Friday, August 25, 2006

Rodrigo y Gabriela (y Led Zeppelin y Ben Folds)

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Wow. What can I say? These two were incredible. Rodrigo y Gabriela are an acoustic guitar duo from Mexico (based in Ireland) who, for the official record, do not play flamenco. It's hard to slap a label on their music, but according to the folk fest program they prefer to call their music "acoustic-folk-rock-metal". I caught wind of them while I was in the UK in June and I absolutely couldn't believe it when I found out they were going to be playing in my hometown at the Edmonton Folk Festival, which I already had a ticket to! As part of the folk fest, artists are slated to play on the side stages at "sessions" or "workshops" with 2 or 3 other artists, usually in various genres. Sometimes the individual artists play their own tunes, but in the best situations they'll all jam together. So with eager anticipation I went to a workshop on the Saturday to get my first taste of Rodrigo y Gabriela live with Rickey Skaggs, Solas, and Dirk Powell. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed as an MC regretfully informed the crowd that "there will be a scheduling change and Gabriel Rodriguez will not be playing". I scoffed disappointedly at the butchering of their name and hoped they would even be there for their next show on the Sunday when they were scheduled for a solo show. The next day I went early to stage 1 to see the band perform before them and to ensure I had a good spot for Rodrigo y Gabriela. As I approached the stage from behind, I saw the distinctive figures of Rodrigo y Gabriela mulling about the festival site. Excellent! At least they wouldn't be no-shows for today. My sister and friend joined me before the show where I had staked out a prime seat in the middle front of the stage. I had been ranting and raving about these guys the whole weekend, so they were obligated to check them out. For those who don't know, there are concerts concurrently on 7 different side stages, so you have to pick and choose your daily schedule of concerts. Part of the excitement for me was seeing the unsuspecting crowd growing. 99% of the people would have never heard of Rodrigo y Gabriela and would have checked them out based on the blurb in the program or just by random chance, so they had no idea they were about to be blown away.

Due to glitches setting up the sound, their show started about 25 minutes late and their entire show was barely 30 minutes... but what a 30 minutes! I had totally psyched myself out for this event and they did not disappoint in the least. In fact, they probably surpassed my expectations. The crowd was caught up in their energetic performance and was on their feet by the time the last song came on. Gabriela let us know that this was their first concert ever in Canada and they would be back in October once their album is released in North America. What an honour it is to have them start spreading the word in Edmonton and hopefully they'll be back like they said because I'm sure everyone there was an instant fan. In hindsight, they were also no-shows at their scheduled session later that day so this 30 minute show ended up being the only glimpse anyone had of them. But during the whole 4-day festival, this was the huge highlight for me. In the paper the next day, a reporter described them as the surprise "stars of the festival" and that she cried after the performance because it was so beautiful and unexpected. See, it's not just me. Oddly enough, they didn't bring any merchandise to the event and the merch tent was bombarded after the concert to no avail. A volunteer said based on the demand they could have sold a thousand CDs. Even in today's newspaper in the culture rant section (two weeks after the fact), someone wrote how incredible their performance was.

Anyway, you should check out, keep an eye out for them in your area, and look into grabbing a copy of their CD when it comes out. Here's a video of them performing Diablo Rojo I snagged with my digital camera, which is not too bad quality though it hardly does them justice. Look at her hands fly!

Rodrigo y Gabriela - Stairway to Heaven [originally by Led Zeppelin]

Susan Tedeschi was another welcome surprise at the folk fest. Here's a Zeppelin cover she did, which admittedly is a bit blase compared to the original, IMHO. But I do enjoy this Junior Wells song she performed at Folk Fest on the main stage. What a great voice.

Susan Tedeschi - Rock and Roll [originally by Led Zeppelin]
Susan Tedeschi - Little by Little [originally by Junior Wells]

And while I'm at it, how 'bout some more Zeppelin covers?

Templar - Whole Lotta Love
Dream Theater - Zeppelin Medley
Hangnail - Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp
Tomoyasu Hotei - Immigrant Song

Last week, I reported that Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls wrote in her blog about the phone call from Mr. Ben Folds himself. Now a couple days ago Ben dropped a line on his mySpace page confirming that the Dolls will join him on a few of his Aussie orchestral gigs (ROCK!). The mySpace blog doesn't seem to be working but the full post can be read here.

Ben Folds on the Dresden Dolls:
"speaking of neediness in music or lack thereof... amanda of the dresden dolls, my new favorite band of all time, mentioned that she felt many people thought their music was TOO needy. hmmm... i told her to give me a list of who these people are and i will fly to their homes with a sharpie and draw dicks on their bathroom walls. see, after years of touring, i never succumbed that particular touring pastime . i never drew dicks on walls. but last year, i had to try it. i drew a dick on a brand new clean white dressing room wall. and you know what, it felt good. so i want to draw more, and amanda will hopefully tell me who's houses to go to. feel free to leave a message with your address if you have any criticism of the dresden doll's music at all. and i will come draw a dick on your wall.
same goes for anyone who doesn't like the streets new record. or anything sufjan stevens does. there are a few others, who if you have a problem with, will draw the fiery wrath of my sharpie.... anyway, the dresden dolls will be making a few appearances with me in australia with the orchestras. if you comment with something nice about my favorite music, then i will draw a small child looking in wonderment at a beautiful butterfly (with a big dick)

HAHAHA... absolutely classic! He also talked about the release of his Supersunnyspeedgraphic LP, which is made up of new mixes of some of his EP and non-album tracks, a live orchestral album on the way, and he'll be back in the studio in October to work on a new album! Wow, that made my day,week,month.

Saw Ben Lee at the Sidetrack Cafe last night. More on that next time...

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