Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Three Days With Yahowa 13


So, needless to say, I was insanely excited for the Yahowa 13 East Coast tour. After years of listening to the old records, eventually tracking down Djin for an email interview in 2002, meeting the band at their Knitting Factory show last year... to make a long story short, the label I work for, Prophase, eventually released Yahowa 13's incredible reunion album, Sonic Portation. Sunflower, Octavius and Djin are righteous dudes, no shit, but they are also still making fantastic and challenging music, defying so many odds, hell, it makes me not want to say anything, I don't want to jinx the roll they are on.

Anyways, for this round of fun, I hit their Philadelphia and NYC shows as well as sat in on their recording session in the wilds of suburban Philly. Mike from Prophase was their driver, merch guy and all around getitdown kinda dude. Yahowa 13 were also being followed by a two man film crew, documenting the shows, the tour, the recording and everything else for a documentary.



Philadelphia @ Johnny Brenda's March 25 2009
The first show of the tour and the band had flown in from Hawaii and Northern California that morning, there was some jet lag and burntness for sure. A nice drone/rock jam from openers Kohoutek (who were opening all the shows and doing the Yahowa dudes a solid by loaning them equipment and such) got things cooking (I had missed the first band, Niagara Falls) in a completely different sound/vibe than I had see them play before. While this one had lots of noise and drone, it also hit some almost funk rock riffs and was pretty damn trippy. And LOUD.

Yahowa 13 took the stage and welcomed the crowd and got everyone in the frame of mind by doing a starman excercise with the crowd. For a band that has played a handful of shows in 33 years, they are quite comfy on stage and bring their world to the audience. Sure, I had a little puff before they started up, but the rapid breathing and connected vibe of the exercise does break down the ego, at least a little bit. I wasn't exactly looking around, but getting a bunch of 21st century urban dwellers doing the starman is a righteous feat in and of itself. Another piece of the "they talk the talk and they walk the walk" puzzle that is Yahowa 13 in 2009. Anyways, while they did have some equipment problems and some false starts, by the time they hit their groove, the music was overwhelming. The mix of Sunflower's funky rock bass with Octavius's jazzy but powerful drumming is a perfect bed for Djin to lay down some brain searing noise psych guitar action. That said, the three of them lock in like say, the Unsane, in terms of each instrument being equal, each sound having a say and pulling the jam its own way... For a band that plays almost entirely improvised music, this can be a fault when things don't click, which did happen a little bit in the beginning of the set, but when they all are on the same page, it is beyond what one can even expect from a "song" orientated band. After about 45 minutes, including an awesome work out of "Yod Hey Vau Hey," the band was ready to leave the stage, what with the jet lag and all, but hey, we won the world series this year, so Philly demanded more. Normally an encore would be a bow on the present or something, but Yahowa 13 pulled off a blazing 10+ minute jam that left no doubt at all that they are a world class head trip in a league of their own. After they blasted through the cranial stratosphere, even old time heads (and there were a lot of record collectors in attendance) were like "What the fuck was that?!" In a good way... There's magic in them riffs!




Recording in Royersford, PA March 27 2009
Considering how good I consider Sonic Portation, when I found out Prophase had booked some time for Yahowa 13 in suburban Philly at Welfare Line Studios, I just had to take a day off and go check 'em out. A nice little smoke on the way to the studio, which is actually in a converted synagogue... and then a little more once I got there. I was feeling a little buzz and decided to take up Sunflower's offer for a starman exercise. This time around it was just he and I, standing outside in Rofo. While we didn't do the recommended 108 breaths (blame me and my smoking), his instructions and patience with me resulted in a bit of a rush a tingling vibe like a bell ringing through my legs and body. All in all, very refreshing and a little bit heavy. Hanging out with these guys on this day gave me a little bit of insight into the "total package" of Father Yod, how he could be deadly serious and hilarious at the same time, teaching all the time. At the same time, hanging and such humanized them as well, since they are "lost legends" in my brain... Anyways, after setting up and lighting some candles, the band went to work.


As a fan, sitting on a couch, buzzzzzy and tingling, I was blown away and in shock at how good the jams were and how they reflected the past sounds of Yahowa 13 but at the same time were totally new. It was very interesting to see them interact, pieces that I thought were the new best-jam-ever!!!!, they weren't especially keen on... Sleep deprivation and life on the road, haha. That said, they did tap into the deal pretty often and played a nice jazzy Santana type jam that was just unreal. These shows also made me realize what incredible players these guys are. All in all, the recordings went well and gave me a little glimpse into their world. It was very interesting how much Father Yod and his spirit/teachings/stories came up in discussion and anecdotes. Sometimes I had to step and back and be like... "Wow, I am watching Yahowa 13!" Alas, they had to hit the road for the Washington DC show and I took leave of them, mellow goodbyes since I would be seeing 'em the next night in Manhattan.








Knitting Factory New York City March 28
Dana and I drove up to NYC late afternoon, while trying to avoid some traffic at the Holland Tunnel, we took the Lincoln and wound up in Times Squareish traffic at like 8 PM. Oooof. While confusing and stressful, it was somewhat exhilarating, esp in retrospect (after we found parking in front of the Knitting Factory). Almost immediately, we ran into Prophase Mike, the Yahowa guys, the film crew and Ben from Entourage booking. We hit a Japanese joint for some dinner and much needed (for me) beers. Lots of James Brown on the sound system, always a good thing. Just being around Djin, Octavius and Sunflower was pretty amazing, as a bunch of guys I thought were lost to the ages, to be sitting with a reformed Yahowa 13 eating dinner and listening to them talk about their music, Father Yod, etc. was almost too much. The fact they can still hit those grooves or make new ones and that it sounds good is just amazing. As I said to Mike and Dana at dinner, "Thank god Djin is not afraid of noise" since it seems like a lot of musicians of their era have watered things down and taken an almost smooth jazz approach to things... these guys still tap into that power/whatever with a verve of bands half their age, but with that questing deal that is all their own. Perhaps it is hard to explain, but it all comes down to them being the real deal. I have to admit, I want the jam band kids/audience to get turned on to Yahowa 13, ya know... the realest deal in town. A nice lil awes cookie for dessert was a great way to end the meal, too.

Back over to the Knitting Factory and we ran into Bill and Cotton from Mopar Mountain Daredevils, who had already played, I was very bummed I missed them, as I didn't know they were playing til we were at dinner. Anyways, always great to see 'em (and their CD on El Supremo is fantastic) and we rolled to the band room to hang and smoke and blab and such. A tall dude with gray hair was bobbing in and out and I didn't realize it was Don Fleming. Damn! Had I known I coulda asked about BALL and Eric Vermillion. Alas! Djin hung out and gave a little impromptu jam on his guitar for some chicks of European descent and we headed down the steps to watch Kohoutek for a little bit. While hanging at the merch table we noticed some vocals in the usually instrumental Kohoutek mix and walked in to catch the last five minutes of their set with Don Fleming on vocals and Andrew WK on guitar. Weird/awesome! Alas, no Aleister though... or Aleister X as he is now known. Here are some crappy pics of Don and Andrew with Kohoutek.




By this time a nice little buzz was invading my skull and being and we were happy to see our pal, musician Kip Hanrahan in attendance. After blabbing and beers with him, we headed in for the main event. While the Philly show took a bit to get going, this time around Yahowa 13 flew out of the gates. Great sound and that locked in groove that seems to happen fairly easily for them this night... The ebb and flow of their music, the sound... it was very overwhelming. Plus they played their robes off. Octavius's fills and chops were just insanely good and kept things moving along. Once again they hit that Latin beat jam that I really hope gets released someday. Fantastic. This time around they did the starman exercise a few jams into the set, which was a great change. It was good to get a little high and out there from the exercise while "in the middle" of Yahowa 13. This time around, after the exercise, I could feel their music in the veins of my thighs. Pulsing and coursing through me. Was it the energy? Was it the music? Yes! Of my three Yahowa "shows" this one was musically the highpoint, the jams just kept coming and they were locked in, I think they played almost two hours. While the crowd was sparse, they played for us (and for them) like men... uh... possessed. Even now, writing this, I just can't believe how special this band is. Alas, all good things must come to end so when they finally packed it in, we said our goodbyes and hugs and all that jazz and then hit the road for a raining/hydroplaning ride back to the Philly burbs, though of course we did enjoy my ritual of driving to the Holland tunnel (after a few moments of being lostish) while listening to soundtrack to Taxi Driver.







UPDATE: More video of the Philadelphia show here.

7 comments:

djin said...

Thanks Andy....made my day.....

nicepooperzine said...

Thank YOU, Djin!

Saint Francine said...

Saturday's show was rockin! good vibes all around. Nice pics.

btw, pooper, starman's fire breath stems from Kundalini yoga, something I've been getting into lately, ironically. If you are interested, you should check it out further.

Octavius said...

Thank you Andy....
appreciate all you are doing

nicepooperzine said...

Thank you, Francine, good times!

Thank you, Octavius, can't wait to see you again soon!

theeasysubcult said...

oh man. and i missed fire breathing exercises too?!?

om tat sat.

Rusty said...

Good stuff! This was a super great read.