RON HARTMAN/CHRONICLE PHOTO

Steve Goodbar performs at the Brewstation last week, and has another gig there Friday.

COTTAGE GROVE – Some folks are under the impression that performers can flip the proverbial switch and … poof! … stage magic happens.

But there’s not a chapter in the musicians’ handbook that deals with returning from a worldwide pandemic.

“It’s like riding a bicycle for 60 years, then you don’t ride for a year, then you try to ride again,” Steve Goodbar said to The Brewstation audience between songs Friday night. “That’s what it feels like up here.”

Goodbar didn’t fall off his bike, but he’s gone for smoother rides before. Although he said he was fighting allergies and didn’t feel so hot, he still managed to display smokin’ guitar chops, weaving together a few originals with a lively mix of folk, blues and country tunes. 

Goodbar is a masterful guitar player, but he had gone nearly 18 months without playing. He said it was a struggle working his way through the 2½-hour show.

Of course, being a musician is tough these days. Goodbar has just one more gig lined up – he’s back at The Brewstation on May 14. 

“Some of us had our livelihood stolen,” Goodbar said. “During Covid, my wife is an artist and she can’t show her art, and all the plays are canceled. It affects artists of all types. 

“For me, it’s a good time to be a solo act – and it’s a good time to be a small solo act.”

Goodbar, 62, moved to Cottage Grove from Eugene about three years ago, but he nurtured his musical roots growing up in Sonoma County in northern California. 

“I was a young Deadhead,” Goodbar recalls, “and I was hanging out with my music teacher and we were playing a Kingston Trio record on phonograph. … Now this was the ‘70s. I was into the Dead and Dylan. ... Blood on the Tracks had just come out … but this teacher with a Kingston Trio record fascinated me. We did a lot of folk music with him. 

“Then Old & In the Way came out! I think that’s why I have such a diverse taste, largely because I was listening to all of those guys.”

Old & In the Way, featuring Jerry Garcia on banjo and David Grisman on mandolin, was recorded in 1973. For many years, it was the top-selling bluegrass album of all time. Goodbar ended the evening with a stirring version of “Midnight Moonlight” from that album.

Goodbar – who said Mississippi John Hurt might have been his No. 1 influence – says a jazz class he took also helped him appreciate the Grateful Dead more because improvisation is such a key part of each Dead show.

“I think the Dead influenced a lot of musicians to be free and just let the music go,” he said. “When you can be chasing something, you give yourself a chance to let it be all it can be.” 

For over 40 years Goodbar has run his own window-washing business, and when his music career becomes frustrating – like it did for a while Friday night – Goodbar talks about giving it up. 

“Sometimes I get frustrated, then my wife talks me out of it,” Goodbar said. “But it’s not easy to get up there after not performing for a year and a half. You almost have to reinvent yourself.”

Hopefully, that window of playing time won’t be closing on him anytime soon.