Anyone who waltzes into Aptos St. BBQ might just get a lesson in American roots music—if, that is, they see Al Frisby, who performs there every Wednesday. Frisby moved to Santa Cruz from the South in the ’90s, and has been performing ever since.
Some people know him for the satirical comedy songs he’s written, but at Aptos St. BBQ, he plays strictly old, pre-blues American roots songs. He does it on upwards of 15 instruments, one after another, from banjo and accordion to various guitars, and shakers he hands out to children. Some aren’t even instruments, technically, like a plastic bag used for percussion.
“I surround myself with a big arsenal of instruments,” says Frisby. “I’m very grateful for places that employ me that see there’s magic in supporting this old type of music. They could just hire a guy that’s playing Eagles songs. A couple riffs off of ‘Hotel California’ would probably get you more claps than I’ve got in my whole career.”
Frisby is the right man for this music. He didn’t discover it one day—he’s been surrounded by it his entire life. In fact, he didn’t originally set out to be a musician—he was quite content being a boatmaker. When he realized his gift for instrumentation, and his encyclopedic knowledge of obscure folk songs, he decided it was up to him to bring this music to the people.
“A lot of these songs that I’m doing, you’re not going to find anybody else playing them. These are the crème de la crème of the whole folk movement,” Frisby says.
INFO: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 25. Aptos St. BBQ, 8059 Aptos St., Aptos. Free. 662-1721.