The Guitarist: Michael Bay and the Music

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Onstage, Bay's steely gaze supports the notion. He assumes the mantle stage-left and plays guitar. And when the applause arrives or when Wall's drum solo begins taking off into the stratosphere or when the evening's guest host hits just the right note, Bay rolls with the moment.

"When I'm immersed in what it is that I'm doing, the world disappears. How I feel disappears, my opinions—everything goes away. And if I'm doing it the way I want to, then there is nothing else but this moment and what I'm trying to do to express, say, this music. Maybe in all that practice, I was meditating," he says.

And so there are people who have watched Bay play guitar for years in this town who will say that what he's doing is fairly simple stuff. But there's nothing easy about it, they'll hasten to add.

A recent jam at Brothers Lounge saw one audience member leap up and shout, "The master!" as Bay concluded a solo.

For the past few years, Bay has become more cognizant of his own standing on this plane and his own trajectory toward achieving his dreams. With the perspective of many years removed from that first time he played the blues, he's come to consider the gig with a certain depth he hadn't known in the past.

"This might be the last time I ever play," Bay says, casting a wayward glance out of the window and toward the street outside. Now and then, he thinks about the fragility of the moment in ontological terms. "This may be the last performance ever. If I knew that, would I think about something else, would I be someplace else, would I care less about this, would I pull back? No. If this was the last thing I was ever going to do as a performer, I would put everything I had into this moment. One day, it will be my last performance. Hopefully, not for a very long time. But this could be it."

He lifts a glass of iced tea and clarifies his point: "And I don't mean that in a negative way, but if this is gonna be the last one, it better be a good one."


"Good evening, Parkview! Is anyone having a good time?" Bay asks the crowd as Barrick dusts a jaunty bassline alongside Wall's cymbal work.

"Is anyone having a helluva good time?"

Roaring still, though louder now, and cheering.

"In case you were wondering, our guest and host is the fabulous Becky Boyd." Applause—oceanic, celebratory. Boyd has been brilliant all night.

"And here on bass is the irrepressible Michael Barrick." Bay draws out the word "irrepressible," somehow turning the word into more of a sentient being than a simple abstract adjective.

"On drums, the outstanding Jim Wall." OUTSTANDING, in all capital letters, neon-blazed in the air.

"My name is Michael Bay, and we are the Bad Boys of Blues." As he tosses his own name into the ether, he grabs hold of his blonde Telecaster and the jam kicks back up and lopes toward a bluesy plane. It's gentle; the band just wrapped up an hour of fiery music onstage. As the band's final song of the set peaks every Wednesday and Thursday, Barrick and Wall fall into an upbeat little number, a bridge to this welcoming monologue. It's a ritual, and the crowd often helps him along with the phrasing.

"So, it's Wednesday. It's jam night! If you want to play, you've got to see me. If you don't, you've got to stay all night. Those are the rules. And while we're here, we're gonna remember three things. No. 1: Here at Parkview, all the guys are good-lookin'. It's true! Just ask them. No. 2: Here at Parkview, all the beer is cold. Have a whole bunch. Tip your server well. And No. 3: Here at Parkview, when you take time to check out all the lovely women who are here tonight, take your time, walk up to them, introduce yourself. And as you do, remember one thing: They're all my sisters, so if you can't treat 'em right, don't treat 'em at all! And with that, jam night begins."

As the evening rises in crescendo, Bay will often remind the crowd: "Tell your friends tomorrow what they missed tonight!"

Because everything is happening right now.

And with that, jam night begins.

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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