Tim Bluhm will play T-Bar on Saturday
On Saturday March 9, Tim Bluhm will play T-Bar Social Club in June Lake.
Bluhm (pronounced Bloom), who will be performing solo on Friday, is a co-founder and still the frontman of The Mother Hips. The group formed while Bluhm attended Chico State in the early ‘90s. They still tour. When The Sheet called Bluhm on Tuesday, he had just returned from an east coast swing with the group.
It’ll be Bluhm’s first show in June Lake, but far from his first time to the area. He grew up in Manhattan Beach and in the 1970’s, his family came to Mammoth to ski. In 1980, they bought a cabin above Gull Lake on the Loop. The Bluhms spent summers in June, during which Tim fished, hiked, paddled, and worked. He was the boat boy at Big Rock Marina, the box boy at June Lake General Store, a boat boy at Silver Lake Marina and a dishwasher at the Silver Lake Cafe.
“It’s kind of my second home,” he said.
Growing up he listened to Buddy Holly, Little Richard, The Beach Boys, Weird Al Yankovic and Stray Cats.
His parents preference: “The stuff everyone probably listened to in the early 70’s,” he said.
Acts like Leon Russell, Carney, Paul McCartney, Ram, Barbara Streisand and Kenny Rogers.
“I think I sort of unknowingly had this retro thing going on,” he said. He sang in a church choir, took piano lessons, and played the drums for his brother’s high school band. He didn’t start on the guitar until after high school. After graduating high school, he spent a year rock climbing around the West.
“I was getting interested in guitar playing and girls and I figured that I should probably go to a college,” Bluhm said. He realized he could and would play the guitar when he listened to Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” (1969).
He explained his epiphany like this:
Bluhm: I thought that, “you know what that sounds easy. I think I can do that.”
The Sheet: And was it easy?
Bluhm: It was pretty easy.[He laughed.]
Bluhm: I mean it’s not easy to come across as Neil Young comes across. I’m not marginalizing his talents or his style in any way. But compared to a lot of other types of guitar playing it’s pretty easy. But it’s hard to make it hit you the right way.
Bluhm enrolled at Chico State where he spent his free time playing guitar
“I learned pretty quickly once I set my mind to it.”
The Mother Hips formed. He stayed in Chico for seven years, then moved to the Bay Area, where he has been based since.
In 2005, Bluhm released his third solo album, “California Way”. On his track “Transplant Song” he talks about moving to northern California:
“I am moving away from the place I am from / because I don’t like to stay where I don’t fit in / It’s my birthright to stay but I’m leaving anyway / north country take me in.”
In 2015, while speed-flying, a combination of parachuting and paragliding, he hit a tree at 35 miles per hour. His pelvis shattered. His right foot almost came off. The next two years he spent recovering and started touring again in May 2018.
“I was pretty messed up,” Bluhm said. “I had to forfeit my involvement in everything and just focus on my health. It’s a pretty uncomfortable thing to have to do. You realize pretty quickly that the world is just going to keep on going without me. No one’s really going to miss me too much. People will wish you well of course. They’ll do generous things and spend time with you, but the bottom line is that the world moves on.”
That feeling of being left out humbled him. He appreciates being able to tour, to ski and bike again.
His latest project, a solo album titled “Sorta Surviving”, is scheduled for release on March 29.
It’s a country album recorded at Johnny Cash’s The Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Dave Schools of Widespread Panic produced the album. Bluhm is accompanied by Jesse Aycock with vocals and guitar, Jason Crosby on piano and organ, Gene Chrisman on drums and David Roe on bass.
He’s become transfixed by old country music. He praised Merle Haggard. But if he had to find his moment of epiphany it was listening to Kenny Rogers, a childhood favorite.
“I was driving around San Francisco and somehow or the other Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler” came on the radio. Everyone knows that song. Even if you don’t think you know it you do.”
“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em / Know when to fold ‘em…”
Yeah, you remember. The song that lingers. Forget about it, but it’s still there. It’s the bat in the back of a cave. It flies when night falls.
“It sort of transcends country,” Bluhm said.
“Even a kid in suburban Los Angeles knew every word to that song.”
He released a single from the album. A track titled “Where I Parked My Mind.”
The Bakersfield Sound’s twang is prevalent as well as Bluhm’s humor.
“It all starts out innocently enough; / a beer to wash my sandwich down when I break for lunch. / But one or two turns into three or four. / Before my jukebox song gets played I can’t find the door.”
That’s the opening verse. It’s a melancholy “Dude Where’s My Car?”. It invites a chuckle and warns of despair.
Tim’s solo shows are quiet. Go prepared to listen. Get lost in the story or his guitar.
“I’m really stoked to finally play in June Lake.” But he’s also stoked to ski.
The Sheet: Can you describe to me the ski run of your dreams.
Tim: Let’s see some nicely spaced trees. 35 degrees. 34 degrees. I don’t know. I don’t really care. But consistent nice knee-deep light snow. A little snow falling maybe. No tracks obviously. Maybe one other person around.
The Sheet: And how many feet?
Tim: How many vertical? It depends if we have a helicopter, ski lift or skins.
The Sheet: Helicopter.
Tim: Then, how many vertical you got…Let’s go with 2,500. One shot.
The show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are available at tbarsocialclub.com for $15.