For a couple of starry nights late in 2018, a certain poetic and multipurpose logic settled into the space known as Lost Chord Guitars in Solvang. Movie icon and late-blooming musical artist of note Jeff Bridges was in the house with his band, the Abiders, for a pair of sold-out shows in the daze between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The events served as both a holiday treat and a christening for the store/venue bravely launched by Chris Pelonis and his wife, Kim Pelonis.
With Lost Chord, Pelonis added music store owner to a hyphenated list of talents and projects: Best known as a go-to studio and speaker designer, he is also a guitarist-songwriter, producer, martial arts practitioner, photographer, and winemaker. Significantly, he is also the music director of the Abiders, boasting a stellar roster of area players (bassist Randy Tico, drummer Tom Lackner, pedal steel guitarist and miscellaneous ax man Bill Flores), which was born out of the buzz over Bridges’s musical coming-out after his Oscar-garnering role as a musician in the film Crazy Heart. An album on Blue Note, national tours, and TV spots on Colbert and elsewhere followed.
Locally, the band has showed up at the Lobero, and at Lost Chord, where its stew of country, rock, blues, and folk, with Bridges’s gruffly warm voice at the center, held forth beautifully in that intimate space. To paraphrase Bridges’s legendary slacker hero from The Big Lebowski, the dudes did, indeed, abide.
Connective links abounded during those Solvang starry nights. Apart from the musical goods there, in-house wine flowed (crafted by Frank Ostini of Hitching Post fame), and a selection of Bridges’s fine art photography hung on the walls — “Art and photography are part of my very being,” said Chris Pelonis in a recent interview with the Independent, “so I wanted Lost Chord to also be a gallery.” The shop is also equipped as a recording studio and sells high-quality acoustic guitars. It’s all part and parcel of this unique, malleable space’s evolving agenda.
“Oddly enough,” Pelonis noted, “I really never wanted it to be a music store like any of the others. My model was more like Darrel’s House and Austin City Limits, with amazing guitars for sale. From the beginning I wanted a place that could capture the [live music] experience and make it available through live and/or pre-recorded streaming,” he explained. “Although the guitar element of Lost Chord is extremely important to me … I have always wanted a live music venue with world-class acoustics, sound system, recording and video capabilities, and my own wine brand.”
It was an ambitious enterprise from the outset. Fast-forward to the past four months of quarantining and shifting business regulations, and 2020 has been, well, a major cluster chord for Pelonis’s operation. Life since March has been “a real struggle,” he admitted. “[The shop] was getting quite popular before the lockdown. Always had great music, and people were coming around. Had some name acts booked as well as newer acts. All the shows were home runs. Then COVID-19 hit. Lockdown. I barely left my ranch [he lives with his family in Hollister Ranch]. I spent a lot of time reinventing my musical ideas. I started doing a bunch of Facebook live improvisations. Lo-fi, sloppy and usually after quite a bit of Lost Chord Wine. Some good stuff came out of it.”
One of the positive aspects of life in the midst of the lockdown was the recent release of a long-labored-over project, a special Jeff Bridges model acoustic guitar, created by master craftsman Tom Bedell and his acclaimed, boutique Breedlove Guitar brand. The custom instrument, made from myrtle wood and bearing Bridges’s axiomatic motto “All in This Together” on the fretboard, is a model sold through Lost Chord, with partial proceeds going to the Amazon Conservation Team, “so we are helping out the lungs of the Earth,” said Pelonis.
The Bridges guitar has been warmly embraced — and selling out — thanks to customers who might admire the down-to-earth legend but also appreciate the fine points of fine guitars. “I think the solo acoustic guitar has taken on a profound place in our world,” said Pelonis. “Although times are tough, investing in something that will last and bring some peace of mind and joy is sensible. There is something magical and healing about the guitar.”
For the moment, Lost Chord is an online enterprise and is “open by appointment for guitar showings, wine, and merch sales,” said Pelonis. He, like music fans everywhere, eagerly awaits the rebirth of music in the live forum. “As soon as live music is once again allowed, it will be happening pretty much whenever we are open,” he promised.
411 | Lost Chord Guitars is located at 1576 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang. See lostchordguitars.com.
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