keep my pickup in the 15 minute parking until we left for the concert and we headed up to Mike and Peg’s suite. Peg arrived shortly later. Those who weren’t driving back to Santa Barbara that night commenced to getting their drink on and we snacked on Pita Chips and warmed up for the concert. After a little discussion on which of their cars they were going to take to the concert, we headed out. The trip from the hotel to the venue was surprisingly short when you know the way.

We picked up our tickets from will call and while waiting in line, rumors of flooding at Coors Ampitheater in San Diego, venue for the next Buffett concert, were flying around. Originally we had heard the parking lot was flooded, so there would be no tailgating. Then I heard that the show had been postponed a day. Jack “Scoop” Stafford assured me it was just the parking lot was closed. Since I wasn’t going, I decided that I'd let them figure it out.

Once inside, we were seated at the table against the right front corner of the stage. They were really great seats, except for Steve who had a partially obstructed view due to the piano on that side of the stage. The Coach House is a very intimate venue and I’d recommend it highly to anyone. Thanks to Mike, we all had dinner reservations. Well, to be truthful, we all added ourselves to his dinner reservation without his prior okay. The food was surprisingly good, several of had the New York steak and agreed that it exceeded our expectations. With the exception of some margarita issues that Peg had, the service was good, though we had to get our own water from the bar…a big thanks to Peg and Janet for making water runs for us.

During dinner, it was confirmed that the San Diego show had been pushed back a day. This caused Steve some serious stress as he explained how he was already overdrawn on his bank of bad habits with his wife and commenced to working on his nonconformist plan for how to explain to Laura that he’d be gone an extra day. At one point, I was worried this was going to negatively impact his enjoyment of the concert we were about to see. Those worries were lifted, when Jack and I saw him return from the bar with 3 drinks in his hand.

The show started with a short opening set from Jerry Gontang and Stars on the Water. As always, Jerry’s energy permiated the crowd and got everyone properly warmed up with such songs as “Nowhere Man” (Jack and I thought this was a Bush song), “You can call me Al” (Mike thought this was a Kerry song), and one of my personal favorites, their version of “Johnny Be Good (Tonight)”.

After Stars on the Water, Mac took the stage. I’ve listened to his albums and really liked his music for a long time, but seeing him live was incredible. He was very fun and told great stories about the songs, life growing up in Mississippi and learning to play the guitar, writing and performing with Jimmy, and how Nascar Rocks (because they paid him up front for $3 million copies of his song “Junked Cars” for their Nascar album). Later in his set, he had Peter and Jim Mayer join him. Just some of the songs we were treated to were “Simple Life”, “Semi-True Stories”, “The City”, “It’s My Job”, “Looking Back”, “Last Man Standing”, "Pop Top Hop", “Tonight I Just Need My Guitar” and “Junked Cars”.

After Mac’s set ended, Peter & Jim were joined by Ralph MacDonalad on the Congas, Roger Guth on Drums, and Jay Oliver on the Piano. Later in the set, they were joined by TC Mitchell on Saxophone. And then Mac joined in at the end. At one point, there was 6 Coral Reefers and 1 former Reefers on stage. I’m not as familiar with Peter’s solo work. I currently only have one of his albums, but after last night I plan on owning them all very soon. I don’t recall the names of most of his songs, but there was one, “India”, where he told a nice story of him and his daughter. They also played “Changing Channels” and a couple of Roger Guth songs. The energy was flowing through the room as the played on for a long time.

After the show, we got to meet them all. Some folks got autographs and pictures, I was content with handshakes and telling them how much I enjoyed their music. They all seemed genuinely appreciative to hear that.

It was midnight as we left The Coach House. The Sebring headed back to the Double Tree. I hope they made it back to the hotel easier than we did earlier in the day. Janet and I loaded into my pickup. We queued up some CDs for the ride home. Starting with her freshly purchased Stars on the Water CD, followed by my collection of Mac McAnally CDs. It didn’t take long before we hit the storm, but fortunately there wasn’t much traffic as it was pretty torrential at some points. We did see a couple serious accidents on the way home. As we passed them, I hoped that no one was seriously injured. Even with the reduced speed due the inclement weather and one stop for gas, we made it back to Santa Barbara in pretty good time.

As most of you know, we just spent the weekend in Las Vegas. At Last Man Standing at Tommy Rocker’s on Friday with great performances by Whaleshark, Stars on the Water, Amy Lee, John Frezi, and Doyle Grisham. Followed by Jimmy and the Reefers on Saturday. It’s been an incredible few days of wonderful music. As good as Vegas was, especially when you factor in the whole experience, last night was even more special to me and an experience I will never forget.

A special thanks to Janet for keeping me company on the drive, being in charge of music and communications, and last but not least, making me eligible for the carpool lane!

That’s my semi-true story and I’m stickin’ to it….


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