Day 23: An evening of MUSIC!!!!

Trip Start May 25, 2005
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What I did
The New Parish

Flag of United States  , California
Friday, September 23, 2011

Tonight I went to a KUSF Fundraising show at the New Parish club in Oakland. BAM! What a time! KUSF is a local radio station, that was sold, closed down, and is now under federal investigation - basically the people who bought it were shady. Thankfully, the community loved this show, which provided news and media in gazillions of different languages. And as the warm up MC - somebody Cash - said, it gave many immigrants a first taste of thinking that living in American may actually be OK. They had shows in Portuguese, Chinese.... you name it. Hence, why there is so much passion to keep this free and non-chimerical station alive.

So, I guess I shouldn't been surprised by the crazy antics that we saw unravel. Winding our way between a rapidly closing Oakland (it was 8pm!), we heard a bunch of noise coming form the corner by the Fox Theatre. Here were  people dressed in red, banging drums and playing all kinds of brass instruments. We nipped into the 'Can't Fail Cafe', had a Pabst and some ice-cream, wondering if they were part of the show we had come to Oakland to see....

Indeed they were! Over the next 3 hours, 47 different performers from three different bands joined forces into on of the liveliest shows I have ever seen. It all started with Inspector Gade...without the 'T'..... a 12 piece or so brass, woodwind and percussion band that fused Khlezmer music with Mariachi music - going helter-skelter through notes faster than the average persons brain can think.....

Their performance made me want to play the Sousaphone even more - as our balcony seats gave us a perfect view of the chaps fingers, which had to move well in advance of the sound he was making, just to cover the distance over the keys. The cute clarinetist did amazing things with long held notes that soared above the deafening clatter of saxophones, bass saxophones (lovely), euphoniums, trumpets and other mysterious versions of breath-powered noise makers.

The crowd started to filter in - it was only starting at 9pm, but by 9.30, the crazy gents who thought they had the perfect Balkan dancing going on were (thankfully) over-crowded on the dance floor. The resulting mosh of people ranging from 21 to 71 was vibrant to say the least - everyone was smiling, moving and loving the sound.

AND THEN... just when you thought it was safe, out came the Floyd Family Players.... all dressed in red, with a lot of flesh in between. Watching 18 or so people play drums and jive around, all guided by a bearded chap with a whistle in his mouth an snare drum around his waist, the noise elevated the crowd to another level. It was so tight! Officially, this group 'combine elements of samba, hip-hop, funk, heavy metal, dancehall & reggae, and have quickly earned a reputation as one of Oakland California's most raucous and jubilant party bands.'

Oh yes indeed. And there were a lot of girls, drumming the bass drums, tinkling the cow bells, singing, gyrating, playing. It was fun.

We THINK this is when things started to get out of hand, with members of the Extra Action Marching Band invading the stage.... however, with such beautiful girls, and one rather odd looking guy, writhing around the stage, the whole aspect of dance was taken well outside of the regular comfort zone. They seemed to mix things you see kids do in the supermarket - tantrums, crawling around on their bellies, kicking legs in all angles, with some brilliant awareness of their own bodies, a carefree attitude to what was exposed, or not, and a willingness to move to the music. It was crazy.

The audience were now crammed in down below us, and the Floyd Family Players started to jump off the stage and play in the crowd. Inspect Gade came back on to stage, and then the whole world seemed to erupt as every instrument joined forces. Checking these folks out online, it seems they have just returned from the Burning Man Festival, and I reckon they would fit in perfectly with the zaniness of that crowd. It was epic..... and when everyone was performing together, we think this is what the EAMB represents.

I loved it, but if I am honest, was even more intrigued when the mood changed. Exit the 30 or so performers so far, and enter a band that looked like it had just stepped out of a Dr. Gonzo novel. Shake Well had my attention from the moment they threw a case of 'Old Milwaukee' beer on the stage and started to unwrap their cables. It's funny how music goes from being about the instruments, to electrical cables. It takes time, it takes 'wah-wah' peddles! But my goodness, the time it must've taken to put together their outfits was great. We didn't know before, but this was to be Shake Well's CD release party - 13 years in the making. It turns out that these crazily clad, and very funky performers hailed from Black River Falls in Wisconsin. One guy in a white suit and an amazing Afro strummed his pure white guitar, before switching to a  lightening bolt shaped one for the rest of the sound check. The drummer was a cowboy with feathers in his hat, and quite a range of hard hitting snare drums arranging around his tiny stool. The bass guitarists must've been wearing a wig.....must've..... it was shiny and didn't move and golden coloured. He had a brown 70's suit and shades, and was uber cool. Finally, the keyboard player unpacked a quirky little red suitcase, taking cables out, and twiddling knobs to get the right sound.

Then she walked on... the lead singer, blonde, sexy, dressed with legs to kill and a bright yellow jacket with diamonds. Speaking like she was from Texas, she blew on her nails and started to reveal a small dress. A great movie played in the background, showing the band in the studio - it was true art, and it made me wonder why it had taken them so long to get things together. And then they started to play.... a low down dirty kind of rock....... fantastic. I was instantly transported back to O'Cays Corral in Madison, where some of my favourite nights out were spent watching local bands unravel their wares on stage. Wow - i miss that Wisconsin vibe....

I only wish that I could've gotten a copy of their music before we had to leave. This is how they are promoted, and it is worth a You Tube search to find their tunes....

'Shake well plays the music of Pat MacDonald because it's the best music  ever written. All of the band members are relatives of the man himself. If you don't have a good time at a Shake well show...then you ain't' got a pulse.'

And with that, we had to leave.... the BART train was calling, although when I next venture to the NEW PARISH, I'll be checking out the bus timetables instead.....

What a night!
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