Page 16 - The Montecito Journal Magazine Winter Spring 2008

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spr ing
ike, you’re just toying with us,” someone said.
Members of The Heavies were sitting in
plush leather couches at Abbey Road Studios, in
London, and
Mike Shiflett
, the guitarist, was
refusing to perform. “I really can’t play, guys,” he kept saying. “I have no
idea what I’m doing.”
Only a few hours remained before studio time would run out, and the
guitar and vocal parts had yet to be laid down.
Vince Chafin
, lead singer
and bassist, was still fidgeting with lyrics and Mike held his guitar in his
lap shaking his head: “I really have no idea what I’m doing.”
The entire band did its best to stay cool. “Sure, Mike,” everyone told
him. “Whatever you say.”
Mike is 44, broad-shouldered and youthful. He has a thick brush of
long dark hair with a few white locks that remind him of his age. He’s
been surrounded by music his entire life. Both of Mike’s brothers play
professionally (
is lead guitarist for the rock group Foo Fighters and
has played bass in a number of punk bands, including Face to Face).
In Santa Barbara, where he was born and raised, Mike teaches guitar to
young students, and he himself shows stunning dexterity with the strings.
He can mimic essentially any hit or well-known rock song and he’s even
more gifted when extemporizing a riff fresh out of his mind.
But until January, Mike had never played a
show or recorded an
album; he’d never even been in a band. He’d been held back by what he
terms “self-limiting behaviors.” He has been “ruled by petty fears,” he says,
letting his personal doubts stand in the way of his ambitions. Yet what
he lacks in self-assurance, he makes up for in musicality and memory.
Mike’s knowledge of rock trivia is as eerie as it is encyclopedic. He plays
the guitar with a free-flowing virtuosity and his limitless fascination with
music is conveyed with boyish exuberance (his goat-like, braying imitation
of Stevie Nicks is noteworthy).
For Mike, performing in public has always been just a dream at the
end of his guitar-picking fingertips. Last fall, he signed up for a weeklong
journey to England with Mainstage Dream Tours, a Santa Barbara-
based company that organizes trips for people who have always wanted
to experience the life of a professional musician. Mainstage was created
last year by two lifelong musicians, members of the U.S. rock group The
Tearaways: lead guitarist
David Hekhouse
and drummer
Jesse Benenati
(whose son
is drummer for Them Terribles).
“When I first played at the Cavern Club or recorded at Abbey Road, it
was one of those things where I went, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what it felt like
back in the day,’” David says. “So Jesse and I thought that people would
love to do this if they really could.” He pointed his index finger above his
head and began to laugh: “A light bulb went off.”
The idea was to take latent rock stars on a music-themed voyage
Hangin’ With the Heavies
Mainstage Dreams founders David Hekhouse
(right) and Jesse Benanati take a breather
in the McCartney Suite at the recently opened
Hard Day’s Night Hotel in Liverpool
by Guillaume Doane