Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rocka on the Music

A Conversation with Alex aka “Rocka”: Ex-drummer of Mexicans at Night current drummer for Los TraQues

Y: How long have you been in the El Paso music scene?
R: Not even that long, like thirteen years.
Y: Thirteen years? Okay, how do you think it’s changed from where you started to now?
R: It hasn’t really changed. Has it?
Y: It hasn’t changed at all in thirteen years?
R: No, I mean it hasn’t. I mean the kids did get new stuff and everything, but you know, they got new DJ stuff and all sorts of other stuff, but yeah the scene hasn’t changed. Nothing’s happened. I mean before there were a lot more original bands. Now there are a lot of posers.
Y: What do you consider an original band?
R: A band that doesn’t play covers.
Y: And posers, you used that word, what is that? What is your definition of a poser?
R: Cover bands.
Y: So—
R: There’s a lot more posers. A lot more cover bands. And, not enough support for original bands, because, there was a lot more venues in the past. A lot more venues that catered, Wildhairs, La Tuya, The Attic, The Regal Beagle, there was just a bunch of places.
Y: And now there’s not as many places?
R: Not for original music, no.
Y: So how many venues do you think there are now? What are good venues in El Paso, now?
R: There’s places like Lowbrow, House of Rock, but now a lot of places just have cover bands because that’s what makes bars money. A lot of places don’t pay original bands to play. A bar owner won’t pay if they don’t make enough money, you know, but then what happened to those original bands? Cause if I go in there and play three fucking hours of Mana, they’re gonna fucking pay me, but I’m not gonna do that, you know?
I’d like to see venues be more supportive of original bands. There’s a lot of changes that people, places should do, a lot of things, from the business side, to the managers, to the bands, you know?
Y: What about the sound though? If you just focus on the music? What do you think is different about the sound of music here versus other cities? Because we are different.
R: Well, because we’re really isolated you know, and then we have Juarez right there and everybody refuses to see that it’s a huge influence. And it is a huge influence, a giant influence you know? Because you know we have so much original stuff here, because of it. You just can’t write anywhere else, you know? We used to go to L.A. and play there all the time, and they would, just the lingo alone, they would try to be like us, you know? Everybody tries to be like us. Nobody knows what it is. Everybody—
Y: Tries to be like you how? Tries to be like the music how?
R: Like, El Paso style. It’s because El Paso is a very organic city. Kids have a bunch of fuckin’ technology and pedals and a bunch of shit, but deep down inside it’s a very organic city, a lot of us, not me per say, but a lot of us learned guitar through your uncle. Stuff like that, from around the family, so it’s a very, you know, you just know because you know it. You play it because you love it, you know? So, nobody expects to get big in this city, nobody, everybody does it because they love it. In L.A. everyone expects to get fuckin’ big. They want a contract, they want this, they want that. But, here man, nah, everyone just makes a fuckin’ band to play, and sometimes it gets attention and they look at it from other places.
Y: What is about music at its core that still interests you?
R: I don’t know, you know? I’ve played music for so long, it’s taken a lot from me, and it only gives back a little. It’s like that girlfriend you can’t get rid of, you know? You don’t want her sometimes but she keeps coming back, and then when you play a show, it’s like make up sex and you remember, “That’s why I love her.”
I don’t know. I guess… It’s when you’re playing music with a lot of people, like with a band, and you start a show and it starts like this (holds hands far apart) and then it gets tighter and tighter and tighter (moves hands closer and closer) it just becomes a little ball, you know? And it just becomes your own little world, right there (hand in a clenched fist). And everything is floating; you know what I’m saying? Time is just like, it belongs to you now. I get a little rush off of that. I think sometimes, I think that’s the only reason that I do it.
Y: Do you ever feel that way when you listen to other people’s music?
R: No.
Y: It’s only when you’re playing?
R: Yeah.
Y: What music do you think has inspired your music?
R: Holy Shit, a lot. Like a lot. Like a lot of music. Like a lot, a lot. I pick little shit from, fuck man, shit from Veracruz, shit from Seattle, Colombia, anywhere you know?
Y: If you had to be specific though? Artists that you’ve listened to, or dissected, closely.
R: Well everybody likes the rock n’ roll stuff, you know?
Y: Rock n’ roll like what?
R: Well you know I’m a grunge kid. But, then again, you live in El Paso, so like, you have your connects with, uh, Juan Gabriel and all these other people, from your mom and stuff you know? So, yeah, it’s like, uh, toof toof (makes a mixing gesture with his hands), a freakin’ Kurt Cobain Antonio Aguilar kinda combination you know?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

ForWord Writing Prompts

Today I had the ForWord writing workshops at Glasbox Studios. The class was small, intimate. I participated with the young authors in the writing prompts I'd created for them called, "What Happened?"
I gave them a sentence and they decided what would happen to the characters situation. Here is what I managed to write. I'm posting without editing.

I wish I could  have kept some of the stories they wrote from the prompts because their talent continues to awe.

Prompt ·         While I was pumping gas a man came up to me.

I had been driving for two hours. Only one more to go and I would reach my destination of Austin, TX. I hadn’t seen Lori for six months, and now we going to enjoy a weekend in Austin. It was dusk, that time of day where the light and the night meet half way in the sky. My gas gauge was a little less than halfway. Although I didn’t want to stop, I knew I had too. Austin traffic could be murder and the thought of being stranded on I35 was not something I even wanted to imagine.
As I pulled off the highway and onto the axis road I saw my only option was a desolate small town gas station. I hated these. They made my skin crawl and the color of my tan skin seemed even darker compared to the gas attendant that talked to me through brown stained dip teeth and worn baseball cap. They looked at me suspiciously as if I would steal or my tan skin would rub off.
No bathroom break, I would pay at the pump to avoid this. The pump handle was caked with grease and I hesitated to touch it. I shook my head. I was only prolonging my stay. I punched the numbers and watched at the numbers ticketed the money I would owe. $25.46 $25.47 $25.48 $25.49
                “Excuse me, ma’am?”
                I had been so engrossed in the numbers I hadn’t seen the small dwarf walk towards me.

Prompt  ·         When he woke up the dead dolphin was there.

The light streamed in through the curtains. Tiny slivers of light cast directly over my eyes, taunting them awake. My body fought hard, needing more sleep, but the light won the battle. I blinked my eyes awake. Sleep making them sticky and difficult to keep open. Then the smell hit. My nosed twitched in an attempt to identify what it was that overwhelmed my room. I sat up quickly only to find there was a weight holding me down. I tried to shake my head, to wake up, to figure out what was going on. I finally saw that I was not in my room. Surrounding me was blue. Deep blue going on and on forever and ever. It was water. I was in water. Algae and pebbles, mounds of sand going on and on. It looked like the ocean. I was in the ocean. How did I get in the ocean? Was I breathing? What was the smell? Was I smelling ocean? Tiny particles danced in front of me as I finally lifted myself off the ground. My head ached. I looked down and saw my body covered in a black suit. How did I get in a black suit?
Then it came to me. I had been scuba diving. The light was from the sun above. I looked down at my gauge and saw that my air was almost out. What happened? In a daze I tried to push my way up. I felt weak, my limbs swayed like the seaweed. As I floated paddled to the top, red waves surrounded me. I couldn’t stop to think if I was hurt. I looked down once more and saw her there, a dolphin with my spear through her middle. Her eyes were dead, but they still stared at me. Accusing. The red surrounded me even more and the smell, a smell; I knew was not there came with it.

Prompt ·         Mom, don’t throw that knife!

“Mom! Don’t throw that knife!” I yelled in a high voice.
It was difficult to keep the sound of desperation in my voice, because really, I just wanted her to throw it already. The ties on my wrists were tight. The lights were bright. I could feel the weight of the make-up caked on my skin. No one liked to be tied spread eagle. But, the show was packed tonight and that meant we had to let the energy in the crowd build. We would feel the right moment as the energy moved in waves across the room across all of them and finally onto us. Then she would throw the knife.
“Mom! Don’t throw the knife!” I yelled with more force. I yelled from my belly that was tightly girdled. She hesitated still. Her hand trembling in exaggeration.
“And now, the Magnificent Lily will throw her murderous daggers at her very own daughter! Will she hit the apple off her head? Or will she miss??”
Fred the ring master held out the ssss on miss. His voice slithered like a snake, like the snake that he was that is. We had to make sure we had the right amount of our cut after every show. He was sneaky like that.
The audience cheered. Roaring. Sometimes I thought they wanted her to miss.
“Mom, throw the knife!” I yelled again making eye contact with her. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

For the Love of Art

I heard something beautiful said about art today. When I say art I mean every part of it, all encompassing, music, the written word, murals painted onto the concrete giants that hold highways up, Dali hanging in a museum of art, the guitarist playing on a street  corner....

"When you look in the night sky, you see a million stars.
                                                    They are all there, seemingly blinking.
 At times one looks brighter than the other, but in reality the stars are all working together, that's what art is."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Grateful for Sunday's

sunday's have become the day i look forward to all week. they are the days that i have nothing planned. that i use to recharge because by saturday my red light is blinking in warning.

sunday's i sleep in late. i wake from a sleep so deep and heavy it's as if my bed, with it's thick gold comforter and numerous pillows have wrapped around me in a warm embrace. i'm surrounded by warmth and an arm that reaches for me while dreaming in the middle of the night to pull me closer.

half the day is spent in this overstuffed bed. only rising because the rumbling in our stomachs demands it. this afternoon? spinach and mushroom omelet with a garlic cheese middle, roasted potatoes, two strips of crispy bacon, steaming french press coffee and  homemade agua de sandia.

the rest of the day is spent in the living room. it's a carpet camp out. coffee table pushed to the farthest part of the room. blankets and pillow stretched out and puffed up in a makeshift bed. i can watch the shows from the week. nap. work a little so tomorrow won't be overwhelming, but just a little. snuggle deep in the fluffy blankets. now that it's cold? it's a sunday blanket cave we only leave if we have too.

and for the rest of the day? i don't think we have to...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Celebrate Estylo Frontera Bugalú

September 1, 2012

The pleasure of your company 
is requested at the marriage of

Amy Ann Porras
Brandon Alejandro Ayala

Dance & Celebration 
Nine O'Clock in The Evening 
Grace Gardens
6701 Westside Drive
El Paso, TX 79932

The church nestled on the far Westside. The service, beautiful and filled with tears. The tears that glimmer and make eyes overly shinny as they hang, precarious on the edge of the bottom lid, before one spills over and glides gently down cheeks flushed with happiness.

After, a certain sigh of relief as all the well wishers crowd around the newlyweds showering them with hugs and kisses, lip stick imprints and pats on the back. The sun is shining, warm. Small beads of sweat are added accessories to the court and guests as they linger in front of the church. Next?

The pictures. Downtown El Paso. Surrounded by The Camino Hotel, The Museum of Art, and the breath of the southwest. 
        "Okay! Parense asi. Close close. Y muñequita aca en frente."
        "My feet hurt."
        "It's hot."
        "It's so hot."
        "Is it always this hot here?"
        "Yes, girl!"

The father daughter dance. The son mother dance. The couples first dance.The dollar dance. The dance. 

      "Since Amy and I began planning this day, we knew that we had to have this band play for us and for you. We hope everyone enjoys their music as much as we do, Frontera Bugalú!"  Brandon said as he stood in front of the family, friends, and well wishers all there to be a part of their moment.

       "Estamos aqui para celebrar la union de Amy y Brandon. Les deseamos felicidades a la pareja en esta nueva vida. Y a bailar!"

The music starts. The rhythm bouncy. The kind of bouncy that has shoulders swaying, guests dancing in their chairs, as hips swing on the dance floor. The accordion player, also the singer, sways his head and rocks his body as fast as his fingers move across the keys.

Timid dancers make their way to the floor, but in seconds match the incessant rhythm. The numerous members of the band combine their chaotic strums and drums to make hips swing left right left in a sinuous circular motion. They dance too, as if the beat created is too much even for them to contain.

The floor? Now packed. Couples move back and forth against one another. Hands clasped and released only to be pulled tightly against one another. Moving. Swinging. Swaying. Around one another, away, and back. The beat, infective. Children move on the outskirts of the dance floor. Little girls try to pull their crushes to the floor, dance, then run away blushing. The bride and groom? Moving between guests, smiling and hugging, stopping to dance with one circle of people, moving on, but still keeping time with the music.

         "Y la que sige, se llama "La Murga" a moversen!"

The beginning similar, a moment to catch a breath, before it starts all over again Moving. Swinging. Swaying. Glistening sweat slickened bodies move in unison, become a living embodiment of the notes and strums, the beat of conga drums in celebration.