Peter Case is no household name. But three decades of SoCal rock and folk fans have probably come across him at a smoky dive bar, a coffeehouse or converted church. Possibly they saw him in the '70s with his power-pop band, The Nerves. More likely, it was the following decade when he fronted garage-pop outfit, The Plimsouls. Since the late-'80s, Case has been solo, performing a mix of folk, blues and rock at every sort of joint imaginable.
If the identity still exists, Case is the ultimate troubadour.
"I come from a background of playing in bands, but before that I performed on the streets for years," he explains, adding with a laugh, "I've always considered myself a four-piece solo band anyway."
True statement. During his solo performances, Case will fingerpick the guitar while simultaneously playing the lead melody. Then he'll play harp while stomping on the floor for percussive effect. Throughout the instrumental multitasking, he sings whisper-to-a-scream.
"When I was a kid, I loved the Rolling Stones and I loved rambling blues singers," he explains. "I guess I'm somewhere in-between those two things."
Case is a touch gruff and weary, the result of perpetual travel. For him, it's not so much a journey from place to place, but song to song. At the moment, he's enjoying radio play for his full-band rocker, "Wake Up Call"-the first FM entry he's had since the early '90s.
He's effusive over the modest success of the song, and of the new anthology, Who's Going to Go Your Crooked Mile. "It's supposed to be a well-rounded look at what I've been doing for the past 10 years in one shot," he quips. "To me, it's a labor-saving device."
Case is the first to point out what keeps his solo work from enjoying the level of mainstream success The Plimsouls did with the Valley Girl soundtrack classic, "A Million Miles Away."
"[My solo music] is a kind of weird hybrid," he explains. "I love blues musicians who play solo, but I'm a songwriter and I use certain elements-from Phil Spector to Irish tunes-and it all adds up."
The troubadour says it would take "a national revolution against the corporate ownership of the world" for someone like him to be successful with the modern music media.
And you can tell he's only half joking.Peter Case plays at Acoustic Music San Diego (held at the Normal Heights United Methodist Church), 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 22. $15-$20. 619-303-8176.