Steve Soto from The Adolescents (and a hundred other bands) passed away last week. I didn't know him well but we have several dear friends in common; I've got various CDs of his in my collection, and saw him live in a few different projects over the years. Personally I've only had two very small interactions with the man.
A couple of years ago I was backstage at It's Not Dead Fest by the catering area, chatting with my friend Robert, and watching the bands line up for dinner. From the side I heard “Hi, Robert!” and almost from out of nowhere, up walked Steve Soto. They chatted briefly, I mostly stood there half listening to the conversation. Honestly I wasn't 100% sure it was really him at first, but clearly whoever this was, he was an incredibly friendly guy with a very kind soul. Robert probably introduced me (he's very good at that) but I doubt I said any more to him than “nice to meet you” before he went on about his day.
Then, in the summer of 2016, I saw Steve Soto and Kevin Seconds play at Thee Parkside in San Francisco. They were doing one of their “chair tours” where the two of them sit on stage together, trading stories and playing acoustic songs. After the show, we ended up outside talking in a small group on the patio – Kevin, Robert and myself, while Steve had some dinner with his girlfriend. I bought Steve's CD “Songs About Girls and Earthquakes”, not thrilled at myself for interrupting his post-show conversations to do so. He opened the merch box, gave me the CD, said thank you and shook my hand. Again, I mostly stood there listening to the conversations among my friends and didn't chat with him more.
That night I crashed at a friend's place in the bay area and drove back to Sacramento in the morning, with my newly acquired Steve Soto CD freshly loaded into the car stereo. One of my favorite side-effects of a good live show or new CD is when it inspires new song ideas of my own. By the time I'd arrived in Sacramento later that morning, two things had happened. First, I'd fallen in love with Steve's album – it's incredible. Second, I'd had almost an entire new song written.
Pulling over to the side of the road several times, I'd jot bits of lyrics down into an app on my phone here and there. And when I arrived home, it was nearly done, just waiting to be recorded (with a few small tweaks to the last verse later). This doesn't happen to me very often. I am not capable of just sitting down and cranking out a song idea start to finish very often. Having a complete fully formed song pop into my head is a phenomenon that strikes me once every several years, requiring just the right magic inspiration and timing. But I'm oh so happy when it does.
Mr Soto, thanks for the song idea. And for the friendly memories that were all too brief.
(Photo courtesy of Robert Taylor. Used with permission.)