Sometimes being spontaneous means you need to play “Sledgehammer” nine weeks in a row.
That’s what’s happened to acoustic performer Mike Estabrook as of last week. Come January, he’ll have played every Thursday night at the Broken Goblet in Bristol Township for two straight years.
Steady gigs don’t usually last that long, noted Estabrook — nor are they always this fun.
“The people here appreciate the music. A lot of places you play, you’re in the background and people don’t really know you’re there,” said the Langhorne resident.
“Here, it’s interactive and I have the freedom to come up with my own ideas for events. I’ll play here as long as they let me.”
Estabrook keeps things interesting with a bound, laminated “menu” of more than 800 songs every time he plays here.
Thursdays are all-request nights: shout out any song on the list and he’ll perform it.
“I don’t play the same music every week,” he said.
Except when one of his big ideas forces him.
There’s also a music jackpot on Thursdays. Patrons can buy a number from 1 through 25, each one corresponding to a song.
The bar randomly picks three numbers. Estabrook plays those numbers’ songs, and whoever drew those numbers wins a jackpot. The rest of the money goes toward local charities.
It’s a novel idea, but somehow the same Peter Gabriel song popped up for more than two months in a row.
“I’ve been playing it forever now,” laughed Estabrook.
Still, it hasn’t dampered his enthusiasm for the weekly residence — or any other for that matter.
Estabrook also plays regularly at the Dog n Bull in Croydon, and a few places in Upper Bucks County. Starting next month, he’s also moving into Bristol Borough with shows at the Borough Pub in January and Pine Street Tavern in the spring.
They’re simple acoustic gigs, usually solo or with another guitarist or percussionist. That’s how he likes it.
“I’m not trying to be the next radio star. I have no aspirations like that. I just want to be out there singing. It doesn’t matter to me what I’m doing,” said Estabrook.
“I enjoy playing music. I wouldn’t be able to not play music.”
He has a handful of original tunes, but doesn’t really push them. If people are interested, he’ll play them. They’re on the menu, under the one-line item “Mike Estabrook Original Songs,” and he’ll maybe play one or two a night, particularly if they’re requested.
“I wanted to have songs I wrote. I would feel like less of an artist if I didn’t write at all,” said Estabrook. “But I don’t push them. They’re not my priority.”
Credit his laidback approach, perhaps, to how he got started playing in the first place. Estabrook’s father is a musician and taught him a few chords when he was young. But he didn’t take to the guitar until he was in college some 16 years ago.
“I lived with a bunch of hippies my freshman year, and they were all musicians. They all played guitar and I’d sit and watch,” he recalled. “They started teaching me and I started learning more because I wanted to be involved. Then, I fell in love with playing guitar.”
That love led him back to his roots: A native of New York, Estabrook and his wife moved to Atlanta for five years after his parents moved down there.
He and his father began playing together and soon gigged around town once a week or so. But as much as Estabrook didn’t want to live where he grew up anymore, he also wasn’t a Southerner, he says.
When a job transfer offered him a spot in Morrisville, he and his wife saw it as a compromise between the two locations.
Now settled in Lower Bucks, Estabrook has made a home for himself on stage and off.
This week at the Broken Goblet, he gets to exercise a little more creativity. The brewery is hosting a week of Christmas events, and Estabrook’s offering is jokingly called “Grinch’s Night Out.”
He’ll play some Christmas songs, but reworked with lyrics about the regulars who come to his gigs every week, along with taking requests.
“It’s just a fun night of jokey Christmas songs, and hopefully people will recognize themselves,” he said. “Generally, when I come here, I know everybody.”
It’s another way he gets to spread his wings a little wider in Bristol than in other places.
And, hopefully, no one calls out for “Sledgehammer.” ••
Mike Estabrook performs at the Broken Goblet Brewery, 1500 Grundy Lane in Bristol, on Dec. 22 and Borough Pub, 1800 Farragut Ave. in Bristol, on Jan. 27. For information, visit mikeestabrookacoustic.com.