Natalie Gelman joins us this week, the second time she has been on Music Friday Live!. I have never been able to see her live - schedules never quite crossed - but I intend to even if I have to drive to the next country to do it, which in LA is a very big deal. Her music has always been addictive, boosted by her stunning natural beauty and right to the point powerful lyrics. As a solo songwriter, she has picked a tough life, but she does it superbly, singing in major concert halls and subway platforms, where she started. And she has an intelect to match, as she demonstrated in a Ted Talk in Portland. Her newest release, "The Lion" and the video that goes with in pulls no punches. Take a look at it at The Lion. You will see that the lion - or actually the lioness - has been awakened and watch out America.
We are off for the holidays until 1/6/17, but I want to share my favorite Music Friday Live programs and my top 10+1 songs for 2016. Why +1? Because there were more than 10!
The top 10+1 are ( not in order of preference - depends on my mood):
Blue by Polaris Rose
Katarina by Mitre
La Bamba Rebelde by Las Cafeteras
My Sweetest Sin by Irene Diaz
Nothing at All by Halo Circus
Pergunto by Sin Color
Smile by Maggie Szabo
Spin the World by Eric Zayne
The Overload by King Washington
You Bring Me Luck, by Athena
Vamos a Gozar by Buyepongo
My favorite shows of the year were:
Check them out and happy new year
Music FridayLive! is on vacation until next year, but you can still hear Patrick on our bilingual program MusicaFusionLA this Wednesday. Tune in at www.blogtalkradio.com at 1 pm, or download the podcast at Blogtralkradio.com or on iTunes.
Don’t call Las Cafeteras a band. Call them a constructive political movement disguised as a musical theater with a history lesson attached. That was very much evident in their spectacular performance Friday night at the beautiful Valley Performing Arts Center at California State University Northridge. The eight band members, guest singer Maria del Pilar, two dance groups, a choreographer, several costume changes a multi-media projector and a rapper/comedian, together put on a bilingual tour de force of music, dancing, history, film, photography, poetry, spoken word and advocacy centered around the concept of “Beyond La Bamba”. Regardless of what language you speak or where you were born, Las Cafeteras spoke to you Friday night with words of love, ancestry and community.
Beyond la Bamba started with “La Bamba”. Standing alone, center stage in a spotlight with a muted beat emanating from the shadowed musicians behind him, Ritchie Valens spoke to us in the form of an actor dressed liked the Latin-American pop star who died with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper at the age of 17 in 1959. Valens – whose real name was Valenzuela – took us through his history of growing up in Lynwood, CA, working in the fields until his hands hurt, living with discrimination against Latinos who were in California generations before it was California, changing his name because he couldn’t get a record contract with a Latino name. He left us with Valens’ own words: “I wasn’t trying to change the world, I just wanted to be me….but to know who you are, you need to know who you were.”
The giant screen behind him, which has been showing black and white pictures of 1920’s farm workers, run down housing and “No Mexicans or Negros” signs exploded into color with film of Mexican dancers in the plaza while the full band strode on stage and let loose with “El Siquisiri”, the traditional fandango from Veracruz. The traveling musical theater-cum- history-lesson was off and running – or more to the point, dancing. Within seconds, Las Cafeteras’s tag-team front persons Hector Flores and Denise Carlos had the near- capacity crowd up on their feet and clapping to the ribald “El Chuchumbre” as the giant screen images gave way to the Las Cafeteras’ humming bird logo. The clapping continued as Hector mounted the Tarima and danced the zapateado – a tap-like dance on a wooden platform used to amplify the percussion in the Veracruz-based son jarocho music that is central to Las Cafeteras.
The personal connection with the audience thick and authentic. From Hector’s Flores’ introducing a song by telling us about his past and how it reminded him of his deceased father, to the Ballet Folklorico dancing in the aisles with the audience, there was seldom a fourth wall. The performance was truly community. This is the essence of Las Cafeteras, an extended community, playing the indigenous son jarocho music – with rock and rap and pop thrown in – using the traditional instruments like jarana’s, requinto, a donkey jawbone, a West African bass instrument called the Marimbol, the seated box drum the cajón, and the Tarima combined with guitars and drum kits and even a cello for a unique East LA sound. Like their message, Yo No Creo Fronteras, their music knows no borders.
Las Cafeteras rapidly moved on to “Café Con Pan” and “Colas” and were joined onstage by the Ballet Folklorico of Los Angeles and the multi-lingual LA-based Contra-Tiempo Dance group, all choreographed by Marina Magalhães, winner of La Weekly’s Theater Award for Best Choreography. The dancing, accompanied by slides on the movie screen to establish the location – a plaza, downtown Los Angeles, East LA – was expertly woven into the music and the flowing narrative behind the music, as was the migration story/poetry/rap of Indian-born poet/rapper SETI X who joined the group and finished the first set with activist artist Damon Turner and the band performing “Trabajadora”.
For two hours Las Cafeteras played, danced, talked, told stories, clapped and sang with the audience, danced the zapateado – including to the song “El Zapateado”, and turned the magnificent Valley Performing Center alternately into old Mexico, Los Angeles of the past and future, a classroom and a theater-scale art gallery. This was their home turf; stories, music, dance and history. Las Cafeteras are the children of immigrants who came together on the streets of Los Angles to remix roots music and modern day stories in a mashup of son jarocho, hip hop, punk, rock and cumbia. They met while taking classes at the Eastside Café, a Zapatista-inspired community space in East LA where they learned the music and culture of son jarcho. (Many band members went on to obtain Bachelors, Masters and PhD degrees). Their debut album, It’s Time, has garnered rave reviews and netted them features on the BBC, NPR, and in the LA Times.
This eclectic combination of music forms and narratives was especially evident in their performance of Woody Guthrie’s iconic “This Land is Your Land” in the second set, started in American style by Maria Del Pilar and then transformed into Mexican dance with the arrival of Ballet Folklorico in western garb – checked skirts, boots, jeans, cowboy hats – framed by an image of the native Americas who lived here before the Spanish arrived. As the dancers spun and do-si-doed in a American barn dance, Denise Carlos – glowing in bright red hair and red white and blue shorts and top, danced and sang with cowboys and proclaimed “This Land was meant for you and me”.
Las Cafeteras performed 20 songs in two acts and an encore, with multiple costume changes, films, slides and dance numbers, each with a message and a story. Some were in Spanish, some in English; most of the narrative and poetry was in English, which worked well with the mostly Latino bilingual audience that filled the theater. Highlights are too many to list, but a few include a call-answer duet by Maria del Pilar and Denise Carlos supporting a sensuous traditional dance by Contra-Tiempo group, duel zapateado dancing by Hector and Denise, Johnny Cash’s famous “Ring of Fire” by Maria del Pilar, an apropos Presidente”, the playful and hooky “Luna Lovers”, the moving spoken word “Brown” by Hector Flores, and 1700 people on their feet singing “La Bamba Rebelde” during the finale with everyone on stage.
In a time when some are trying to use walls, hate and stereotypes to destroy the “E Pluribus Unum” that built this nation, Las Cafeteras are using music and dancing and joy and history to make the “Unum” stronger. America’s strength has always been the constant flow of new people, new ideas, new energy that comes from immigration. Las Cafeteras are both an example of that new energy and its best proponent. Once you see them, you will understand that Las Cafeteras are not only an LA icon, they are a national treasure.
Any concert with Grammy nominee and Latin Grammy winner Gaby Moreno is an inspiring experience, but to see her in an intimate setting with 400 of her closest friends makes it clear why people lover her so much. She is stunning, inspiring and completely authentic. With a voice that transcends octaves, a songwriting talent in English and Spanish that opens minds and hearts, and a sense of humor that is as engaging as it is humble, her music says “star” while her presence says “love”.
Her concert at the Roxy – her first time there ever - was both intimate and expansive; her voice filled the room while her smile and her words - and yes, her tears - pulled each person close. Gaby Moreno gave us an unheard of 19-song set, interlaced with self-deprecating humor and stories, laughs a mention of her theme song and character in the Disney series Elana of Avalor , and then came back for an encore that blew the roof off of the newly remodeled Hollywood music palace.
“This is really my album release show” Gabby joked to her fans, referring to the just released album, Ilusion, nominated this year for a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album. The Grammy nomination was a surprise, she told us. She was on a plane when the nominations were announced and when she got off, her phone exploded with so many texts, calls, and emails that it took several minutes for her mother to get through and tell her the news. She wiped her tears away as the audience cheered and shouted congratulations; then she stood up straight, flashed her million-watt smile and started to sing.
And sing she did, for the next hour and a half, delivering songs from Ilusion, Posada, Postales, Illustrated Songs and even her Christmas album. Talking and singing fluidly in both Spanish and English, Moreno, who admitted to only 2 hours sleep, led the audience through her musical life, and judging from the majority of the crowd who seemed to know every song, theirs too.
The fans were more than ready. The Roxy filled up early; it was three quarters full at 8 pm when Bjorn and the Sun came on stage and energized the room with their country pop songs and world class guitar riffs. By the time Ilza Rosario, also beloved by the audience, stood onstage with her arms outstretched and her movie star smile lighting up the room, it was packed and happy. Rosario was the perfect introduction to Moreno. Her heartfelt songs delivered with an intensity, clarity and an innocence that belied her skin-tight leotard and plunging neckline, set the tone for the kind of personal, authentic musical encounter that illuminated the night.
Moreno was joined onstage by her full band: Arthur Braitsch on guitar and mandolin, the superbly talented Elizabeth Lea on trombone, Jennifer Condos on bass, Jordan Katz on trumpet and banjo and mandolin, Matt DeMerrit on sax, Patrick Warren on keys and accordion, and Sebastian Aymanns on drums. The horn section not only added a new depth and variety, it was obvious that Katz, Lea, and DeMerrit were really, really enjoying themselves – and we enjoyed watching them.
After opening with her new single, “Se Apago”, in Spanish, she moved to “Pale Bright Lights” in English, both from the new album. Before turning to “Ave Que Emigra” she laughingly said that, like the bird in the song, the song itself had migrated from one album to another. “O Me”, was followed by her Spanish revision of Sam Philip’s song “Herman Rosetta” which paved the way for the song the audience had been waiting for, “Fronteras”. The largely Latin audience, wondering about their future lives in a Trump America, sang along with Moreno. But she leavened the intensity of “Fronteras” with the fun of “Solemncholy”, and then moved to her beloved blues with ‘Mess a Good Thing” from her Illustrated Song album, and the deep and dirty blues “Down in Reverie” and “Nobody to Love”. She traded her guitar for a tambourine and, with just a drum backing her, quieted the room with the powerful “Salvese Quien Pueda”.
But the most powerful moments of the night were her solo of “Illusion”. Standing alone with her guitar, her voice showing no signs of the travel and lack of sleep, she held notes longer and higher and clearer than seemed humanely possible. If you closed your eyes, you could imagine the stars and galaxies singing directly to you, life’s a despairing illusion, until he comes back to me.
As the last notes of “Illusion” hung in the air, Gaby held onto the mood with “Estare”, stretching notes impossibly long. But then she moved into the stretch, keeping up the pace and moving effortlessly between albums while bringing back the horns in “El Sombreron” and “Blues de Mar” from Postales, “Maldicion/Bendicion” from Ilusion and “Peces En El Rio” from Posada. She had fun with “Hacia Belen Va Una Burra Rin In”, laughing with the Latinos in the audience about singing it every Christmas as children.
Gaby reached back to her 2011 Illustrated Songs album for the climax of the evening, “Sing Me Life” delivered as anthem that could have filled the Hollywood Bowl, before she wound down with cheers, thank yous and Elizabeth Lea’s final trombone notes. And of course, the cries of “otra” from the fans brought her back on stage for an encore, “La Maleguena”, ending with what is likely the longest, highest, clearest note ever hear in the Roxy.
Guatemalan born, American raised, world traveled, Gaby Moreno is the leading edge of the second wave of the American Latino Music revolution boiling in Los Angeles. Following the trail blazed by Ozomatli, Los Lobos and hundreds of mariachi and ranchero bands that have entertained in and adapted to what is now the second largest Spanish-speaking city in the world, Moreno brings a level of talent, an inner radiance, an ease with bi-cultures and an authenticity that makes her both unique and a leader in the love and joy that music can bring to the world. She certainly brought it to the Roxy.
This week will the last show of the year, as we will be off from 1`2/16/16 to 1/6/17. We are doing a special hot and cold show with Las Cafeteras from Mexico (now in LA) and Ksenia from Siberia (now in LA). Las Caf, as they are known just got back from a sell-out national tour and have been on the show before. I follow them and will be at their show Friday night at Cal State University Northridge. Ksenia is new to me. Ii have been introduced through her agent and my friend Sera Roadnight. Where Las Caf is chili pepper hot, Ksenia is powerful, cool pop.
Together, they are a great way to wrap up a tremendous year. And it has been a tremendous year, musically and politically, which have a tendency to go together in election years. I think we may hear about that from Las Cafeteras, as they are very community-oriented and politically outspoken. On another note, I have submitted my nominations to the LA Music Critics (of which I am one) and will let you know as soon as I do which of my favs got the nod. (photo: Raf Cardenas).
There is a reason why Hirie’s fans adore her so much. She is a compact package of high energy reggae love. Whether she is dancing center stage with her bass player, tooting her melodica or cheek kissing and holding hands with her fans at the edge of the stage, she returns the love, many, many times over.
That love was evident as early as 8 pm Friday night at the famous Roxy in Hollywood, CA., as the club floor was packed and the line stretched outside – unheard of early in Hollywood where the crowds don’t arrive until 10 pm. But everyone wanted to be as close as possible to Hirie and bask in the love, the spiritual uplift and the healing joy of her music.
The show at the Roxie is an early stop on a two month Western States tour in support of her new album Wandering Soul, recorded with funds from a Kickstarter and promoted with help from the Rootfire Collective in San Diego, her home town. The show at the Roxie included Iya Terra and Arise Roots who poured out smiles, energy and shout outs for the Water Defenders at Standing Rock. Arise Roots and Hirie worked together on Roots’ official video for “Cool Me Down Tonight”, which featured Hirie singing. The crowd was hot, sweating and moving when the Arise Roots finished its high wattage set and the stage crew began setting up for the seven-member all-star band Patricia Jetton assembled and called Hirie, the name that has stuck with her.
Hirie had already raised expectations by surprising the audience during Arise Roots’ set, dancing out onto the stage in a turquoise blue backless mini dress that showed off her legs and her tattooed back. She rapped with the band, touched hands with fans and danced off. After the Roots’ set, the Hirie band - Chris Hampton on saxophone, melodica, accordion; Andrew McKee on trombone, guitar, didgeridoo and percussion;, Andy Flores on bass, Blaine Dillinger on lead guitar ( who played world class riffs – behind his back at one point), Joey Muraoka on drums - rocked an intro, setting the scene for Hirie’s entrance. She skipped out on stage to applause that drowned out the music until the band launched into Queen” and “You Won’t Be Alone”. Hirie’s feet went nonstop, Dillinger’s guitar lit up and the Roxie practically elevated.
And elevated it stayed for twelve songs from her albums Wandering Soul and Hirie , plus singles and dubs and a three-song encore. One of the highlights for me was “Woman Comes First” from Wandering Soul and introduced by Hirie as a song for women everywhere. It has special resonance, as Hirie is one of the few women leading a reggae band, joining her inspirations Tanya Stepens and Dezarie and following in the footsteps of pioneers like Sista Nancy, Marcia Griffiths and Rita Marley.
She mixed it up; new songs and old favorites. “Wiseman” from the Hirie album followed by a Matisysahu medley, “Renegade” from Wandering Soul and “Lost and Found”, also from Hirie. All that set the scene for the highlight of the night for many fans, “Don’t Take My Ganja”. They were prepared; the sweet smell of ganja started early in the evening but when Hirie took center stage and announced the song, cheers and smoke went up together. Joints floated throughout the audience, up onto the stage and back. At one point, so much smoke had drifted onto the stage that the keyboard player vanished in the haze. Hirie powered through, regaling fans, dancing, holding hands and slapping high fives through “Ganja”, “Sensi” and “Stoned in Love” before the stage lights blacked out and the band disappeared into the dark.
But the break was illusory; if Hirie is anything she is a show woman and a savvy entertainer. She knows how do build drama, raise excitement and make an entrance. The blacked-out stage began to vibrate in strobe lights and jungle drum beats as the band appeared, one by one, upping the tension and layering the music. Into this swirling mass of strobe light and drum pulse strolled Hirie, bathed in a blue spotlight, singing the title song from Wandering Soul. Las Vegas could not have done it better.
The band headed into the stretch with a dance take on “Boom Fire” from the Wandering Soul album and finished up with one of the most heartwarming and authentic thankyou's to her fans I have ever seen. The love was as thick as the smoke as she left the stage. But of course, it was not over. As Hirie has said, one of her driving motivations – next to her husband and daughter – is being on the stage, and she came back onstage with a vengeance for the encores: “Good Vibrations” from Wandering Soul, “Smile” and “Come Alive” from Hirie. Another round of high fives, selfies, cheek kisses and hand touches and she was gone, but the music and the love still vibrated in the room.
Everything is falling into place for Hirie – an all-star band, an adorning fan base, an irrepressible style, world class songwriting and talent showcased by an authentic stage presence that is pure entertainment. She is on her way to becoming not just a sold out, award-winning reggae star, but a legend. Catch the tour and watch the legend being born.
I was recently introduced to the music of Indiana Grace Schmid, an LA-based singer-songwriter who goes simply by Indiana Grace. She brings operatic singing and classical training to pop music in a way that sets her apart. I am looking forward to previewing songs from her forthcoming album on Music FridayLive! this week.
I was so excited when Bellehouse got in touch with me and told me they had a new single out and were readying an album - and that they had expanded the band from 3 to 7 people.. the New York-based Americana group does everything from Appalachia to Celtic rock and are a kick to interview. We will play the new music, here the new stories and have lots of musical fun - we always do with these women.
Maggie Szabo has been in Europe and Allison Iraheta and Halo Circus has been all over America. They both join us this Friday to tell us tales from the road, play new songs, and let us know what is in store for them now that they are back in good ol' Los Angeles.