Shaun Cassidy and Solvang
When friends from Seattle told me they were flying down to the wine country to see Shaun Cassidy perform for the first time in 40 years, my initial reaction was like, “Cool, take lots of pics and lemme know how it was.” And then the FOMO set in. Hard. I bought my ticket and there was no looking back.
A mini vacay
This was also a fun excuse to spend a couple of days in the adorable, cheesy, fun Danish themed town of Solvang. I wouldn’t advise spending more than 24 hours here. It’s a great overnight getaway or even just a stop when passing through. I stayed two nights, but only so I could make sure to tell you guys everything.
Denmark in California
Located in Santa Barbara County, Solvang was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who wanted their own Danish community in America with favorable weather. It looks every inch the part of a mini Denmark. There are four decorative windmills, storybook streets lined with bakeries serving Danish specialties such as danishes (duh) and æbleskiver, and souvenir shops where you can replenish your supply of wooden clogs and beer steins.
Like a handful of other local spots, Bit o’ Denmark restaurant involves a Smorgasbord and this was where we chose to have our pre-concert meal. I don’t know what makes a Smorgasbord authentic, but to an American we’d call it a buffet. It featured meatballs known as frikadeller, sausages, mashed potatoes, pickled cabbage (which, turns out, I really like), and cucumber salad. The food probably wasn’t my favorite, but the restaurant is cozy and cute and totally part of the full Solvang experience.
A fine, Christian name
The Hans Christian Anderson Museum was a must for me. I didn’t really know much about him, tbh. He’s Denmark’s most celebrated author, a prolific writer best known for his fairy tales. These are stories that were read to us as children and you eventually read to your own children. His works have been translated to more than 125 languages and have inspired ballets and Disney movies. He wrote many famous tales which include The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Snow Queen (aka Frozen), Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling, and The Little Mermaid (spoiler alert: the mermaid dies in the original version). The museum features original letters, first editions, and a miniature of his childhood home and of The Princess and the Pea. He was a failed actor with a knack for writing. He fell in love with those found to be unattainable to him, which sometimes came up in his stories — the museum even has a storyboard about the women who broke his heart. It’s a quaint museum above a book shop, worth a half hour’s time and it’s free. There is park dedicated to him next door and across the street is a replica of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue, this one being a fountain.
Birdie num num
OstrichLand is just 5 minutes outside of town. For $5 for adults, $2 for kids, you can observe dozens of ostriches and emus. For an extra dollar, you can even feed them. When I asked if feeding the ostriches was scary, I was advised to start with the emus because they’re “a little less aggressive.” I’m an animal lover… but more like from afar. I’m not going to act like feeding them wasn’t frightening and there were signs everywhere warning that they bite. They’re mean little bastards and they’re not little. Ostriches are the largest and fastest birds in the world and you’re made well aware of this while feeding them. The gift shop displays ostrich eggs autographed by celebrities and you can buy some ostrich jerky, so you can eat relatives of the friends you just made.
And now what you’ve all been waiting for
It’s been nearly 40 years since Shaun Cassidy has played live shows and for him to return to the stage in an intimate setting such as Standing Sun Wines, a 10 minute drive from Solvang, seemed too good to be true. He’s a longtime friend of Danny’s, so I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him a handful of times — by no means does that mean I’m unfazed by his presence. We showed up early to say hello before the show and watched as he greeted other fans whose dreams were coming true right before our eyes. Shaun was gracious and generous with his time. It’s like you always want to believe that your favorite stars are kind and I’m here to tell you, that he actually is.
That’s rock ’n roll
The show itself was a mix of his ‘70s pop hits and a few covers. I was touched when he sang The Partridge Family’s “I’ll Meet You Halfway” and “Tell Me It’s Not True” from Broadway’s Blood Brothers, a show he starred in with brother David in the ‘90s. These were some of many cool moments. Equally as exciting and entertaining as the music was his storytelling. Shaun is a pop idol turned writer/producer, so it would make sense he has a gift for words. He shared a series of intriguing secrets throughout the evening, insights on his experience with fame, details about his family, the stuff us fans have always wanted to know. (I’m not going to fully put him on blast here on my humble little blog — you should see the show yourself.) It was part rock concert and part one man show.
At 60, he’s just as youthful and lovely as he ever was. He’s genuine, laid back, and very funny. He talked about psycho fans jumping on his car and ripping out his hair. He discussed the embarrassment of rehearsing for this show in front of his kids who totally made fun of him. The reason he’s back on the stage is to reconnect with his following. And he’s giving us such an incredible gift.
I shiver with anticipation
I had read somewhere that when Shaun was a teen, he snuck out to the Roxy in West Hollywood to watch the live stage show of Rocky Horror Show hundreds of times. This is fascinating information to me because anyone who knows me, knows about my obsession that show. (Click the link and read about my adventures at Oakley Court, the film location of the movie.) I feel an immediate bond with anyone else who’s as crazy about that show as I am. Shaun has layers, guys, and we’ve only just begun.
Shaun, if you’re reading this (and I can only assume that you are) — You sound fantastic, Wasp is my favorite of your albums, please add “I’m Coming Home” from Rocky Horror to your setlist, and your haircut looks really cool.
The next morning, we saw someone wearing Shaun merch at breakfast at Paula’s Pancake house. Another way to spot a kindred spirit.