Mike Beck switches his sunglasses for a pair of regular glasses before navigating through photos on his cell phone. An American Spirit cigarette slowly burns between his two photo-scrolling fingers before he reaches what may be the most cherished piece of stored digital data.
Beck taps the tiny square to bring up a fullscreen image – he doesn’t say anything as he passes the phone. Through some blur, an image is revealed: a candid shot of the late great rocker Tom Petty sitting at a recording console. After extinguishing his smoke, Beck zooms in on Petty’s face, divulging a glowing smile.
Through a whirlwind of serendipitous moments, a recording of Beck performing original material made it to Petty through a longtime session musician buddy who had close ties to Petty’s band, Mudcrutch.
“[Petty] was listening to my music and it made him smile,” Beck says. “Then he asked to listen to another one of my songs.”
Choked up and proud, Beck looks at the photo again for a few seconds. He had been invited to record at Petty’s Malibu studio this past winter, but plans changed following the rocker’s passing.
While it may be considered one of many roads that brought Beck close to stardom before it slipped away, it’s still one hell of a good story to tell.
Beck hit the road hard over the past year to ease the pain of losing Petty; he played just about every festival and house concert throughout the northwest. And Beck’s solo acoustic shows are something special: an entertaining combination of music, stories and “the folk tradition of stream-of-consciousness.”
Beck is all about those timeless songs fueled by timeless stories.
Beck recently incorporated one of Woody Guthrie’s more obscure tunes, “Deportees,” into his solo set, inspired by a 1948 Los Gatos Canyon plane wreck that killed 28 deported migrant farm workers en route to Mexico. The original New York Times article Guthrie read didn’t report any names of the deceased, all of whom were buried in a mass unmarked grave. Beck has noticed how much the tune impacts everyone he plays it for.
“It’s the perfect song I can sing without saying anything,” he says. “It still fits. That’s a nice feeling, to move people, which we’re trying to do as entertainers. We’re trying to take people on a little journey.”
MIKE BECK 7:30pm Friday, July 27. The Lab, 3728 The Barnyard, Suite G-23, Carmel. $15. thelabarts.com.