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Theater on the Hoof: A Guitar Star on the Promenade:

Dave Quick, Special to the Mirror

One way to offset Santa Monica’s high cost of living is to take advantage of the free street and pier entertainment that blossoms on any sunny weekend.

On a recent Sunday, I hoofed from Santa Monica Pier to the Promenade and there, among the has-beens, wannabees and otherwise criminally bad acts (probably some with real criminals), one performer was, in a word, captivating.

Scott Huckabay “plays” guitar — an amplified Spanish acoustic guitar. I stopped to listen. A few moments into the performance, and I realized that this is no ordinary street act. This is no ordinary act regardless of venue.

Something of an earlier era Cat Stevens look alike, Huckabay pulls an incredible array of sounds from his instrument. At times, one hand plays solo. Other times, both hands are working in sync and alternatively two hands then work competing riffs on the same set of strings. Amazing. A violin bow, an “e bow” and other devices further pull sounds from the guitar that I have never heard before. Percussion enters with occasional hand slaps to the guitar body and, for good measure, an intermittent limber swift kick to the guitar with the right foot. Bells on both ankles provide additional background. This is no hokey one-man band, but an intensely original symphony from a solo performer rising above the anonymity and clutter of the Promenade street scene. Perhaps to Huckabay’s ultimate credit, all works are original and the set I enjoyed left me literally exhausted.

Rich personal stories no doubt abound among many of the Hoof Theater performers. Years ago one noted musician, Ted Hawkins, actually landed a recording contract only to die shortly thereafter. According to Huckabay, he took up guitar after a serious motorcycle accident that doctors predicted would leave one arm paralyzed. The guitar figured prominently in his recovery and the rest is history. The unique sounds? According to Huckabay, he spent a year living with a pod of dolphins on the coast of Kauai and many of the sounds he generates mimic cetacean frequencies.

Huckabay cites the genius and creative spirit of Jimi Hendrix among his inspirations, and while audacious, the same “H” word independently entered my mind. But then, hope drives many Hoof Theater acts and who knows, the extraordinary musician I witnessed just might become a household word someday. Like many of my generation, I was blessed to see Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and others perform live early in their careers. I knew then I was seeing something special, and vague allusions of same visited the day I saw Scott Huckabay perform on the 3rd Street Promenade.For fellow hoofers, Huckabay intends to play some spot along the 3rd Street Promenade Friday and Saturday (February 25 and 26) weather permitting. For those who prefer a roof, Huckabay will debut the evening of the March 7 at the Temple Bar, 1026 Wilshire, Santa Monica. Huckabay’s website if www.scotthuckabay.com.

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