The Urban Stage of Vigilante Guitarist Bruce Goldish

by Sarah Hammill

If a city is defined by its bustling streets and the streets
are, in part, defined by the people who tread them, then street
performers — who spend more hours pounding the pavement than the
average passerby — are central to a city’s identity. The service
they provide is often thankless — a couple of dollar bills in an
upturned hat ain’t much — but without our Mason B. Masons or
shadowed saxophone players, our sidewalks might be just

Fortunately for us, the streets of Santa Barbara have long been
home to an ever-changing lineup of musicians and performers. Often
we don’t know their real names, instead referring to them by their
trademarks. There’s the boisterous, dreadlocked drummer who stakes
out late-night State Street. There’s the cross-dressing trumpet
player whose haunting notes have, on occasion, stopped me in my
tracks. And now, there’s the parking complex guitar player,
otherwise known as Bruce Goldish.

Goldish has toured the country multiple times over, playing
shows in most of the major metropolitan areas, so why he took to
playing the Cabrillo parking structure next to Borders is anyone’s
guess. But what he discovered when he did was magical. “The first
time I tried it, the transformation of an ugly, empty parking
garage into a cathedral of sound washed away any humiliation of,
well, playing a guitar in the corner of a parking garage,” he told

Since that first night, Goldish has played his brand of
fingerstyle guitar for whomever happens by. In the beginning, an
amp, a donation hat, and a bowl of candy were the only props he
needed, but he recently added a guestbook to the cement lineup and
has been pleasantly surprised by the response. “Sometimes I see a
regular person and say hi. Later I read what they wrote and it
takes my breath away,” said Goldish. From the silly to the serious,
the pages of Goldish’s guestbook read like entries in the yearbook
of the most loved kid in high school. “Thanks, it’s very crasy! You
are so good. Sorry, my Englich,” scrawled a tourist from Montreal.
“Beautiful music this evening, like being serenaded by the moon,”
another visitor wrote.

Even the police have been known to park their squad cars on the
street below to listen. One cop ordered from his bullhorn: “Keep
playing. I like it!” Another bought a CD. More often than not,
though, Goldish’s choice of location causes trouble with the law.
“Police have moved me along a dozen times. One warned it would be a
$1,000 fine if I came back,” he recalled. But even the threat of
police involvement hasn’t been able to pull Goldish from his
makeshift stage. “Every minute I play is precious because I know at
any moment I could be stopped. That thinking kind of spills over
into life, as well.”

If things keep heading in the direction they are going now,
Goldish may not need the garage stage much longer. He has already
been approached by a number of local venue owners and organizers,
most recently by the folks from the Unitarian Church. Impressed by
Goldish’s musicianship and his lovable personality, they booked a
show with him for this upcoming weekend. But those in favor of his
vigilante performances, fear not; Goldish — known for playing
encore shows at his parking structure after having played a gig
elsewhere — isn’t likely to abandon his personal music hall just
yet. “Sometimes when I’m playing in another city,” he said, “I
close my eyes and picture myself home, playing the parking
structure, and I am energized.”

So if you happen by Goldish playing in the parking lot, take a
moment to give him a nod, or write a note in his guestbook. While
most of us downtown are focused on the next destination, he’s
working to establish an emotional bond. His continuing performances
are a reminder that despite our walls and rules, we’re all

4•1•1 Bruce Goldish will perform
Sunday, November 26 at 3 p.m. in the acoustically superb sanctuary
of the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara (1535 State Street).
Tickets are $10-$12, and are available at the door. Visit Goldish’s
Web site at


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