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Sunday, April 17, 2011

IMPRESSIONS FROM THE ROAD: Tour Diary by HASH VYAS from THIEVERY CORPORATION


What follows is a show log or tour diary of the past month! Different bands, different styles, different places! At the end of it all, what I really got from it was a desire to get my own thing off the ground! I’ve been playing the sideman role for the past 5 years and feel like it is time for me to get busy again. I’ve dug not having to deal with a band and being a bandleader, but it’s something that I know and am familiar with. After 10 plus years with GGGAH, I got a little burnt out, but the flame has been re-ignited!

March 5th: Sun Wolf at Sofar DC

Yeah, you can say “crazy show,” about this one. We arrived at the house party from American Ice Company and we were definitely in a rock and roll state of mind! Our fearless leader Kalani was in a very excited mood for the gig! The previous night he mentioned to me that he wanted to set his guitar on fire and I quickly had to tell him that was a bad idea for 2 reasons. First, you can’t burn a guitar anymore! Jimi Hendrix already did it and that’s that! Second, I happened to be in Rhode Island (that’s where my parents live) when the whole Great White fire fiasco happened! Pyrotechnics can be a good thing in rock, but you need to have qualified people around who know what’s up! If not, it can be a real bad idea! Here’s a clip of the first song we did… Since the pyro was out, we just got a little wild!

March 10th: Frank Mitchell Jr. at the W Hotel, DC

This is one of the projects I’m involved with right now that I’m very excited about! For those of you who are not aware of FMJ, he’s the sax player in Thievery Corporation and SEE-i. He’s been on the scene in DC for years and is now fashioning himself as a singer/songwriter. The vibe is a very funk, soul, and disco groove thing. This was his second live performance and it was a little awkward. I say this because the stage wasn’t really fit for a band. The hotel had a DJ booth directly in the center of the stage and we had to figure out where to fit. Yes, we were aware that initially it was only going to be the DJ duo Ancient Astronauts performing, but things changed at the last minute. We’re an 8 piece band, two horns, bass, guitar, congas, keys, drums and FMJ singing and occasionally blowing sax. I ended up playing on the floor because of the lack of space and the fact that I like being with the people! Stages sometimes take the audience participation away. It becomes more of a movie type thing where people stare and usually stand several feet away from the stage. Instead, I feel we should all be partying together. Which is why I’ll usually use that semi-circle in front of the band as a dance floor! If the crowd’s not using it, well, I will! I think the show was good, but it was hard to judge the crowd reaction. I think it had a lot to do with it being a party and not a proper show.

March 12th: Thievery Corp at The 9 Mile Music Fest, Miami, FL

Arrived on the 11th, barely getting sleep from the previous night’s FMJ show. We got to Miami and it was very chilly, I was hoping for a little warmth, but that wasn’t the case. On top of that, the promoter had us out in the suburbs of Miami by the mall. A solid half hour away from anything fun! That sucked! Usually we’re in a hotel on South Beach, but we happened to be in town at the same time as the The Winter Music Conference and hotels were either sold out or super pricey. Outside of the weather and lodging, it was a blast! We were playing what in essence was the Bob Marley festival. Julian, Kymani, Damien and the rest of the extended family were performing. The location was Bayfront Park.  We played there last October while we were on tour with Massive Attack, however instead of playing in the amphitheater we were set up in the actual park. Our set was super short! It was about 55 minutes, which compared to our 2 hour plus marathons, was as easy as taking a walk in the park (pun intended!)! I really like the short festival sets because we usually just destroy it! It’s pretty much all up tempo bangers and that translates well with festival crowds who tend to be inundated with bands and mood altering substances!

March 15-19: SXSW [AUSTIN, TX]

Tuesday the 15th, I arrived early in the afternoon and had a gig that night with Nappy Riddem at the Copa.  NR consists of DJ/producer/percussionist Rex Riddem and vocalist Mustapha Akbar. When performing live they are join by drummer Jeff Franca and sometimes myself. It’s funk, soul, and electronic based stuff. We played a Jeff Strange/Papa Chop party and all I can say is that those guys have there shit together!  My friend Marcos, who goes by the name Chico Man, played earlier in the night and was awesome! If you get a chance to check him out, do so!!! We went on last around 1 am and there was still a decent crowd there. The highlight of the set had to be when Rex started to play Jeff’s cymbals with his hand and accidentally knocked it off its stand. The cymbal ended up slicing my cable in two pieces. At first I thought I had pulled the cable out of the amp, I’ve been known to do that, but quickly realized what happened. Within seconds, which felt like minutes, we were able to change out the cable. At the end of the show, it was pretty funny, but living through it is a different story! Unnecessary stress!



Wednesday the 16th, this was the official first day of the music portion of SXSW. The film stuff happens the previous week. Yes, it was a complete cluster fuck as it has been in the past. I had already attended 3 of these back in 2002, 2004, and 2006 with my old band Gogogo Airheart. Back then we thought we were contenders and tried to do all the hustling and schmoozing shit that goes on with the festival. However, this time around I was playing in 3 different bands which I didn’t have any personal commitments to other than playing and having to perform my best! It was great not having to meet anyone for business purposes. I got to hang and meet people just because, without some bid agenda. That was nice! Early in the day I headed over to the Virgin/C3 house on Red River across from Stubb’s. C3 PRESENTS manages TC and our tour manager was performing there with his hybrid DJ crew Lance Herbstrong. Check these guys out if you get a chance. They’re pretty much a mash up unit, but live they have ex-Porno for Pyros guitarist Pete DiStefano with them. He does a pretty interesting Jimmy Page thing with the bow, but again like the fire thing, it’s pretty hard to swallow since Jimmy Page made it so famous. Who knows, maybe you can combine the burning guitar and bow thing together and make it something new.  Just need to make sure the bow hairs don’t burn. Rob Garza followed them with a DJ set and rocked it! I dig what he spins, most people expect mellow lounge-y shit and instead he drops a lot of heavy psych-groove stuff! Keep on fucking with them Rob!!! Later that night I performed with Sun Wolf at the Green Garage. This was a 4th Cut Presents showcase and unfortunately had to be relocated from their original space. Initially the spot was going to be right next to downtown, but the organizers and authority decided to shutdown all un-official parties. Which led to relocating further outside of downtown. We went on last and there weren’t many people there, but we did rock it!

Thursday the 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, there was a lot of green all around! My first gig of the day was at the Virgin/C3 house with Frank Mitchell Jr. Eight of us were cramped up on a tiny stage, the energy was great even though the performance was a little shaky. It was pretty much a warm up for the evening ESL/Fort Knox/Tru Thoughts/Dubspot party that was set up once again by Strange and Papa Chop. The spot was killer. It was an outdoor rooftop bar and it was almost a full moon. I was a beautiful night! Opening the show was Nappy Riddem and I think it went very well. Musically we sounded great and the people who were there were receptive. It was early and not really crowded yet. By the time I played with FMJ again, it was on! The Funk Ark played before us and destroyed it! Those guys are on fire right now and if you get a chance to check them out, you will not be disappointed. Yeah, from the name you can guess what type of stuff they play, however right now they’re on a heavy afrobeat tip, it’s very tight and very danceable. The Funk Ark is FMJ’s backing band. Trading me out for their bass player. It’s hard for me to describe the energy of the FMJ set, we smoked it and we could tell, because the people loved it! Frank was on point, as was the band! Highlights of the night included Ocete Soul Sound and The Empersarios. Speaking of the Empersarios, have you listened to there debut release on FORT KNOX RECORDINGS? If not, go out and get it! You’ll be in for a heavy, funky, Latin, dance party! Right on, Javier!                                                                                               

Friday the 18th, during the afternoon I had a moment once again at the Virgin/C3 house playing with a good friend of mine Felix Pacheco on one cut with his ensemble Cilantro Boom Box. It was 2 horn players, a lead singer, plus Frank O. of Poi Dog Pondering/Thievery Corporation playing percussion and back up singing (Frank that Happy Mondays song you went into fucking rules!!!) with Felix playing bass and triggering samples! Very cool stuff!

Later on in the night I was part of the 2nd un-official showcase presented by 4th CUT PRESENTS, because of the change in location and distance from everything else happening in town, this show was sparsely attended. Regardless, it didn’t matter that it lacked attendees. The show that night had some amazing bands! I played with NR and FMJ that night. The Funk Ark, Empersarios and Ocete all performed too. However, I was really excited by The Echocentrics. It’s Adrian Quesada and several others from Ocete with vocals from NATALIA CLAVIER from TC and Brazilian Tita Lima.  As described on there website, they are “a southern-fried, laid back, and psychedelic-tinged” outfit. Keep a look out for these guys! 

Saturday the 18th, I flew back home after 4 days of some serious “partying” and lack of sleep! I went to bed at 8:45pm and woke up the next morning at noon! Was it worth it? I guess I can say yes, but only cause I wasn’t trying to push a product other than myself. I met some cool people who might help me out in the future, but even if they don’t, it was still great to meet them! Extra shout out to Strange and Papa Chop!!! Thank you guys!!!

March 26th: Natalia Clavier at the Gibson Showcase, DC

This was a 3 song showcase, where I played on 2 songs. It was a BYT party with hosts Matthew Hemerline and Seaton Smith. It was music and comedy! SARA SCHAEFER and Brooke Van Poppelen were the guest comedians. Sara is head blogger for Jimmy Fallon show and she was great! Very funny stuff! Brooke came on after her and continued the laughs! I love when music is combined with other forms of entertainment. Seeing a bunch of bands in a row can get tiring, especially when some bands just plain suck! Other than that, I really dig the Gibson Showroom! There are a bunch of them around the country and are usually invite only. Even though I’m not a user of Gibson basses, I do love looking at and playing them. Many, many years ago I owned a 1968 EBO and completely dug it. Mostly because I love Jack Bruce and Andy Fraser and they used to use them in Cream and Free for those of you who don’t know who they are. However, I’ve always had issues with the neck being kind of heavy and that’s why I don’t use any these days! Regardless, the spot rocks and you do too Lora! I hope to play more shows there in future!

March 27th: Mars Volta at the 9:30 CLUB (show review)

I know these guys from my GGGAH days. We shared the same label (GSL) and Omar eventually bought into it, so technically he was my boss. It was billed as the Omar Rodriguez Group, but in actuality was the Mars Volta. I guess it all depends on whether Cedric wants to sing or not. Got there as soon as they began and witnessed an hour and twenty minutes of what looks to be their upcoming record! These guys are pretty amazing! I remember seeing them when they started, and it was kind of a continuation of At the Drive In, you know short songs. However, these days they have become more jam based, but not the hippie type shit! More King Crimson and dare I say it, YES! Cedric reminds me of a cooler looking version of Jon Anderson! Sorry man, it’s just not that Robert Plant! If these guys come back to town, YOU BETTER BE THERE!


March 30 – April 4: SEE-I in Colorado

March 30, I finally got the weekly gig 18th Street Lounge gig. I’ve been playing with these guys for several years now, but only on out of town gigs. It’s nice to feel like you are truly part of the band and not just the out of town guy. However, this gig was like playing with the B team. Rob Myers (guitar) and Jeff Franca (drums) were out of town in Colorado with the Fort Knox 5 live band and that left us with a new drummer and guitar player. To sum things up, let’s just say it was a little loose! Not bad, just loose!

March 31st, left the lounge at 3 am and had to catch an 8 am flight. Didn’t get much sleep before the flight and didn’t get any good sleep on the plane. We flew to Denver and then transferred to Aspen. Seems like I’m up there all the time these days. I’ve been there 8 times for gigs in the last 2 years and I’ll be out later in the summer twice with Thievery Corporation again on separate occasions. We played at the Belly Up, which is a great intimate venue that everyone plays. It holds about 400 people and the owner Michael Goldberg rules! I’m not sure how aware you are these days about the Medical Marijuana situation in Colorado, but it’s like the wild, wild, west out there! Let’s just say that SEE-I is a reggae/P-funk band and… there was a lot of smoking and eating going on!!! If you know what I mean! We managed to rock the spot even though we weren’t fully rested, but again I think the medicine made it happen! Oh how I (we) love Colorado!


April 1st, we headed out to Fort Collins and played at the Aggie Theater. I always wanted to play here with my old band, but we never got around to playing anywhere outside of Denver before heading east or back home to San Diego. That said, we were doing this run of shows with Fort Collins local band Dub Skin and had hoped for more of a turn out, but who knows what else was going on that night. This show actually turned out to be pretty good considering the long drive from Aspen.

April 2nd, we played at Cervantes in Denver. This show was a private party put on by some company that supplies materials for hydroponic setups. We happened to be in Denver during the Cannabis Cup. Yep! You heard right! I was pretty crazy for all the right reasons! We slammed the crowd and it showed by the response in between songs! After we rocked it, Charlie 2na, from Jurassic 5 fame followed. He had a three piece band. Keys, bass and Fish from Fishbone on drums! They were amazing! I’d like to give a big shout out to Scott the owner of Cervantes! Great club and thanks for letting me crash at your place!


April 3rd, we were supposed to play in Breckenridge, but encountered a freak snowstorm. Less than 24 hours earlier it was 85 degrees in Denver, record temperatures. Now it was hailing which eventually turned into snow. The I-70 freeway was shutdown and that led to the cancellation of the gig. Thanks to local promoter Adam Stroul and our tour manager Andy Cerutti we were able to put together a last minute gig at Quixote’s. Wow, what a crazy place and crazy vibe! We were on after a Grateful Dead cover band in a venue that was filled wall to wall with Grateful Dead tour posters and stickers! Okay, I will admit, I love the Dead (!!!), but the guy who owned this place REALLY loves the Dead! This show turned out to be incredible! My rule throughout the years has always been Sundays and Mondays suck pretty much everywhere in the world unless you’re in a popular group, but we managed to have about 300 hundred people in there! The place was pretty much packed!!! It also turned out to be one of the best gigs that I’ve ever had with these guys. We played for 2 and half hours! Our second set was heavily improvised and the crowd loved it! What do you expect from people who just watched a GD cover band! That show, ended the 4 day trip with a trip!

April 4th, headed back to DC and played the Wednesday night lounge gig a couple of days later! This time with the A team!

Can’t wait to get out of town again!!!
Ashish Vyas (aka HASH) is a bassist currently residing in Washington, DC, playing with the aforementioned bands plus who knows who in and out of town! 

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