Tag Archives: music

Mama K & The Shades

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

 

Mama K & The Shades are definitely a local must-see with their jazz-soul-R&B-funk combo of high-energy sound of a 10-piece band you have to see to believe. If you’re a night owl, catch them on the SXSW schedule: Maggie Mae’s Rooftop Bar on March 15 and Half Step on March 18, both at 1 AM.

White Light Exposure - mama k and the shades-1Mama K & The Shades have been together for almost three years and range from ages 22 to 62. Lead singer Kelsey Garcia says that they are much more than “just bandmates.”

“It seems like we’ve known each other forever—we’re family,” she said. “We’ve been playing together for long enough now that we’ve really developed our own true sound. We’ll always be influenced by 70’s and 80’s funk, but we’re not a replica; we’re our own thing entirely.”

Who exactly is this dime? Well, the vocalists are the leading —and only— lady Kelsey Garcia and Willie Barnes. The instrumentalists consist of: Johnny Storbeck (guitar), David Thacker (keyboard), Lee Braverman (bass), Chris Barnes (drums), Wesley Gonzales (percussion), Joseph Morrow (trumpet and flugelhorn), Dustin Hunter (tenor and baritone sax), and Donald McDaniel (trombone). Whew. Yeah—it’s a lot. Which means—big sound! Big sound does not always mean great sound, but in this case, it truly does. Somehow, they make ten people on a stage look and sound like every band should follow suit.

mama k -4Their first album, “Honey Made,” is dedicated to David McKnight, their original sax player who passed away two years ago. Their second album is in the works and will be out next year.

“He was the creator of the band, my best friend, and roommate,” Garcia said. “Whenever something was going really well, he used to always say, ‘Ooooh that’s honey made!’ [hence the album title]. Those were big shoes to fill, and we went without a sax player for a long time, but Dustin is incredible.”

If you’ll be at home avoiding the SXSW craziness this year, they’re also really excited to open for Big Freedia and The Soul Rebels at Mohawk on April 1. Or hey, need a vacation? Mama K & The Shades will be heading to Denver for their first out-of-state gig and the start of their first tour April 20! You get it—you have a ton of opportunities to check out these awesome local artists on their race to the top of the charts.

“Everyone’s passion is the music,” said Garcia, “and we just love sharing that with whoever we can.”

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Galen James

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

Remember when music was recorded on tape—a few takes, in the moment, no digital sound effects with a million computerized edits along the way?

Galen James, who recently moved to Austin to be a part of the Live Music Capital of the World, remembers, and wants to recapture that purity.

“That’s how The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix did it—they were great musicians and I don’t want people to lose sight of that,” he said. “It takes a lot of work, and you have to be really solid, but it sounds a lot warmer—a band, exactly as they truly are.”

Galen is the real deal—he even worked with Doug Messinger, the guitarist for Van Morrison, to create his Pop-Jazz fusion analog tape masterpiece.

“We actually used the same tape recorder used by Pink Floyd for ‘The Wall,’” he said. “It took an entire year—and I also recorded the whole thing and put it up on YouTube. It’s easier to use a computer and a mouse and move things around—you can do a thousand takes just singing one line. That sort of thing doesn’t happen on tape. You have to rewind, manually turn up the knobs, and restart the whole thing over again.”

When he’s not trying to bring back the transparency of music, the Jazz Studies major is teaching piano, jazz theory, and voice lessons at Eastside Music on 5th Street.

He’s played on Rainey Street, at Lucky’s Lounge, Speakeasy, and more eclectic spots all over Austin—and is lining up more shows currently.

If you haven’t looked this guy up yet—do it! His style is truly hard to place, which is awesome—you’re not sure what genre you’re listening to, but the jazzy undertones are amazing. The only close comparison that I can make is Jason Mraz.

“All my music is about my life, which is one of the difficult things about it—there are a lot of emotions artists can tap into, which makes playing very difficult sometimes,” he explained. “But I like challenging myself, that’s why I recorded on tape.”

Galen has two albums out right now and is releasing a new EP this summer. You can find all of his work on Amazon, BandCamp, or purchase them at his next live show. Visit his http://www.GalenJames.com for more info!

 

Austin Opera’s Of Mice and Men

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

Combining a love of classic literature and amazing music—it’s not an easy task. I had my doubts when I scored free tickets to the final dress rehearsal for “Of Mice and Men” at the Long Center. Steinbeck and sopranos?! I thought skeptically. Didn’t seem to be a match made in heaven, especially since the novella deals so heavily with Lennie Small’s mental disability. I underestimated the Austin Opera—they skillfully and successfully conveyed all of the intricate themes of the book.

If you haven’t read “Of Mice and Men,” do so—right now! I’m not sure I would’ve enjoyed the opera if I hadn’t read the novella first—I definitely recommend reading, then enjoying the performance. But don’t worry, you have plenty of time. The novella is called a novella for a reason—it’s super short (but packed with amazingness). However, as I type this, I’m reminded that I went to the opera with someone who had never read the novella—and he still enjoyed it thoroughly! Maybe the English teacher in me can’t help but push reading on people. I will say, if you haven’t read the novella, the opera could be a little too slow for you. It’s not an action-packed plot or a twisted romantic drama—it’s a character piece.

Corey Bix, who plays Lennie, is making his Austin Opera debut with “Of Mice and Men” and wow—what a debut! It’s not only his insane vocals that will impress you, but simply his presence on the stage. You can’t take your eyes off him as he struggles through life on the ranch; you find yourself rooting for him so relentlessly. That’s how you know Bix’s performance was outstanding—Lennie is a character who you shouldn’t be able to help but love.

The orchestra was phenomenal, the props, backdrops, and costumes were perfect, and they even used a real-life dog and puppy on stage—I loved that extra touch (although, if you know the story, that might not excite you too much). Also, lyrics appear on a screen above the stage, which is helpful if you’re like me, and not always fluent in opera. Every effort made by the composer, director, and cast did not go unnoticed—it was flawless.

Austin Opera is currently selling tickets to only three shows—January 23, 28, and 31—so act soon!

 

About the author: Alysha Kaye is a high school English teacher in Kyle, TX and recent author—her debut novel The Waiting Room is available on Amazon and at BookPeople. When she’s not wrangling 9th graders, she’s blogging, reading, or exploring Austin.

For more, follow her on Twitter @alyshakaye7 or check out her website: http://www.alyshakaye.com

 

Conjunto Los Pinkys: The Sound of Austin’s Eastside

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Originally an article I wrote for Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

CLP

Ever wondered what Austin’s East Sixth Street was like in the 1950’s? Isidro Samilpa and Chencho Flores are two musicians from Austin’s Chicano music scene whose careers started there—and are still thriving with weekly performances in the same area, at The White Horse!

Along with Javier Cruz (bass), Clemencia Zapata (drums), and Bradley Jaye Williams (bajo quinto, accordion, voz), these five make up Conjunto Los Pinkys, a traditional “conjunto” band founded in 1991. Conjunto is a Texas-Mexican style dance music which features the button accordion and bajo sexto. According to their Facebook page, “Many international and regional musical styles are represented in conjunto music, including the influence of the Spanish, German, Polish and Czech, American popular music, Mexican-Norteño ranchera, Colombian cumbia, waltz, redova, shotis, huapango, bolero, mambo and country two-step.”

Sounds like a lot all rolled into one sound, right? Well, that’s what makes the experience of seeing them live—and dancing to their music—so, so, so much fun. Don’t know how to dance? Neither do I. However, The White Horse does have a full service bar and there’s a high chance that an adorably wrinkled gentleman in a cowboy hat will ask you to dance and I dare you to say no. You won’t. Plus, just hanging out around the dance floor and watching other people dance (especially the older couples dressed in their Sunday bests) is a blast.

“The White Horse is one of the last places on 6th Street where this kind of culture now exists,” said bandleader Bradley Jaye Williams. “We are thankful to The White Horse for embracing this musical tradition and important aspect of the conjunto music scene—the community.”

Howdy Darrell, booking manager at The White Horse, said that although they are technically a honky-tonk bar, they wanted to include other genres and bands from the community. On the Sunday tardeada (which means afternoon party in Spanish), he said, “It’s a great get together and an important part of the diverse, eclectic musical community we have here in town.”

Conjunto Los Pinkys have recorded two CDs with Rounder Records and have performed at the Tejano-Conjunto Festival and Fiesta de las Flores in San Antonio, Accordion Kings in Houston, Del Rio Cinco De Mayo and Diez y Seis Celebration, The Johnstown Folk Festival in Pennsylvania, Day of the Dead in Birmingham as well as numerous clubs, dancehalls, weddings, anniversaries, quinceñera parties, and church bazaars.

Want more Los Pinkys? There’s a fantastic documentary that’s been made about them. They’re kind of a big deal. Two years ago, Austin’s local PBS-TV affiliate KLRU TV filmed the band at home, on the job, in the recording studio, and at their weekly Sunday dance at The White Horse for seven weeks. The 26-minute documentary “Tardeadas” has aired around the country and is available on KLRU’s website.

Stop into The White House this Sunday Funday for some live music, a cold beer, and a Bomb Taco from the food truck in their back patio area. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be brave enough to dance—the accordion starts at five!

About the author: Alysha Kaye is a high school English teacher in Kyle, TX and recent author—her debut novel The Waiting Room is available on Amazon and at BookPeople. When she’s not wrangling 9th graders, she’s blogging, reading, or exploring Austin.

For more, follow her on Twitter @alyshakaye7 or check out her website: http://www.alyshakaye.com