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Be the Mule Blog



Here on a bus between Mexico City and Aguascalientes, the sun is bright but falling. A woman seated in front of me slept through her stop. She was to get off in Queretaro but didn’t wake up until Leon. She looked truly crushed. To my right a young father has music sounding from his cel phone. I would say something but his daughter is next to him, maybe 3 years old, beautiful and adoring of her Dad. 

I write less than I used to. Music still almost daily but poetry and the like, not so much. Its a consequence of the constant agitation that comes from trying to outdo one’s perceived successes and failures. Rush for a rush.

Little noises are almost everywhere. The woman’s cel phone receiving messages, the man with his headphones too loud, a Grandmother speaking to the person who will pick her up in Aguascalientes.

I want to take at least some amount of time to reflect. The past five years I have been playing music all over the world, almost daily. I feel Ive grown from it all but still haven’t produced the music I can and will. Rush for a rush.

Im thinking about some unforgettable shows over the past year. Not all great, but all unforgettable. The sun is almost down.

In no particular order but numbered for organization’s sake :

1. With A Love Electric we played at a downtown Mexico City wide festival last week called Noche de Primavera. We’d been in Europe for 3 weeks prior and played about 18 shows in 21 days. This was the dream, but it is also relatively exhausting, not the music, but keeping everyone and everything going. One questions most everything, as we all do, or at least Id hope, certain days and nights. We played this show back home and some hundreds of people filled a room downtown, young people. I watched them dance and react to what we have spent years creating. One woman I stared at for a tune was completely surrendered to the music. No shame, all joy, expression, pain, resistance. I was her one day and wanted to be me, where I was, this day.

2. Temple Bar, Beijing, China. This was at the end of 12 shows in 14 days all across China. We played in jazz clubs, which I love, punk clubs, also love, a mall, which was bizarre, and at a festival earlier in the day that had perhaps the worst sound situation Ive ever experienced. We were exhausted. There were two bands before us and it is a (chain) smoking bar. By the time we played after a few hours of killing time in the ashtray/green room and trying to recover morale from the day show’s experience, the only thing left was music. And it worked. We played a long time, not sure how long, but until two or so in the morning, to a little crowd of Chinese, American, European, and Nepalese dancers that were completely flipped. There were no pauses between any songs. I remember, when Hernan played the fill to start the “War Pigs” de-rrangement we do , seeing the face of a Nepalese guitarist named Hikmat looking like he had just set foot on the moon.

3. Klezmerson at the John Zorn Masada Marathon in Sarajevo. Yes, in the past 18 months Ive played the Village Vanguard and on Zorn Masada Marathons. I could never play jazz jazz or bop at music school and still can’t at the jazz jams. The weight of the jazz jazz world always weighs on me. Somehow I got to play the Village Vanguard by a necessity to make music. That show in New York was of course momentous for me and Im forever grateful to Klezmerson, and Zorn for having me as part of that. The Vanguard night went off well enough that Zorn invited Klemzerson to play as part of these European marathon shows that he had. 2 shows in Sarajevo and one at Porgy n Bess in Vienna. Ive listened to countless Zorn records and watched all the videos I could of Ribot, Frisell, and guitar greats playing Zorn music. Then we were called to play bookended by a Frisell/Lage group and a Trace Spruance (Faith No More) group. We were nervous. Watching how my heros work, seeing them talk through charts, how they speak to and support each other has changed me for the better forever. 

4. Spazio Lomellini, Genova, Italy. A dear, relatively new, friend, guitarist, bandleader named Alberto NA Turra set up a show for A Love Electric in Genova. We were just coming off a 16 hour travel and lost bags day between Zagreb, Amsterdam and Milan, and a show in Milan that coincided with the biggest football match of the year, and I was trying to keep it all together. We got to Genova and a man named Ruben, a friend of Alberto’s, greeted us. I had no idea what to expect about where we were playing, or to whom. We entered an old 15th century building and climbed a few flights of stairs. Ruben opened the door to the room we were to play in, which turned out to be his studio. He is a sculptor and painter and I love his work. We walked out for a pasta lunch and everyone else drank a lot of wine. Most everyone was happy. At night, about 100 people showed up to Ruben’s studio loft in Genova and listened to us play, all in it with us. 

5. Ljubljana, Slovenia, with Ziga Golob and Tavo Nandayapa. Tavo and I had just played the Klezmerson/Zorn shows in Sarajevo and Vienna. That experience was inspiring, demanding, and transformative. Knowing we’d be in Europe for some free days after these shows, I reached out to a great bass player named Ziga that Id met some months before at a Billy Martin clinic in Zagreb. He kindly set up a night at a house venue in Ljubljana. Id sent Ziga some music to check out, new tunes most all of them. I really never know if anyone will check out what I send, and much of the music I didn’t know well myself yet. One foot off the bridge. We met at the house we were to play at, had about a 30 minute rehearsal with Misha Marks showing up at the back window unannounced. Ziga had it all together and played with such care and love, he and Tavo found each either immediately and I got to just hang out over the top of it all. Misha took it all up the cosmic mountain when he sat in. Everyone played with high regard for the music and for each other. Magic show. The three of us walked around the city for a bit after, Tavo and I then sleeping at a record label’s office before waking up to take a train to Budapest the next day.

Much more comes to mind now. Thats the idea maybe.

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