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Singer-songwriter Eli Salzman bids farewell to Santa Cruz with one last gig.

By Curtis Cartier

When Eli Salzman arrived in California in 1991 it was on the seat of a Fuji Tahoe mountain bike after a 3,000-mile trip from his former home in Vermont. On Dec. 1 he'll be moving again--this time to Berlin, Germany. And while his coach seat on an Airbus A380 might be a bit more comfy, the same daring curiosity that pushed him toward the Golden State 17 years ago will be propelling him along. Before he goes, however, the local singer/songwriter is slated for one last gig on Nov. 15 at Cayuga Vault.

Salzman describes his epic bicycle journey as his "first experience with a large communal project." Raising money for the Children's Wish Foundation, his group of four bicyclists shared water bottles and power bars as well as life-changing experiences and, more importantly, proved to Salzman that "people can work together and accomplish more because of it."

"And really, the community and what it stands for has been a huge part of my life ever since," he says.

In Santa Cruz, Salzman epitomized the progressive lifestyle. Living in Bonny Doon and forsaking the automobile, he biked 14 miles into town each day and became involved with local communes, political activism and grassroots music promotion. And while he earned an associates degree in music from Cabrillo College, once he enrolled at UCSC he majored in community studies.

"I consider myself a generalist," he says. "I've worked as a carpenter, a photographer, a theater and costume tech and a political activist. I've always been interested in more than just writing songs."

Salzman might have been content to ride out his life in Santa Cruz as a part-time musician and jack of all trades, but in 2007 he spent a year living in London squat houses and traveling throughout Europe. Now with the taste of Europe still fresh on his tongue, he's decided to shake things up.

"I'm moving to Berlin to find out why I'm moving to Berlin," he says with a mischievous smile. "I think it's finally time I do it--I move somewhere and really focus on the music. Through it all, that's always been my dream."

Aside from releasing one studio album, Baby Flam, and one live album, simply called Eli Salzman Live, the folky multi-instrumentalist has played countless venues, coffeehouses and street corners. Possessing a classically tuned voice with a heavy dose of vibrato and an occasional flight through the high keys, Salzman also strums a mean guitar and lays down keyboards and drums for good measure.

The baby-faced 36-year-old cites his influences as ranging from Jeff Buckley and Peter Gabriel to Radiohead and even Stevie Wonder. Salzman says he draws heavily on pop music while still raging against the industry that supports much of it.

"What inspires me about music in my writing is the almost inexplicable feeling I get from the music itself, not necessarily the words," he says. "I try to make my music simple but intriguing. Something unexpected but still very accessible."

Salzman plays the Cayuga Vault this Saturday at 8pm before saying auf wiedersehen.

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