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Steinbeck Center Hosts Ben Sollee

8/25/10 update:  There was an enthusiastic audience greeting Ben Sollee and crew at the Steinbeck Center tonight.  And the Monterey Off Road Cycling Association president and his family welcomed these traveling cyclists into the heart of the local  cycling community by hosting Ben and crew in their Salinas home.  Tony and daughter Margie from HER Helmet Thursdays spot Salinas Valley Fish House cheered them off as Ben and crew pedaled into the night (brightly lit) to enjoy their MORCA-sponsored lodging.  Tomorrow they are off to the north side of the Monterey Bay, where they’ll entertain our neighbors at the Crepe Place in Santa Cruz (see below).

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Genre-hopping songwriter, cellist, and vocalist Ben Sollee takes his Ditch the Van tour to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas for the Center’s third Night at the Museum event on Wednesday, August 25, 7-10 PM.

Although Sollee and crew were in Savannah, GA in the photo above,
and travel by bicycle, they will arrive on time for Ben’s date at the Steinbeck!

(Pictured above, from left:  videographer Marty Benson, cellist Ben Sollee, tour manager Katie Benson, and percussionist Jordon Ellis in Savannah, GA for a gig at Blowin’ Smoke.  Photo courtesy of  John Carrington/Savannah Morning News.)

About Ben’s music

Ben’s collaborations with fellow musicians have earned him that “genre-hopping” moniker.  He’s played with Otis Taylor and Bela Fleck, toured with the cream of indie rock, and melted listeners with his blues covers a la Sam Cooke.

His 2008 debut album, “Learning to Bend,” was on No Depression’s top 5 list that year, and Paste listed him on The Best of What’s Next.  He earned raves from National Public Radio and was invited to play a World Cafe set.  Music blogs rain steady praise on Sollee.  At only 25, he landed prominent slots on the festival circuit, including Austin City Limits ( home of ) and Bonnaroo.

Details on 8/25 show in Salinas

The Salinas performance will take place in the Rotunda of the National Steinbeck Center.  Tickets are $10 and will be sold at the door.   For details, see the Steinbeck Center website and Facebook page for this event.

Not-your-average music tour

Ben and crew tour by bicycle without the use of support vehicles, carrying all instruments, band merchandise, film equipment for documenting, and personal effects on their bikes.

Do they bike all the way, all the time?  Not every mile.  They make use of bike-and-ride options where necessary, such as getting from their 8/24 Santa Barbara show to their 8/25 Salinas show (cycling that stretch would take more than 24 hours–not feasible, since they’d miss that next date). For that leg, they take their bikes on the Amtrak train (tips on that in the Bike-and-Ride section of Tips for Bicycling Monterey County).

The way Ben and his crew are traveling is a marked contrast to 53-foot trucks hauling stage props.  And an increasing number of musicians see the value in making a far lighter carbon footprint on their tours.   One example:  Amber Rubarth, Jason Reeves, and Brandon James, who played Monterey Live in May 2009 as part of the Vespa Experiment.

Beyond the environmental benefits, Ben Sollee pointed out there’s much more to his commitment to touring by bicycle.  In a recent interview with Tom Pryor for National Geographic, Ben talked about the “beautiful limitations” of bicycling, the vast difference in pace of life and valuing small communities on the road.  You don’t just jump on a plane to hit the next large venue that will have you, instead you value–rather than overlook–the places right where you are.

Ben makes his home in Lexington, Kentucky and his talents are celebrated back there in his Old Kentucky Home, too.  His Ditch the Van tour is presented by Frankfort’s Kentucky Coffeetree Cafe.

Tell your friends

Encourage your friends to attend this very special night at the Steinbeck:

Aug 25 – Salinas CA – The Steinbeck Center

And if you just can’t get enough of Ben’s music in one night at the Steinbeck, bike or bike-and-ride to our neighbors across the bay, too:

Aug 26 – Santa Cruz CA  – The Crepe Place

For music-loving cycling enthusiasts outside the Monterey Bay area, here are some additional dates  scheduled for the California leg of the Ditch the Van tour:

Aug 18 – San Diego CA – Sushi Art

Aug 21 – Los Angeles CA – The Bootleg Theater

Aug 22 – Santa Monica CA – SMMoA – Tour da Arts

Aug 24 – Santa Barbara CA – SoHo

Aug 28 – San Francisco CA – Rickshaw Warehouse

For additional shows outside California, see Ben Sollee’s website.

Ben, we have tips for your crew on bicycling Salinas

We love it that you’ll be bicycling in Salinas, our Monterey County seat and Salad Bowl of America/the World.   Check out the Salinas section of Tips for Bicycling Monterey County.

Steinbeck Country is also HER Helmet Thursdays Country

The National Steinbeck Center is not only hosting Ben’s tour by bicycle, they support cyclists year-round!  The Center is one of the first 100 participants in the HER Helmet Thursdays project, as reported in the Salinas Californian on 2/1/10.

Salinas cyclists Linda and Matt Greenlaw watch a fellow cyclist whiz by.

For all visitors coming from outside Salinas (or MoCo residents who want a Salinas staycation), consider staying over a night or more and make this an extra-fun mid-week celebration of bicycling!  On Thursday—both day and night—you’ll get a discount on Steinbeck Center admission.  And in Salinas and all of Monterey County, that’s true at restaurants, other educational attractions, entertainment venues, wineries, and more.  Why?  Just because you’re bicycling!

There are lodging discounts too, on a Thursday night stay.   BYOB (bring your own bicycle) or rent one here to get a lodging discount.  In Salinas, the Marriotts are the first lodging participants in HER Helmet Thursdays.

Join Ben Sollee, his crew, and other cyclists on the bikeways of Salinas on August 25.  And if you’re biking at dawn, dusk, or dark, remember proper lighting and consider high-visibility apparel and accessories.


This post was published on 1 August 2010. One or more changes last made to this post on 25 September 2010.

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