Innovative listening: “Tuesdays with Beth” offers songwriters a platform and audiences a fun night out

By THERESA KEEGAN

Art is a lonely endeavor. Whether it’s creating a visual product, a finished song, or a completed sculpture, it’s not until a viewer sees or listener engages with the work that artists gain a comprehensive understanding of their creation.

And so, decades ago when Beth Wood created a public platform for music, she gave a gift to not just the community, but also the songwriters and musicians who wanted to take their work to the next level.

“When a song is first born you have no idea what it’s going to be,” said Wood. “You’re just not sure who is going to care about it, or the vibe. Oftentimes you need the opportunity to play it in front of others.”

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Photo by Theresa Keegan

Beth’s Tuesdays is an intimate evening of innovative music hosted by Beth Wood, left. She is often accompanied by her husband, Steve, right. Their banter and exchanges sometimes reveal the story behind the music.

And so, Beth’s Tuesdays began as an opportunity to have new songs played in front of an audience, to see what resonates, what works and where there could be room for improvement. From 2005 until 2014, the veteran musician would host an evening at the Marine Room, where songs could be presented. Guest musicians, all established songwriters, also performed their music, while Wood presented a compilation of meaningful songs that she wanted to share with her audience.

“The whole point…is presenting live songs that you don’t hear anywhere else,” she said. “These are things people have written and they’re (being performed) for people who like to listen to songs.”

While the Marine Room was a popular location, there were challenges performing in a bar setting. When new owners took over, Wood took a hiatus. But the next six years were filled with people asking when her popular show would return.

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Photo by Theresa Keegan

The main room and high-quality sound system at the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center has proven to be a perfect setting for the Tuesdays with Beth show

The opportunity arose during COVID. While people were adjusting to living life remotely, Wood partnered with Laguna Beach Live! and streaming shows were aired. Now, with a return to some degree of normalcy, Beth’s Tuesdays is held monthly at the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center. Her husband Steve Wood often joins her on stage, and other area artists have also made appearances. Recently, Richard Stekol, a former bandmember of the Woods in the popular group Honk, created a memorable second half of the January show.

“We choose people who’ve been songwriters their whole lives,” said Beth. “They’re not weekend warriors. They’ve taken it very seriously and some are also very famous.” Past guests include Christopher Cross and Jack Tempchin, who wrote “Peaceful Easy Feeling” for the Eagles.

“She (Beth) knows so many good songwriters,” said Linda Kraemer who was at a recent show. “You know you’re going to hear original songs and they’re always winners.”

As lifelong musicians, the Woods have garnered a who’s who list of friends and fellow musicians from their early days of Honk fame (when the band performed the song track for the 1972 classic surf movie Five Summer Stories) right on through the pandemic.

“A lot of musicians need to develop their material,” said Steve, who, after Honk’s breakup, went on to work with musical icons such as Kenny Loggins and Sting as well as work on the music for dozens of Imax movies. “However, for people who are songwriters, it’s generally hard to find a place to play the material that’s important to you…people who are established know Beth has cultivated a real listening audience.”

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Photo by Barbara MacGillivray

Beth and Steve Wood have been partners in life, as well as on stage. They both enjoy rehashing the Tuesday night shows and discussing ways to improve it

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The intimate setting at the Cultural Center on Forest Avenue creates an optimum performance spot said Beth, who has played her share of non-optimum settings. The chairs directly face the musicians, so it’s obvious people are there for the music, as opposed to a bar or restaurant setting where just one person (think the celebrating birthday boy!) can immediately change a show’s dynamics. Beth says the support she receives from the Cultural Center’s director Rick Conkey allows her to create a showcase for songwriters.

“It’s a work in progress all the time,” she said of her monthly shows. Even the song list can be modified throughout a show to respond to audience dynamics. “Our particular audience really likes that spontaneity. Some people can’t stand the uncertainty of having a performer on stage and not knowing exactly what they’re doing. But we just try and do the best version of each song we can. We sing the song in a way that’s true to us.”

She equates her shows to old-fashioned jam sessions when musicians would gather in someone’s living room and share their works in progress.

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Photo by Theresa Keegan

The set list for any given show can be modified by Beth during the performance, based on audience reaction

Based on audience reactions and hearing songs aloud, pieces can be altered after a show.

“You can tell (when playing live) what parts of a song are not working or if the narrative is true and you’ll say ‘Oh, I have to fix that,’” said Beth.

That flexibility – some even say vulnerability – is what sets Beth’s Tuesdays apart.

“Some people put on their show and it’s all the pieces that they have worked on in the past,” said Steve. “But we’re relaxed and, in the moment. It’s like a living room feeling for people who are open to new things.”

For tickets to upcoming Beth’s Tuesdays, visit the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center’s website by clicking here. For more information about Beth Wood, click here, or info about Steve Wood, click here.

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