Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Global Roots Aftermath: A view from backstage

PRe-festival, I really only knew the music of one of these bands (Watcha Clan) and just went into the weekend with an open mind, simply trusting Mr. Main Figurehead to have brought in some cool music.

So scratching my slightly fuzzy head early Monday afternoon (slept until 11:00!! I never do that!) I would have to say he delivered.

A few random thoughts.

South Americans are way more huggy and kissy upon a one evening's aquaintance than Scandinavians. (Yeah, duh, I guess.) I love all the Cedar's Nordic pals, but last week(!) was the first time Olaf Johansen(from Vasen) hugged me and I've been bringing his beer and dinner to the green room for how many years? The wonderful crazy guys in both Forro in the Dark and Bajofondo were my new best friends Friday night...maybe they liked it when I leapt into the green room screaming and started jumping up and down yelling "Otra! Otra! Otra!" Hey, there was so much energy crackling in the air at the end of the Bajofondo set - I was just surfing on those waves.

As a person who loves to turn people on to tunes I like (Duh again, Mama E , say my regular blog readers) it warmed my heart when some of the Brazilian guys were like "Whoa! What is this music?" when I was cranking some Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou (Analog Africa stuff from 1970's Benin) during Friday's truncated, but fun afterparty. Seems like nobody could text well enough at that moment to get the band name into their I-phone...I wonder what Forro ITD's triangle player thought when that paper plate with the album name fell out of his pocket the next day?

Sitting on the couch singing along to the Beatles with the gals from Os Mutantes - slightly surreal! But as with almost all of the performers this weekend, they were so friendly and gracious and just damned fun.

Seeing Watcha Clan on the video monitor and on the internet for months then having them walk in the room and have a beer Saturday was also slightly surreal. For so long they just seemed like one of those cool Euro-bands who would never tour to our part of the world, then they're booked, then they're shaking my hand! Another group of friendly and gracious folk, not to mention hard-working as all get-out. KFAI dj Blanche called their show the Watcha Clan Weight-Loss Plan because of how hard they worked (and sweated) up there as well as how hard we dancers sweated off stage. Wish we could've hauled in a bigger crowd for them, the critical mass wasn't really there for the hand waving and jumping up and down that their set demanded.

After some of the wild green room nights, it was nice to see the Watcha Clan gang sitting family style on the floor around the coffee table, quietly enjoying some vegies and rice as they chilled after their big work-out. We talked some politics and they asserted that the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy is "a disaster" and lamented that Left in France has no leader. They sounded a little jealous of our new president...

I heard at least five languages in the green room over the weekend...which beats an average Saturday afternoon at my neighborhood park by at least two languages.

It was a bit of a blur, but we helped several musicians celebrate their birthdays; keyboard wild man Suprem Clem of Watcha Clan and one of those friendly Bajofondo guys. Or was it one of the guys from Os Mutantes?

Best use of the green room turntable award goes to BLK JKS. Setting up the space was a blast Thursday night because every time I walked through the door with an armload of gear they were cranking something different - from Zeppelin to Madonna. I won't give them the best "abuse" of a staff member award (because they were such great guys), but I'll just say several senior staffers were suffering the next moring after their night out drinking whiskey with BLK JKS!

In the "What Was that Thing?" category, here's the dope on Bajofondo's unusual violin. Did you check it out Friday? It had a skinny wooden fretboard with a metal horn attached for a louder and more directable sound than the wooden body of a traditional fiddle.

I asked fiddler Javier Casalla and told me it was called a "STROH" and indeed, there is information out there about these "cornet violins".

They were popular in prior to the 1920s simply because they are louder and the sound can be aimed by angling the horn.
As electric microphones became more common artists switched back to traditional vioins for recordings, but the Stroh remained popular with some performers of traditional Romanian music and with some Tango artists.

Now that it's Wednesday, I think I'm finally caught up on sleep. Post-festival is always a slightly surreal time; but it's never to early to start that wish list for next year's bands!

Hope to post a few photos in a day or two.

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