CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Sandy Perez Y Su Lade at Bollywood - report ON FIRE!

Monday, March 23, 2009

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Sandy Perez Y Su Lade at Bollywood - report ON FIRE!

I wonder how many posts i start with Wow, but here's another...


Sandy and his cats ripped a hole in the roof of Bollywood Saturday night. The small club and late start had this performance set for a short, but furious show.

The cats on the bill - Sandy Perez, Mejail La Brada, Rosita Villamil, the Diaz brothers - Orlando and Juan, Jose Francisco Barroso, Manual Suarez, Colin Douglass, Toby Gaster and Matt Lucas.

The audience included many dancers from SF, and many people who either stumbled upon the gig, or were regulars of Bollywood or something.. as many of them were young and unfamiliar to me. I bet they were blown away by what they saw this night.

I often wonder, when people stumble onto these gigs, what they must think, seeing this amazing culture performed live by the best, and viewed with fresh eyes unfamiliar to Cuban folklorico. They must be tripped out, like watching a freak show! These guys are freaks of nature, for sure... stunningly talented and unabashed.

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So on that part of the mission, parking is nearly impossible, unless you wanted to kick down $20. It was raining, and SF was tucked in by a thick blanket of dark clouds. In classic Cuban style, the show was to start at 9, and the first set began at 10:30! I have to remind myself that we are working on Havana mean time! Us clueless white boys show up at 8, and sit on our hands waiting for hours staring at the empty dance floor... guess we must like it... i cant get myself to show to a gig late. Ill have to work on it.

Its so funny, the cubans play their rumba AHEAD of the time, but they always show up way after! ;)

Anyway, the first set started with a rapid fire rhythm based on a Santerian toque, played on congas by three players. Sandy came out of the gate on fire. He jumped all over his set, hitting his tubs so hard his glasses almost flew off!

Irish Rick and myself were commenting afterward.. we know of no one other than Sandy who can hit the drums that hard, for that long, without ripping their chops to shreds... he has hands of steel.

It reminds me of the Asian kick boxers, who whack their shins with inch thick hardwood sticks to strengthen them for battle. I could just see the first guy to teach that technique... here man, here is your stick, there is your leg, go at it!.. yea right! ;)

Speaking of discipline, I had a chance to talk with Colin, one of the nicest and heaviest of players around. He has equally impressive stick and conga chops, is a berkeley school of music grad, i believe, and is simply the fastest learner of the tradition in this area. Colin, in a relatively short period of time, worked his way through all three Bata, singing naturally all the way. He's up on a bunch of other Cuban folkloric traditions... all while being one of, if not the most saught after latin trap drummers on the Salsa scene. I am a big fan of Colin, he is so humble and talented. He is as cool as ice when he performs - so comfortable. I can see why he is in such demand.

Colin is teaching music to kids, and has a nice solid thing going as an instructor. He mentioned that most of his gigs are kit gigs these days, that there are just too many solid congeros in the area, and not enough latin projects to go around. Colin has serious chops on the congas... very very clean technique. He has incredibly nice flat handed slaps, a great technique that few can pull off, as its not as easy to get a slap out of it.

Im just glad im in the wine country, and dont have to compete with these cats for gigs! Id be playing on the streets for change!... not like thats a bad thing.. ;)

Anyway, back to the show...

the set rocketed forward and turned into a complete frenzy, when Rosita, one of the wildest performers Ive witnessed, jumps into the dancing and screaming crowd singing at the top of her lungs, dancing wildly... the crowd completely going off! It was a wild scene.

I had the view from behind the performers, as i was doing sound.... which is a big challenge for these shows, simply due to the love the singers have for hot mics. I was sailing the line, just under feeding back, to keep the mics cranked to cover the drums in this small space... its was a task... The stage is built back in a nook, so all the sound bounces off the walls from several directions with one of the PA's set up back behind everyone.. feedback city. Anyway, it was not the ideal situation, but we got through the gig without any noticeable feedback issues, eventhough the singers were frustrated, as i had to turn down the coro a bit.

Sandy tried to slow things down for a tune, but it quickly turned into a rapid fire, full-on sprint to the end of the first set. Toby and Matt were going off and machine like in their precision. At one point, one of them was making this incredible cracking slap... i had to go out front to see who it was.. Toby.. slap happy clap trapping... he was ripping it.

So, after a long break between sets, we were having so much fun hanging out no-one wanted to stop partying... so, the second set started at 1am.

It was as ripping as the first set, and the dancers from the audience seemed to stand and watch in amazement, as if it was a train moving too fast to board.

Barroso and Rosita danced wildly, charged by the rum fueled, high speed set. The crowd was loving it, and tightly packed the floor, dancing with their arms in the air. By the end of the blazing set, the place was a humid as a nightclub in Havana.

Yet another crazy show.... Few things can bring you the kind of freedom these shows provide. They so fully encompass you with the experience, its impossible to think of anything but having a great time.

So, we packed up and headed over to Matt's place for an early morning cap, then headed home.

Making it home by 4, I was planning on crashing as soon as I got in the door, but the house was freezing, so I built a fire in the wood stove.

I crashed on the couch next to the fire and was dreaming of the night's events, when... I smell fire... shit man, wake up!

I got up, turned on the light and realized the house was packed with smoke! I quickly woke everyone up, opened all the windows/doors.

The wood stove had ignited the creosote on the stove pipe, and i had a serious problem on my hands, with the temperature of the stove pipe topping 600 and climbing... 911!!!

In 5 minutes, the fire trucks came, lights and sirens blazing - firemen charging in with full gear, masks, tanks, etc.

They got on the roof and hosed the chimney from the top, putting out the fire in a rather clean way... Thanks guys! no water damage to speak of, very cool, as there are old school hardwood floors in the living room.

Funny thing was, after they put out the fire, it started to snow outside! It never snows in this area - hardly ever... so i say to the firemen.. hey guys, look, its snowing...

They look at each other an laugh... aa man, that's funny.. no, that's just ash falling, sir (read: dumbass!), they say to me...

.. I look again.. no man, that's Snow! I was born in Utah, I know my snow! Sure enough, it was snowing... while the fire raged, we went out side to look at the snow... funny. If it dumped hard enough, who knows, the fireman may have gone and done snow angles in the front lawn!

Anyway, Im just so glad no one was hurt.

Moral of the story - clean your stove pipe every year, as this was only a couple of years buildup of creosote! We moved in about a year ago, and were told it had been cleaned. I always burn hardwood in the stove, as its so much cleaner to burn. But the people in the past must have been burning soft sappy wood, apparently..

anyway... it was a powerful night, in many respects, and on two hours sleep, I was on my way to another session - Hadley's solstice party, which is something i greatly enjoy twice a year, at minimum. I was feeling fortunate to make it, this year. - see the next post about the party.


PS. I wanted to let you all know, that I unfortunately have had several cameras quit on me, and Ive lost other recording gear just recently. So, i appreciate your patience with my phone videos and pictures for the time being. (this was the only shot of the night that made it back to my place, it was shot when the house lights went off, for some reason. I was doing sound, and dont usually film from there, of course, but it was all dark at that point, so i snuck one in.. ;)

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