“And the voice said ‘Daddy, there’s a million pigeons
Ready to be hooked on new religions.
Hit the road, Daddy.
Leave your common law wife,
Spread the religion of the rhythm of life.’”
From the musical, Sweet Charity, song “The Rhythm of Life”
Music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Someone once said (I think it was me) that when you think you are “playing the system”, the system is actually playing you. Essentially we are all playing each other. In 1969, Timothy Leary said, “You can be anyone this time around.” In the same year Firesign Theatre said “How can you be two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all.” They were also known to say “We are all bozos on this bus.” I’m not afraid to admit my bozoness. So what does that have to do with anything? Well, to begin with, we are not who we think we are. We are a weird (or unique; take your pick) conglomeration of experiences we have had with our environment, and especially the people with whom we have associated over our lifetime. I am you; you are me; and there we be… musical tastes included. The music I have grown to love and appreciate is to a degree the result of people in my life sharing music they love to listen to. Radio and television have also been contributors – again, the result of disc jockeys, program directors, and others who decided what to air. But not all of it comes from these interactions. In the past 2 decades I have become obsessive about surfing the Internet, in search of the lost chord. I search out music to satisfy my curiosity. I read books about music and then search it out – testing the waters to see if it is something I want to add to my library. But again, some person had to write that book or post that article. On a local level, I search out artists to watch and hear perform, and out of this have sprung friendships as well as opportunities to experience even more music. As a matter of fact, this blog is the result of my sharing ideas about doing this with a local artist who enthusiastically encouraged me to get started. I bet she regrets encouraging me!!!
So let me share with you some of my most recent experiences regarding the local music scene….roll the film.
September 18, at 98 Bottles, Jamie Shadowlight and Naganuma Dance: (sub)merge
We had no idea what to expect but knew this performance was going to be a combination of music and dance, and would be profoundly unique. I will try my best to objectively describe what took place. Performing musically: Jamie Shadowlight on violin, maracas, and singing bowl, Anita Weedmark on piano, Erdis Maxhelaku on cello and djembe, and John Noble on modular synth. Primary dancers were Darcy Naganuma and Aurora Lagattuta. Sometimes they, too, contributed to the sound with maracas and other items. Plus, Darcy read a few paragraphs from what appeared to be a dairy or biography. Many in the audience were from Naganuma Dance and Aurora’s classes. At one point Darcy and Aurora went into the audience, gave a light kiss and whispered something to certain people (from their classes), and then brought them onto the stage area to participate in a free-form dance. But I am getting ahead of myself; let me begin at the beginning. Right before the performance began Jamie, Darcy, and Aurora brought pen and paper to each table instructing us to write ideas that come to mind as the performance progressed. It was a way for the audience to participate. Instructions were intentionally vague to leave open any inspiration that we experienced. Then it began, with Jamie shaking a maraca and Erdis on djembe while Anita created a rumbling, rolling sound with the piano. The performers were yelling and stomping their feet and encouraged the audience to do likewise. Then come the dancers, marching in like little toy soldiers with limited movement. From there they evolved into puppet-like movements, and then broke free of the strings. By this time Jamie had transitioned to violin and Erdis to cello, part droning, part improvisational jamming, playing off the dancers and the dancers playing off the musicians. The dancing and music seemed to flow in patterns like ocean waves and it was impossible to anticipate the next thing to hit the senses. The performance continued in this manner, with the audience never knowing what to expect. Once it was over, they collected the papers. Only two people (I was one of them) had written anything. Aurora read what we wrote for the audience to hear. It was explained that everything we experienced was improvised, in-the-moment, feeding off each other. This included what we, the audience, wrote…or didn’t write. Silence can speak volumes. This stream-of-consciousness expression of self, artistry, and love was nearly overwhelming and left us a bit lighter as we found our way back to the car. As we walked past the Casbah and the sound of loud, raucous rock, I smiled and considered even that and the sound of the traffic to be part of the experience. We were all, indeed, submerged in ourselves and each other that evening and it was spellbinding.
L to R: Erdis Maxhelaku, Aurora Lagattuta, Jamie Shadowlight, Darcy Naganuma, Anita Weedmark, and John Noble
Adams Avenue 34th Street Fair – September 26 & 27
The turnout at this event was huge considering the unbearable heat. Walking about the Street Fair I felt like I was being microwaved. I quickly turned my attention away from the heat, kept hydrated with water, and focused on the music. First up, on Saturday, we headed for Java Joe’s where The Zicas were performing. The Zicas play the music of Brazil. Three performers played percussion, guitar, and cavaquinho (a small Brazilian/Portuguese guitar-like instrument). They were great players and fun to watch, with their little antics. They reaffirm my love of the Brazilian culture and music.
Next up we ventured over to the Hawley Blues Stage to hear The BlueFrog Band. While rooted in Chicago electric blues, there is a definite mix of r&b and 70s rock for good measure. Blue Frog is Patrick Ellis, who sings, plays a mean blues harp and electric guitar. Dave Keefer was on lead guitar and took lead vocals on some songs. There was also a bass player and drummer but I didn’t catch their names. The big surprise was that Sue Palmer was on keyboards. Sue has her own band (Motel Swing Orchestra) and is quite renowned in San Diego as a great jazz keyboardist. The mix was heaven. Sue added a boogie woogie element to some songs that worked perfectly.
We returned to Java Joe’s to hear Shawn Rohlf & The 7th Day Buskers, with the added treat of Joey Harris from Beat Farmers/Farmers fame playing guitar and doing backing vocals. This is an Americana/old time music band with string bass, drums (consisting of snare, high hat and a suitcase replacing bass drum), and two guitarists – Shawn Rohlf and Joey Harris. Songs were all written by Shawn. They are a fun group to watch; great showmen all. The expressions on Joey’s face are priceless.
We took a break to eat lunch at Demille’s and caught the end of Steve Poltz’ performance at the Demilles Stage. Then back to Java Joe’s, where we have another entertaining and talented performer. Gregory Page presented an impeccable performance of music both from and in a style of a bygone era, when old hand-cranked Victrolas were all the rage. He also read some of his poems. Gregory has such a peaceful and warm aura about him. I always walk away with a sublime feeling after seeing him perform. Owen Burke joined Gregory on homemade percussion for some songs.
We ended the day at the Demilles Stage with Bass Clef Experiment, consisting of Greg Gohde on bass, Mike Alvarez on electric cello, and Owen Burke on drums. They did some of their own music as well as popular 60s tunes like “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and an impressive version of The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus”. Half way through their set, Dave Humphries joined them on guitar and vocals, performing some of his own songs as well as many 60s hits, ending the set with a totally mind-blowing version of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Dave told some stories about working with Tony Sheridan as well as the surviving member of Badfinger, Joey Mulland. He performed the Badfinger hit “Day After Day”. We are lucky to have Dave living and performing in San Diego.
Sunday we arrived later due to the heat. Late afternoon we saw Gregory Page again, followed by country/Americana band, Podunk Nowhere. Great songwriting, guitar picking, and singing from Heather and Johnny Janiga who performed with a bass player (who also played high hat) but I did not catch his name. Heather has to be from Texas or somewhere in the south with her subtle twang – something that is not native to San Diego, but charming. She has a beautifully expressive delivery. Johnny is very laid back but a very articulate player and even added a little dissonance to the chord arrangements to wise effect on one of the songs.
Closing out the Street Fair at the Adams Park Groove, we saw Tori Roze and The Hot Mess with a funky, jazz/rock set. Tori’s singing will knock you right out of your shoes! She can go from gentle and angelic to powerful and gutsy in a matter of seconds. Her mother was on flute and backing vocals. I can tell where Tori’s angelic vocals come from. Bass and drums held down the funky rhythms while the trombone and guitar took things off into a jazz universe. Tori occasionally played trumpet, augmenting the jazzier side of things. They are fun to watch and even more enjoyable to listen to. What a great band to close out the Street Fair.
We missed many bands we would have liked to have heard, such as Blue Largo (with special guest Taryn Donath), The Rugburns, 22 Kings, Lion Cut, Billy Watson & The Submariners, Robin Henkel. But strategic decisions had to be made. The Popeswami consulted the stars and I-Ching to decide on the perfect solution to a perfect weekend.Travelling home we witnessed the beginning of a full moon lunar eclipse, and continued watching from our back deck at home. It will probably be the last one in my lifetime.
In my next installment, I will not be discussing local bands. Let’s just say it will be interesting and keep it at that for the moment. Happy October!