The Republicans have come and gone from the Minnesota landscape. Less than 60 days to go before we elect the new Agent of Change—I thought that was Obama’s message but it seems McCain has stolen a page from the Obama playbook….
I am very happy and satisfied and content with the outcome of our gigs for the RNC-affiliated parties. The World Music Collective, as I called it, had two successful and fun nights of parties at Solera Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. The Collective consisted of 12 musicians and 8 dancers and featured continuous performance of Argentine tango, North-African Rai as well as Spanish flamenco. All the members stepped up and delivered great shows. The audiences were enthusiastic and, without exception, well….nice!
So much for the Culture Wars. I was dismayed to hear Sarah Palin’s attempts to re-ignite the fires of divisiveness (division?) just when it was starting to seem that both parties had tacitly agreed not to do that this time around. And, since when is “Community Organizer” a dirty word? Not only that— I love big cities. Hate hockey. And hunting.
Then, a great thing happened to me: I was invited to accompany the Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater as guest guitarist on their upcoming tour of China. How very exciting! I am honored.
But this is the subject of a separate post.
The Republican National Convention comes to Minnesota the first week in September. Regardless of one’s political allegiance—conventions are all about partying!
I have assembled a new group I am calling the World Music Collective. They will perform at two separate parties to be held at Solera Restaurant (900 Hennepin Ave in downtown Minneapolis). I combined Mandragora Tango plus 4 tango dancers with Touareg (Middle-eastern and Rai music) plus 2 dancers along with Flamenco Mateo plus 2 flamenco dancers. In all, we have 12 musicians and 8 dancers who will present continuous music and dance as a huge multi-cultural extravaganza.
I hope to find as well as create many other opportunities to present this talented collective of artists in performance. For the moment, I am consumed with these first two dates—it is very exciting, exhilarating, and a little daunting….
I recently returned from a very exciting and eventful tour of several East coast cities—I went with Mandragora Tango…and, tango or no tango, we partied like rock stars. My 12 years with the Rogues tearing across the US and Canada playing every conceivable type of rock venue gave me a taste for the road which, I learned, hasn’t gone away.
I left on June 16th and drove a car loaded with PA equipment, meeting up with the rest of the band in Philadelphia the following evening. The drive was significant in that I used the time behind the wheel to psychically access certain musicians I admire and have master classes with them. I even took notes! Remarkable stuff—I’d greatly appreciate any feedback from readers of this post as to their experience and opinions of this sort of cosmic exercise.
The tour’s first date was in Northampton, Massachusetts on Wednesday the 18th and this kicked off a whirlwind week of 7 shows in 7 nights in 7 cities. Most of the shows were milongas—tango dances hosted by the local community of tango dancers. We also played a lovely outdoor wedding in Bethlehem, PA. Mandragora’s aim is to be a first-rate tango dance band as well as concert performers. As such, we play in “tandas,” groupings of 3-4 tangos, waltzes or milongas that have continuity for those dancing. We also play music of the great dance orchestras of old. We do our share of Piazzolla. This is food for a musician’s soul….And we’re doing some post-Piazzolla, as well, what is referred to as “tango nuevo.”
We had great response everywhere and dancers seemed particularly delighted so this was a huge high for all of us. We performed in Woodstock, NY and Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley, Washington,DC and Richmond, VA. In Richmond we hooked up with “El Pulpo,” the Argentine dancer of repute, and did two demos with him that can be found on youtube.com. His new partner, Stephanie, is a lovely dancer as well as a lovely person.
Read more about the specifics of the tour on Bob’s blog at mandragoratango.com.
This month we have a concert at Pope Art—a gallery of fine and performing arts—in Terrace, MN on Saturday, July 20th at 7:30PM. More info at www.popeart.org. I hear it is an exceptional acoustic so we are looking forward to this show. Mandragora Tango performs almost every Sunday evening at the Loring Pasta Bar in Dinkytown, Minneapolis, MN. This is a long-standing tango dance (milonga) that begins at 6PM and draws a lot of dancers of all ages. Good food and wine—makes me happy….
Yes Yes! Having spent the entire winter in Minnesota this year, I am out of my mind with ebullience as the days have suddenly…just suddenly…turned gorgeous. The garden here at the “commune,” as my abode is frequently referred to due to my open-door policy regarding friends and lovers, is out of control spewing apple and pear and magnolia blossoms everywhere. Plants are screaming their delight and freely giving themselves up to the sunshine and warmth. We just put up a decadent pagoda-styled gazebo that has already hosted 2 borracheras this week and it is only Thursday.
What a luxury to sit amongst all this glory and play guitar! Glass of malbec/bonarda/sangria/rioja/ribera del duero—it is all good—at hand and platos de ceviche, pulpo ala gallego y lo que sea covering the table—friends dropping by unannounced—I realized last evening that such an environment is the ultimate stress-buster.
Memorial Day weekend nearly at hand when Minneapolis empties out vast numbers of nerdly types who go fishing or to their cabin “up north” to spend their free time working on their dock or whatever. Minneapolis suddenly becomes for the Minneapolitans. And there is a great Latin music festival happening this “puente” at Harriet Island called VIVE MINNESOTA . It is free admission and I’ll be playing there with Mandragora Tango at 3PM on Monday the 25th. Promise. I’ll be there.
Speaking of Mandragora, we’re attempting to finish up the recording of our latest CD which will have a trilogy of Piazzolla temas from Maria de Buenos Aires among loads of other cool stuff. And I am getting jazzed about our East coast tour which opens June 18th in Northhampton, Mass and ends in Richmond, VA on the 24th of June. We’ll be playing in Philly and DC and Woodstock and even Bethlehem. I love the road—twelve years of touring with my rock band (The Rogues) in a past life gave me a unquenchable taste for the adventures and debaucheries therein. And, though Mandragora Tango is a relatively well-behaved and cultured, well-mannered group of exemplary individuals—well, there is still hope for them.
Today’s ceviche is made—there remains the sangria to assemble (see my posted recipe for same)—it is time to seriously kick back. Hasta prontito!
My good friend, Tomas de Utrera, recently sent me info about a really interesting film that is on youtube.com, showing in 10 parts, each 8 to 10 minutes long. It is called “Flamenco: A Personal Journey” and is made by Tao Ruspoli. He’s a young American who goes to Sevilla in the late 1990’s to study guitar and chronicles his adventures. It is very charming and has great footage of some of the gone or soon to be gone oldtime flamencos.
Most notable is the great footage of Paco Valdepeñas dancing, singing and just being his utterly original, incredibly charming self. In some odd way, he reminded me of my own father, who was born in 1920 and passed in 1998. Paco Valdepeñas was born in 1922 and is shown dancing and carrying on in 1998—he then passed in the year 2000. This added a special poignancy to an already deeply engaging film.
The conversation that most sticks in my head is when several of the guys are in a church and gazing at a crucifix that has Jesus’ image modeled after that of a prominent flamenco. One of the young gitanos states that one needs to play the guitar with the same heaviness that Jesus felt carrying the cross. Now, I am not at all a religious man, but I loved that analogy—that sense of peso–of weight—is so important in the toque. I just never heard it expressed in that way and I love the metaphor.
I highly recommend this film!
I am excited to announce that Mandragora Tango will host their 2nd Tango Groove Party, again at Candelabra Studios (1517 Central Ave in NE Minneapolis). Music starts at 10PM and continues until 3AM—lots of sultry, jammy tangos, milongas and Argentine waltzes. The cover is $10—there will be snacks, wine, beer and lots of music, live and DJed. Mandragora is: Bob Barnes (bandoneon), Laura Harada (violin), Rahn Yannes (bass), and Scott Mateo (guitar).
Don’t miss it! Come early. Stay late.
Thursday, April 17, 2008 from 1:30 until 3:30PM at the University of St Thomas in St Paul, Minnesota (O’Shaughnessy Educational Center). I’ll be yakkin’ ’bout flamenco and accompanying Rachel’s cante. FREE!
Will Spring never come? As I write this, it is SNOWING! Again—but then, we don’t mind so much because the music scene here is really cracking. Besides, I just spent an invigorating week in Los Angeles where it is always sunny and beautiful. (Just like a Minnesotan to blog about the damn weather).
A couple of very interesting items I need to pass on to aficionados of tango and flamenco. Mandragora Tango will be hosting another tango-groove party this month, building on the success of last month’s espectaculo. It’ll be on April 26th, Saturday and at the Candelabra Studio warehouse space on 1517 Central Ave in Northeast Minneapolis. If you missed last month’s event, be sure you don’t miss this one. It is just so inspiring and fun to play in a hip and relaxed setting like this. Doors open at 9PM and we’ll go until 3AM. A cover charge gains entrance, snacks and drinks.
Now on a more seeeeeeeeerious note: the remarkable up-and-coming cantaora (flamenco singer)Rachel Milloy joins me in presenting a lecture/demonstration entitled “El Mundo y Las Formas del Arte Flamenco” at the University of St Thomas in St Paul, Mn. It’ll be at the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center (on Cleveland Ave between Portland and Ashland Avenues) and goes from 1:30 to 3:30PM on Thursday, April 17th. We’ll talk a bit and perform loads of cool music, cante jondo to sevillanas. It is free and open to everyone and usually draws a sizable crowd: the space is lovely, the acoustics are great and it is in the afternoon, which means we’ll most likely be sober!
These special events plus the usual host of shows around town (see my calendar page…) guarantee that April showers—be they snow, sleet or rain—will not dampen my spirits. Nonetheless, I am counting the days ’til grilling and sangria under the stars. Have you checked out my sangria formula yet? See it below. Years of practice and I think I’ve finally got it right.
Oh yeah—one more thing. ( I feel like a carnival barker.) My Sunday flamenco guitar technique classes continue and some really kick-ass players are starting to emerge. If you want to get involved send me an email and let’s get going! !Hasta prontito!
1517 Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis, MN. Cost is $8.00. From 9PM to 3AM
Here in Minneapolis, Minnesota the fierce winter continues it’s headlong stagger, now well into March. Not since I carried a paper route, at age 12, can I recollect anything like this. Then, the only redemption from barren iciness were the shooting stars streaking across the 5 AM sky—me, a helpless, bespectacled little nerd running around crazily tossing newspapers on 84 separate doorsteps, all the while longing for hot chocolate and my warm bed.
Fast forward to 2008. We haven’t escaped Minnesota this winter—not for Madrid, or Buenos Aires or Guatemala—and this makes it tougher to bear. The redemption has been lots and lots of wonderful shows, and gigs, and parties, and general borracheras.
Mandragora Tango spent some time in the studio this week. We’re starting work on our third CD and we’re excited about the seven tracks we’ve managed to lay down already. The group has a nice East coast tour lining up in mid June and I am loving this band. We’ve got great personnel and everyone is committed to really nailing the tango style and articulation and unique Argentine flavor (did someone say “gnocchis?” Guess not…).
Anyway—Mandragora Tango is hosting a Tango Groove Dance Party on March 22nd, the evening before Easter Sunday. It will be at Candelabra Studios, 1517 Central Ave in Northeast Minneapolis. The party begins around 9PM and will certainly go late—at least until 3AM. Mandragora will alternate sets with DeeJayed Tango Nuevo and there will likely be guest musicians and dancers. Cost is $8.00—there will be tapas, wine and other drinks. The band will be playing a lot of Piazzolla and jammy fun music we don’t often get to play at the more conventional milongas. We love the Guardia Vieja stuff, and the Edad Oro stuff and all tango, really. And we will play all that—but also stretch out a bit.
So, we’re excited about March 22nd. I hope this is the first of, perhaps, monthly parties of this kind—please come out and join us whether you dance or not. Besides, dancing tango is fun even if you don’t know what you’re doing. And every new paso you pick up is just that much more fun….
Flamenco Mateo has been active, as well, doing a number of cuadro flamenco shows around town: at Solera, la Bodega, Normandale Community College and, coming up on March 14th and again on March 28th—at Macy’s Flower Show (in their downtown store). Flower-show-flamenco—you figure.
At month’s end I’m taking off with my 15 year old son, Aaron, to spend his spring break in Los Angeles. We’ll be visiting my two older children, Mikhail and Grace, and their families (including my almost 4 year old grandson Saif). We’ll be eating and drinking well, and hiking, and hanging out, soaking up warmth and sunshine, and maybe doing some recording. I have in mind to do some trance-like, trippy almost meditative, flamenco grooves. I’m a big fan of B Tribe (Ojos de Brujo, too) and want to do my own take on this.
This is a very long post. I need to sit down and do this more often. Maybe I’ll be briefer that way. I’ve been told short and punchy posts catch the eye and actually get read. Thank you, readers, for your comments. They are much appreciated. Ciao.