I used to see Greg Lewis at Night of the Cookers on Fulton. He might still play there.
One of the most striking things, besides how sick these guys are, is that Greg would bring his own Hammond organ and Leslie speaker. Either one of these things, if you're moving you would need to phone a friend and get some help. He brings them both to a gig at this little bar. This is New York, if you're a professional musician, you're constantly trying to figure out how to travel lighter. If I don't need my microphone I take it out of my guitar case and I feel the difference while I'm traipsing around. I looked up a Hammond B3 and it's about 420 pounds, and the Leslie about 120. I can't get over that. But it was no big deal to him. He's pretty huge and ripped too, but still.
Luckily The Classon has its own Hammond B2 Organ and Leslie speaker, so all he had to do was show up with his amazing band. Love these guys.
I've been waiting forever for this place to open. Not many rooms like this for music in NYC. They have a house Hammond B2 Organ complete with Leslie speaker, Yamaha upright piano, rhythm section backline, good sound and vibe for days. Beer and wine, comfort food. The band was sick.
We need more music spots like this!
The band is:
KJ Denhert - Vocals, guitar Etienne Stadwick - Keys John Caban - Guitar Ray Levier - Drums Mamadou Ba - Bass
Made myself think. I went in wanting to write a song that said "Why Aren't I Rich?" Seems cheesy and cliche but I left thinking "crap, I am rich, what do I do now?" Apparently I'm in the top 11% in the world. Not so surprising. Living in one of the richest countries in the world (7th, according to this website), most of us are doing pretty well when you consider the big picture. But still, I want more money, is that so wrong? Buying clothes, seeing a movie, fixing my car...these are things I don't want to think twice about doing.
But the bigger realization was that I could use what I have a lot more. I have a video camera, garageband, some decent mics, rehearsal studio, he-llo, can we do this?
This website will tell you where you stand in the US, and this one will give you your exact global rank (down to the person, haha) in terms of financial wealth.
Ok, first time I'm trying to share a playlist...
Below is an entire show we did at a festival in Puerto Morelos, before we started the tour. You can just watch the whole damn thing back to back, or hit the "next" button to skip forward.
"Malinke" at the Murga in Guadalajara, our eventual destination.
Finally on the road!
This tour is amazing for many reasons, one being that we took 3 old VW buses. Even on the very day we left, you saw David replacing a "burned cable." I didn't get footage, but Mike's combi had a fire as well, which he valiantly put out with his bare hand.
Anyway, here we go. We had gigs in most towns, and I got to see the extended banda network. Cuernavaca and Tepostlan showed me some roots...where Charlie, Panda, and Vale grew up. All of our gigs had a good homegrown feel, especially the one at the end of this next video where the lights went out ("se fue la luz"), and people were playing with cell phones in their mouths (cell phones in Mexico have flashlights). Good old night-shot (infared) on my old digital-8 camera...
Most of the first half of this first vid is shots on the road, breaking down a few times, and a very tender solution to the problem of debris in the gastank: "soplar" (blow). When the "Chiagra" shut off its motor, we had to take out this little filter thing and blow through it.
Also Panda lets me know the reason I don't take good care of my stuff is that I'm an entitled gringo.
These videos are just as much about these VW's as anything else. David and Mike both go through some serious shit--David replaces his gas tank and Mike replaces an axle, all on this tour. And it's not a drop-it-off type of thing. For each project they do as much work as the mechanics do. In David's case, we hung all day with the mechanic, who I just remember as "Maestro." He charged a fraction of what he usually was, and the boys put in lots of work and bought caguamas (40's, give or take) and cigarettes. We'll deal with the axle later, but in the next video you see the grizzly discovery.
And what about the barefoot tire-fixer! WTF??
Oh and the classic idiosyncrasy of Mike's combi: if you didn't shut the side door right, it fell off. There was a slight...lift I think, when it got near to shut that you had to do. You had to just feel it. I got it a few times, but I was not on the short list of people that were authorized to shut the door. The few times I was called on I was honored.
Oh yeah, lots of Mike's dog Kinto here...best dog ever. The shots by the side of the road with him running around of some of my faves.
So we're in Tulum. The video above is from our Friday night gig at Mezzanine, a big fat spot right on the beach. It was pretty cheesy most of the time, the la banda came out when we played. This was a riff someone taught me, and bandikoro added the drums. Drums: fast and crazy. Riff: slow and chill.
The videos I have of Bandikoro are mostly in venues, cafes, houses, La Valeta (a little collection of cabins that we lived and practiced at), but Tulum is a beach town. Here's a classic vid of the place I lived...sorry for the shite quality, it was long ago...skip to 4:00 to see my hammock on the beach, or take the tour of this hippie beach paradise.
Once I had been in Tulum for a while, and I saw how rarely the rest of the banda (crew) went to the beach, I had to break off and live on the beach. The town isn't right on the beach, it's about a 20 min bikeride down one road, or you could hitch. It was a little isolating when I moved, but it was so incredible to sleep in a hammock or a tent, and hear the waves, see the moon. The town is cool as towns go, but it becomes like anywhere else: cars, phones, money, coffee, tv. I couldn't take it.
Anyway in this post I'm trying to give an idea of what Tulum was like for us at this time. There are some clips of people doing circus stuff. This was huge in Tulum--and from what I saw throughout Mexico--with the Mexi-hippies. Also African dance and music. It was a blast, such active and healthy stuff to be into. I had so much admiration for the people around me that had created their shows and travelled around performing.
In Tulum we had a few regular gigs at local tourist spots that paid well, even by New York standards. With these gigs, and the low cost of living, I'm proud to say I SAVED money while I lived in Tulum working as a musician. I think this is amazing. Here's a great video of the rest of the band performing Djaka at one of our regular gigs--Zamas in Tulum. I never really got guitar parts down to perform with them on the traditional set.
The next video is a little random, shots of us hangin in Tulum, with some good family time in La Veleta. The second half is on the night before and day of our departure on our only tour--across Mexico, with the final gig to be opening for Sergent Garcia in Guadalajara.
So coming up will be lots of videos from the tour!
I should introduce who everyone in Bandikoro was. (I say "was"--I'm not sure what they're doing now, some of the members may be still going as Bandikoro)
My high school friend, the reason I was out there. Oldest member, and the one everyone turned to with they're problems. Mike help me fix my combi (VW bus), can I stay at your house, etc. Super even-tempered. Played djembe in the group. Solid, but was #2 behind the prodigy Lalo.
Has now lived in Tulum for like 10 years. Total ex-pat.
Djembe master of the group.
Keys, kin-kini (highest pitched drum for the traditional set).
Lead vocals. She wrote a lot of songs for Bandikoro.
Panda (Mexico): Dun-dun for African set, drums for "modern" set.
Valentina (Mexico): San-ba for African set, accordion for modern set.
David (France): balafon for African set, bass for modern set.
Note: If you want to skip to the Bandikoro video, it's at the bottom of the post!
I'm getting back into this blog. It's not easy to stick with it. My sister already asked why, whenever I make a video where I'm talking to the camera, do I look wasted. I almost scrapped the host vid, but if I do I'll never do another one. And for the record I'm not wasted in this video. I don't know why I come off like that, must be some kind of defense mechanism. You'll know when I'm wasted. There are two reasons for this blog. One is to get all this footage--these tapes that I've shot over years and years--out into the light so they can be seen by people. Otherwise why shoot anything? Hours upon hours of footage that, when I shot it, I couldn't wait to edit and screen and have a party and blah blah blah, plans and plans. At this point, if I really edited everything into something decent it would be my life's work. That's actually an interesting prospect...spend the first half of your life amassing the footage, and then ringing the bell--no more shooting, what you have is what you have, see if you can find the meaning of life in it. I could also get rid of it all and start over, which is kind of exhilarating--starting fresh, not being bogged down in the past. But I forget my past so easily anyway. I think there's a middle ground, and of course all the people that are in the videos need to see them.
Going back and writing about the videos ends up feeling kind of memoirish, so the flip side is that I gotta make new videos, new music, talk about new things, not the same old things. Basic cycle of life, right? Or restocking the fridge and the co-op. Bandikoro Playing with Bandikoro was a pivotal moment in my life. I was living in Mexico, on the beach, with no job, but living comfortably off music. I had never imagined that would be possible without hitting the big time. Just the act of going there with music as the reason, I had never given that to myself. Bandikoro started years before, with these guys camping on the beach and playing West African music, playing at a restaurant in lieu of rent. Scrappy, exciting days I imagine. Getting chased around by cops, living on the edge but having a family that you're sharing the music with. By the time I got there, everyone had a place to live, and they had added drumset and keyboards and a beautiful singer from Sweden who wrote songs, could sing in Wolof, English, Spanish, or Swedish. And she could dance and play instruments too. The band was playing fusion, adding reggae and other more modern styles to the centuries-old West African traditional music. There were drums, bass, keys, balafon (traditional West African marimba), two djembes and an accordion. There were 3 couples in the band. Then was my high school buddy Mike and me. The concert posted below took place @ Acabar in Tulum. Man I haven't even talked about Tulum. What a crazy place. Anyway, Acabar was the best hang on the strip--live music a few nights a week, travelers from all over the world. Kind of a coke scene mixed in there, which was wack, but not too prominent. For the record that's not my scene at all. Panda, the drummer in Bandikoro, started bartending there soon after I arrived, and it was a takeover. The shows that we played there were great. I'm sorry that the sound isn't great, that's a source of shame in some of these concert videos, but if you can get over that, the music's pretty hot.
Ok. It's been a while. I had to buy a Digital 8 camcorder to get this stuff captured, but I'm back on track. In 2007, my high school friend Mike, who had basically moved to Tulum, Mexico, told me the band he was playing with needed a guitar player. I wasn't really doing much in Oakland, CA, so I quit my job, sublet my place, packed my pedals and my bathing suit and embarked...
The first vid is of Bandikoro playing at Calipso in Mexico City. This was near the end of our time together, the end of a tour, end of the season (summer is so hot in Tulum that there aren't many tourists i.e. few gig opportunities), so we probably won't be in very chronological order, but I have lots of classic vids to come, like the VW buses on the road, rehearsals, more shows...get on board!
Mic the Robot was kind of in hibernation this summer, but we were back this past Saturday at the Waystation. It just happened to be 1st Saturday, so lots of people came down from the festivities at the Brooklyn Museum, just blocks away. BTW if you haven't been to those parties, they're epic. And there's something about strolling through the galleries at 11PM with a drink in your hand...makes you feel like you're homies with the guy who runs the museum and he let you check it out after hours. Anyway, looks like we might play every 1st Saturday at Waystation, we'll confirm later.
Of note at this Mic throwdown were John Caban, who is becoming omnipresent in my musical projects (he's been joining in with Cumbiagra as well), and Butch Phelps of dirty country outfit The Buck Ups, who sang a few. John C. just shreds this style on slide.
We dig having guests at Mic the Robot shows. If you think you or someone you love would be great to sit in with us, let us know.
Yes. Finally I got together some of the people I wanted to get together and pulled off a great jam session at The Waystation in Prospect Heights. We played some songs, we got weird, we got funky, I got to play bass, it was everything I wanted.
After passing my 3 year mark of landing in NY from a long stint in the SF Bay Area, I can't help but to notice music (for me) has become a little...gig oriented. On one hand, it's crucial to have paying gigs that keep you motivated, and you gotta pay the rent somehow. But why should it be hard to find a place to hang and jam the *%$# out?
Here's the audio from the evening, and a vid.
Remember the huuuuuge controversy over building the mosque near the hallowed ground of the WTC? Didn't that disappear crazy fast? Does anyone even know what happened with that? Are they building it or not? How did a conflict that had the whole country up in arms on one side or the other just disappear like that? Remember the guy that was going to burn the Koran? I don't know, it's creepy how there hasn't been any news at all either way.
Anyway, on 9/11 me and Jessi decided to go down to the WTC and see what was going on. It was a crazy day. There were two huge protests, one for the rights of Muslims and one against building the mosque. They were both pretty intense, but the one against the mosque was kinda scary, they had a huge video screen, sound system, and had flown in this Dutch politician Geert Wilders to speak. It didn't help that he looks EXACTLY like the bad guy in Blade Runner.
And in the Netherlands he's leading an attack on mosques, I'm too lazy to look up the details, check it out and let me know.
Anyway, here's some video of the day. Nothing groundbreaking, but you get the idea. The crazy thing was that whenever there was a conversation between people of opposing sides, even if it was pretty mellow, there would be 10 cameras around the people right away. We had a few ok conversations, and a few awful ones. Someone actually said that even though far more Iraqis have died in Iraq than Americans, it's different because they're "used to it" and death "doesn't mean as much to them." Yeah, someone said that. And that was someone we had been talking to peacefully for a good 10 minutes. Someone else said that if one follows the Bible closely, they will be peaceful, and if they follow the Koran, they will be violent.
Sorry we didn't any proper interviews or anything, and it's kinda all split up, but I'm puttin' it out there.
Okay, my next reach into the Box yielded a bunch of tapes of a band I was in while I lived in SF, guess we started around '99? I don't know. But this is from one of our first gigs, and it's the first song that we wrote together, To the Fullest. I love this jam! The guy playing trumpet, Chris Carter, soon switched to guitar. The band eventually turned into Bayonics, which continues to be a Latin Hip Hop powerhouse out there to this day.
Lot more where that came from! Just getting started with the Natoma/Bayonics/Mala Fama tapes. The only thing is that I'm having a hard time getting them to play in my camera, so we'll see what's up
I missed the first blizzard of the season, around Christmas, right? Yeah I was in San Diego. But the second one, I wasn't gonna miss that one. We were out having a drink after our basketball league (highlights coming soon), and it just started going crazy out. The funny thing was PEOPLE WERE DRIVING. I can see getting caught out there when it starts, but it had been going for hours. We were just standing out in front of whatever bar it was, on Flatbush and 7th Ave, watching the cars flailing. Flatbush is a bit of a hill right there. It was funny for a while, till we saw some people really getting stuck and panicking. So we borrowed some shovels and that's how we spent the next few hours, culminating with Frank. I started calling Daniel "Snowy Waters" because he busted out his harmonica in the middle of the storm.
By the way, this has some explicit language and sex talk, don't say I didn't warn you!
Ahh, the Malecon. It's a boardwalk that stretches 8KM around the coast in Havana. It's the spot. People walk along it holding hands, sell their wares, lie on the wall listening to the surf, and no doubt think all kinds of things while looking off into the distance in the direction of Florida (only 90 miles away!!). Some people (including me) swam on the Malecon, but most said it was too dirty. It was also not that easy to climb down the wall and rocks to get into the ocean, especially at night, especially while drinking that homemade rum from a water bottle.
I met a dude named Pepe who walked up and down the Malecon playing songs. His guitar was strung with a mix of strings: nylon, steel, and at least one fishing line. Not easy to get guitar strings in Havana. It was a different vibe from hanging with Josmani and the musicians. Everyone drank rum but these guys on the Malecon, they were pushing harder, and brought girls, and kept trying to convince me to rent a car and drive out of town to the beach. A tender thought, but something didn't feel right. It was fun, though, and Pepe had me over for dinner a few times, and we traded some songs.
"I didn't think I'd cry, less for a love, even less for your love."
The next person I met was Josvani. I was walking around in Central Havana, near the Malecon, and I heard some crazy drums. I peered in the window of an apartment, and saw that it was a Cajon por Elegua, a Santeria ceremony for the orisha Elegua. They saw me watching, motioned for me to come in, and I had one of those white-boy-rediscovers-the-power-of-the-drum experiences. I felt like my heart was opening up, and I kept rubbing my chest, which they never stopped teasing me about. I ended up staying in that house, but more on that later. Josvani was noble, quiet, and an incredible musician. He sort of adopted me. Even though I ended up paying for stuff and clearly I was a good friend to have in that way, he never really asked for anything, and was generous with his time, like giving me a conga lesson. I don't really play congas, but whatever, it was like $10 for 2 hours or something. You can get a sense of his family, including the unstoppable Keko, who is the little one in the blue skivvies, and his daughter, who sticks her tongue out a lot. It was so hot, and sometimes the electricity would go out, and Havana in August without a fan, wow. I really admired him. I have quite a bit more footage of him singing and playing that I'll put up soon.
Note the radio after the jam--it's Radio Reloj, if you're a Manu Chao fan, you'll recognize the voice from when the say "Cinco de la Mañana..." etc. on Proxima Estacion: Esperanza. This from Wiki: "Radio Reloj (Spanish for Radio Clock) is an internationally-broadcast Spanish language radio station, located in Cuba.
The station is heard on various different AM frequencies throughout the country and also on certain FM frequencies, such as 101.5 FM in Havana.
Radio Reloj started on 1 July 1947 and claims to be the oldest non-stop information channel in the world. Common AM frequencies in use are 570, 790, 820, 830, 850, 860, 950 (Havana) and 1020.
The news and information is read against a background sound of continuous clock ticks every second. Every minute there is a station name announcement, a beep on the minute, a time announcement and "RR" in Morse code."
Man the kids were just too much. I guess in retrospect I'd like to have played more music and played less with the kids, but it was fun.
The next two videos are from a show of Josvani's band, Aguiri Yo. Pretty dope.
In 2003 or so I want to Havana for 3 weeks. Well I got out once. Why did I spend it all in Havana? It was kinda how it's easy to get stuck in New York City and not leave. I met people, we did stuff, and maybe I felt like I would miss things if I left. Anyway, the first few people I met were 1) a mango seller; 2) a guy that worked at some kind of parking lot; and 3) a fisherman. They each played an integral part in renting me the bike that I would use the entire time I was there. First I met the mango seller (I'll try hard to remember names, but right now they escape me!). I talked to him for a while, and we started walking around together. He took me to his house and showed me how he gets his water. That deep hum means he dropped it well and it fills with water. His wife hears it and confirms "si, cojio agua" (yes, it got water). Crazy sound!
So here's how it went down: the mango guy brought me to the parking lot guy, and told him I needed a bike. The parking lot guy brought me to the fisherman, who in this case was the one with the bike. They decided a fair price for me to rent per day, including a little commission for parking lot guy (I can't remember if mango guy got a piece...). Later, when I decided to rent the bike for more days, I made the deal directly with the fisherman, and parking lot guy was none too happy when he saw me on the bike a week or two later. He was entitled to more commission! So we had to go work it out. I ended up hanging out with the mango guy and the fisherman a few more times, but not the P.L. guy.