Throwback Thursday: That one time at High Sierra (Or when I played the best show of my life)

My sophomore year in college I participated in a sort of study abroad program at Azusa Pacific University.

They took 40 or so students to a campground just outside of Yosemite, CA and had “School.” It was an awesome campus up in the middle of the forest where the nearest town was a good 30 minute car ride away. We interfaced with our professors on a first name basis and had unlimited access to cocoa puffs (I gained so much weight, it’s not even funny). It was also a month after I started dating Allison, who was my first girlfriend. Oh, and she was going to Australia so we had to deal with a huge time difference.

It was one of the hardest semesters I’ve ever had. Imagine going away to a place where you’re almost cut off from civilization with a group of strangers for 4+ months. Yeah, for a person who has a tough time trusting people enough to become their friend, it was terrifying.

I struggled with depression and loneliness about a month after arriving. The adventure of it all had worn off and the major draw of the semester, a 10 day backpacking trip into the heart of Yosemite national park had come and gone.

I slept a lot. (Once for an entire 4 day weekend)

I wrote meanly, but eloquently about what I perceived as a great injustice (read about it here)

I was not OK.

It was only because of my first real encounter with God and the miracle that followed that I came out a whole person.

I was the most frustrating, trying time of my life.

It was also the time when I played the best show of my musical career.

The first week at High Sierra, they took everyone to go snowboarding, and those that didn’t want to go could go snowshoeing. I was broke so I went on the walk.

On the ride, I connected with a fellow rocker named Devin. We spent the ride making lighthearted jokes about the driving of one of the camp staff named Katie Burns. We were funny, but we were also a handful. Katie was Elmer Fudd to our Bugs and Daffy.

During the ride, we made jokes that she should take us on her trek team. She laughed, but you could tell that she definitely was not thrilled with that idea.

While we were walking we heard about a High Sierra talent show that was happening the next day. I played guitar and Devin played Ukulele and we joked about writing a “love” song to Katie to get her to take us on her trek team.

Well, I wasn’t really joking.

I had already started forming the lyrics in my head and when we got back I grabbed my guitar and started strumming out the melody. I quickly fired up my laptop and opened GarageBand, (my recording tech has come a long way since then) grabbed a drum loop that worked and laid down electric guitar, bass, and vocals. Dragged in a few synth loops from the apple library and showed Devin. He cracked up at the almost sorta serious vibe of the lyrics and we recorded a Uke track on top.

“Dear Katie” was done!

I hammered out a MySpace page for our band, The KMD Extravaganza. (KMD stands for Katie, Myke, and Devin)

We signed up for the talent show and previewed the recorded song privately to a few other people on the campus. There was a strange buzz building amongst the students.

And the best part? Katie had absolutely no idea this was happening.

The night of the talent show came and I got dressed up in my nicest shirt and vest, and Devin dressed down in these awful purple running shorts and a tank. Hello comedy!

dressed up

Lookin’ Fly

We were positioned near the end of the show and the dinning hall was packed. The lights were on and we stepped to the stage. You could feel the excitement in the air, this was going to be awesome.

I was shaking, this was the most people I’d ever played an original song in front of. On top of that I was attempting to make these semi strangers laugh with a creepy song about a staff member.




We called Katie Burns to the front of the audience, displacing some students in the process.

Sidebar, people will do almost anything a person on a stage with a microphone tells them to.

I dedicated the song to Katie, and she blushed bright red.

We started playing, and everybody laughed at the stuff they were supposed to laugh at and we generally embarrassed the heck out of Katie.

Watch it here:

That was a great night, but not the one that this post is about, that’s all backstory.

Dear Katie, had became the unofficial anthem of the semester. We played it at the preview night, and you could hear people humming the tune, every now and then.

Fast forward to the end of February. It was Oscar week and planning was in progress for a fun evening filled with dressing up, watching the Oscars and giving away our own campus awards.

Devin and I Won a Poop Shovel (our version of the little golden man) for best original song.

My Parents were so proud!

My Parents were so proud!

I had written some other songs about the semester, all referential in-jokes of course, and offered to put a band together for the pre-party.

I would play a few original, non funny songs solo. Followed by Devin joining me on Uke, and my friend Lucas playing his Cajon. We played the newer songs first and got a few chuckles and smiles out of the audience.

Then magic happened.

We started Dear Katie, and as one, the entire campus started singing along.


They knew every word.

That’s what the video is from, it was the single greatest show I’ve ever played. I felt like a rock star, I felt invincible.

It was awesome, it made me keep wanting to write and play music in front of other people, and it helped lead to the second greatest show I’ve ever played, but that’s for next week.

Thanks for reading!