You never know what will happen at a Steve Poltz show. Or after one.
When we last saw the genius-encourages-eccentricity folk singer, it was at the Crystal Bay Casino on Feb. 22, 2022. It was Poltz’s penultimate performance before the Great Hiatus.
“Oh my God, man,” Poltz said after being reminded about the Tahoe show. “We’d just heard rumblings about a pandemic in China. It’s weird because if you could go back to New Year’s Eve, everybody was like, ‘2020’s going to be the greatest year!’ Little did we know just how horrible it was going to be. It was seriously crazy.”
Poltz knows crazy.
“Everything was falling like dominos, and the next thing you know we were scrubbing our vegetables with dish soap. It was insane. We were scared to even answer the door if something got delivered. We’d go on a walk and walk 15 feet away if we passed anyone. It’s just crazy, if you think about it.”
Unable to perform, Poltz left his adopted and sweltering Nashville home for his native and cooler San Diego. He recorded “Quarantine Blues” at Jason Mraz’s Oceanside studio. It was produced by Jeff Berkley. Here’s an excerpt:
“I’m feeling undesirous.
No one wants to hire us.
I learned every song by Miley Cyrus.
And all about coronavirus.”
Poltz also performed his 12th annual Birthday Bash at the Belly Up in Solana Beach.
“It let me know how insane I actually am because I just pretended there was an audience,” he said.
Also pretending, Poltz posted on social media his magazine covers for Dog Attorney and Kindness magazines, the later image of Poltz and his friend Kendell Scott, posing for the feature story: “Tips on flipping the bird more gently.”
“The magazines don’t really exist,” Poltz said. “I live in my own fantasy world and act like I am on the cover of all these magazines that are ludicrous. We were flipping off the camera with the third finger and called it Kindness magazine.”
Being a satirist can have drawbacks. Poltz suffered a stroke onstage in 2014 at the World Café Live in Wilmington, Delaware. The audience laughed.
He’s fully recovered, but has considered his mortality, especially after the recent passing of his father.
“I feel great,” Poltz, 61, said. “I don’t take any (medications). Hopefully I stay that way. When it’s our time, it’s our time. I try not to think too much about it. I hope when I go, it’s like ‘The Sopranos” final episode. It’s just, boom, fade to black. I don’t know what happens when we die. Nobody does. Maybe it’s like John Prine said what his dad said, ‘When you’re dead, you’re a dead pecker-head.’”
While he is a brilliantly hilarious improvisational entertainer, Poltz is an acclaimed songwriter who has had numerous collaborations, the earliest being with Jewel on her breakthrough 1995 hit “You Were Meant For Me.”
Since his last Crystal Bay show, Poltz teamed with Molly Tuttle to write “Over the Line,” which appears on her album “Crooked Tree,” and with Billy Strings on a song. “Leaders,” the final track on “Renewal.”
“They are both really fun to write with,” Poltz said. “I also wrote one recently with Sierra Hull that I hope she records, “Turn out the Light.”
Coincidentally, Hull in 2017 performed a rare-ticketed Crystal Bay Casino Red Room show, something that Poltz will do on Friday, Sept. 16. The room seats 150.
“I like small rooms,” Poltz said. “I hope they’re pushed way up close to me. I love people up really close. Those are my favorite kind of shows. I love shows where there about 100 people and they’re all pushed up really close. I feel like I can make them more fun. The energy’s crazy.”
Poltz spoke with Tahoe Onstage for this article after a performance in Effingham, Illinois.
“I love that name,” he said. “Now I’m playing a lot. It seems like I don’t ever tour the way most normal people do, meaning everything’s all in order and lined up perfectly. It’s easy to make Southwest my private jet. If your solo, you can go anywhere.”
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Red Room