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Weekend music

The band of the Holy Flask: Filling empty glasses with Tucson's Santa Pachita

In this day and age, there's a lot of hype around the idea of minimalism in music. Three-piece (and even two-piece) garage groups abound and but for the occasional multi-member anomaly like the Arcade Fire or Gogol Bordello, the days of loud, energetic multi-instrumental bands seems regretfully buried in the past instead of here in the present blasting some tasty sax solos where we need them most.

In spite of this dire state of affairs, there are still some bands out there providing the requisite dose of horns and bold lyrics and interesting percussion sounds and fired-up, fusion-based mayhem. One such band was the late, great Los Guapos, who played their final show in late 2017. Another is the very much alive and kicking Santa Pachita also known as the "saint of the holy flask."

We caught up with Santa Pachita this week to talk about the textures and influences of their music, their origin story and just where that intriguing name came from...

TucsonSentinel.com: Introduce yourselves — who are the members of Santa Pachita?

Miguel Reyes: "Me on guitar and main vocals, Victor Cruz on bass guitar and backing vocals, Ray Cintron on timbales and bongos, Raymond Peralta on drums, Mike Ankomeous on trumpet and flute, Joe Whitley on congas and jambe, and Matt Hotez on trombone."

TS: How would you describe your sound?

MR: "Latin fusion combining different rhythms such as cumbia, salsa, African, reggae, ska, rumba, etc."

TS: What's the band's origin story? And how did you arrive at the current lineup?

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MR: "Our bassist Victor Cruz and I started the band in 2012 after working together on other musical projects. We have tried to bring in talented musicians that have a variety of different musical backgrounds. The result is a danceable fusion of ska, cumbia, and rumba-salsa. The congas, flute, and trumpet add depth to the energetic music that is influenced by bands like Manu Chao."

"I had recently left a local band called a son y sol in 2011 or 2012 and began jamming with some friends just for fun. Gradually the ideas came together and we became more serious, so we realized we needed a serious drummer and bass player"

"Around that same time, I was invited to jam with a band at a local bar in the north side of Tucson. Victor Cruz was already a bass player in this band."

Cruz and Reyes quickly gelled musically and from that point onward, the band began to come together pretty organically, adding drums, sax, flute and a timbale and bongos player to the lineup. Two years later, in 2014, the band released its first album, the indie release "El Muerto." The band went through some lineup changes in the ensuing years, until the current players came on board.

MR: "After playing with some provisional drummers our current drummer Raymond Peralta joined in 2016 after he was recommended to us by some other local musicians. Mike Ankomeous was invited in the trumpet after I jammed with him in another local African band in several occasions. Ray Cintron joined a little later on timbales and Joe Whitley aka 'El Profe' joined on congas. I had played with Profe and Ray in a band back in 2008 when I first arrived in Tucson and ran into them again about two years ago."

By 2017 , when we were ready to record the second album 'Ruta Olvido,' Matt Hotez joined the band on trombone after replying to a Craigslist ad. Around that time, Justin Ostrowski found us playing one night at a local bar on Fourth Avenue. After talking to him during a break, Justin was invited to jam a song with his sax, which he was luckily carrying - he joined the band soon after. Sadly Justin moved to another state to continue his academic career at the end of 2017."

TS: The band has really diverse influences and a multi-layered sound. What are all of the musical influences that have been and continue to be inspiration for band members?

MR: "Manu Chau, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Todos Tus muertos, Buena Vista Social Club, Bob Marley and others."

"The 1991 album 'El Circo' by the band Maldita Vecindad was a big influence.This album portrays Mexico City's urban life. The horns and percussions perform different changes in rhythms, making this album a folkloric masterpiece amongst other Mexican bands rock/ska bands."

"Bob Marley's 'Legend' is very meaningful to us because it is the root of everything we believe is just and fair in the world. I remembers hitchhiking and walking with a guitar in Mexico through towns and highways while playing Marley's tunes and listening to his music. Around that same time, Victor was experiencing a similar perception of the Marley legacy near Guadalajara in an urban and yet simple life , always surrounded by nature and great friends before moving to the US. Marley 's music has been a great inspiration to us as composers. My personal favorites are the songs "Satisfy My Soul," "Waiting in Vain," and "Natural Mystic!"

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"Manu Chau's "Proxima Estacion" from 2001 is also pretty special to us. There are so many things that we love about this album. It brings us back to the reality our roots in urban life. We love the unmistakable sound, the sarcasm , the humor, and the undeniable undercurrent of activism."

"Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' 'Vasos Vacíos' compilation is another influential album. The song 'Vasos Vacios' (Empty Glasses) makes us happy for some reason. It makes you feel like everything is going to be alright!"

"I remember the first time I heard this song during a nice morning in the southeastern Mexican tropical forest. The song was playing in the radio while I was making my bed in the apartment room on the the seventh floor of an urban building. There was something that morning, that I will never forget: the first rays of light through the window, the lyrics singing 'there will always be empty glasses, with water from the city, our water, comes from the river, mixed with sea waters!' The proximity of the tropical rainforest, and the visceral experience of urban life and its complexities during the moment he heard the song ,was just as intoxicating as life itself to me."

"Victor also remembers traveling and playing his guitar in the beaches of Puerto Vallarta when he first heard this song. For him, this way of writing poetry to depict the perks of urban life and the inevitable continuity of his music was crucial in his career as musician and artist."

"One last album - Caifanes' 'El Nervio Del Volcan,' which translates as 'the nerve of the volcano.' The prehispanic references expressed through the lyrics and music of this album, make this album a rock-en-espanol classic! This album is a huge influence that Victor and Profe and I share in common from the 'old times' in Mexico."

TS: How (and when) did each of you get started playing music?

MR: ""I started playing guitar during high school and around touristic places in Mexico such as Chiapas and the Caribbean since 2000 with gigging bands. I also traveled a lot, performing in many states around Mexico until I came to the U.S. in 2008 and began playing with other musicians here."

"Our bassist Victor grew up in Mexico City and Guadalajara where he formed his first bands influenced by urban music, rock in Spanish, reggae, etc. Cafe Tacuba, Caifanes, Maldita Vecindad, The Cure, Sublime, Manu Chao, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, La Barranca, etc. Victor started playing with gigging bands in Guadalajara around the years of 1999 and continued his career with other bands in Tucson in about 2007 to this date."

"Ray Cintron and Raymond Peralta have both been playing percussion since high school."

"Our trumpet and flute player Mike Ankomeous was an excellent addition to Santa Pachita and is an experienced musician and composer who brings the groove and great energy to the dance floor. He also performs with K - Bass and Baba Marimba here in Tucson."

"Profe (Joe Whitley) was born in Hermosillo, México and grew up in the cultural crossroads between Sonora and Arizona. His musical journey started in a spiritual setting: Nyabinghi drumming in Rastafarian meditations. Due to being fluent in French, he had the cosmic fortune to meet and eventually start playing the djembe with brothers Adama and Mamadou Dembele from the Ivory Coast-- master players who for their family represent the 33rd generation carrying on the rich traditions of West African drumming. Profe then incorporated playing the congas making his percussion set-up a somewhat unique African and Latin hybrid which is how his style can be described."

TS: For a band so large you still manage to play live a lot. How does the band keep up with this momentum?

"Although many members might have personal/work commitments, we are always looking forward to the next show."

"Each show is unique, and the audience attending offers a continuous positive response: many dancers and a great enthusiasm towards our music, fans wearing our t-shirts and lots of positive feedback."

"The band has a common credo to always have lots of fun while playing together. We also have many musicians acting as back ups in Tucson and Phoenix helping out whenever the official members cannot attend."

TS: What have you recorded so far? And what's the band's songwriting process?

MS: "So far we've released 'El Muerto' (self released ) 2014 and 'Ruta Olvido' (Self released ) 2017."

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"Victor Cruz and I are the cwriters and composers of all songs on both albums. Most of the songs are a combination of ideas, structures and writing styles between us. We normally get together and create a template and recording sample for the band to give ideas during rehearsal. In terms of lyrics we focus on concepts, and then decide the structure and melodies"

"Then each of us starts alternating creating rhymes and verses, we can take the whole day making corrections on a notebook."

"We do this with one or two guitars, a notebook, recorder, a keyboard and tequila"

"Then we review the songs ending up with a similar idea about the topic and uniqueness of lyrics and structure. The main themes that run through our work include social justice, human rights, existentialism, environmentalism, tolerance and having fun!"

"Through our lyrics, we would like to encourage people to have more acceptance and tolerance and awareness of human rights and social justice. Santa Pachita is made up of both Mexicans and Americans, and we see the band as a family. It is an example of how people from different backgrounds can be accepting, work together, and create something positive. We hope our music and lyrics, inspire others to explore this kind of cooperation and raise awareness about human rights and social justice."

TS: What is on the horizon as far as new recordings or touring, etc?

"We are looking forward to recording our next album and touring in the U.S. and Mexico as we promote 'Ruta Olvido'."

TS: Any favorite past gigs or great stories to share from touring?

MS: "Favorite performances of ours include playing with Jarabe de Palo at Rialto in 2015, Santa Cecilia at 191 Toole in, The Slackers at Flycatcher, and Jenny and the Mexicats at Hotel Congress (all last year in 2017) and Los Masters Plus at Rialto and Gondwana at Hotel Congress in 2016. We're looking forward to an upcoming gig with the band Inspector soon at 191 Toole."

"During our first trip out of town in 2014-2015, we played in Cottonwood and Flagstaff. We had a blast but on our way there something funny happened. While we were driving to Cottonwood, we heard a thump, looked back and saw that some of our things had fallen into the middle of the highway. We opted to put the rest of our stuff inside so everyone had instruments piled on top of them the rest of the way. After letting Victor and the trumpet player apply their so called boy scout skills with bungee cords on top of the car, Victor triumphantly stated 'Ahora si, ni dios la va a tirar!' which translates as 'done, not even god could make this fall!' And there we were, running after our stuff in the middle of the I-10, while cars were trying to dodge the rain of objects from our car."

TS: Where did the band's name come from?

"Santa Pachita is not a real saint. It translates to 'holy flask' which is kind of a parody of the idea of the Holy Grail. Soon after hanging out with Victor, I noticed that He always carried a flask and while thinking about names I thought of a Mexican band called Santa Sabina, based on the shamanistic woman Maria Sabina. Then playing around with the names we came out with Santa Pachita and thought that the reference to the Holy Grail was funny."

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"Our song 'Santa Pachita' refers to this imaginary saint as an entity of place reachable through life's pleasures or discomfort, an underworld as well as a paradise. Lately we've also decided to relate Santa Pachita with the term pachamama or mother earth."

"The song 'La Ruta del Olvido' mentions Doña Pachita, or Mrs. Pachita:

Doña pachita, where do i go?

So I can cure these illnesses ?

I want to know what I am to do

Tell me, you who knows about everything

Doña pachita.I am right here!

But the world pretends to forget about me, brother!

The weight of the life falls

Doña pachita, a donde voy?

Para curar estos males

Quiero saber lo que hay que hacer

Tu que todito lo sabes!

Doña pachita yo aquí estoy

Y el mundo quiere olvidarme

El peso de la vida va!!

Hermano! aquí en la ruta del olvido!

Here along the route to the oblivion"

TS: Do any of the members possess any unique skills, training, proclivities or super-powers?

MR: "We are lucky to have found musicians who are so gifted in their individual instruments. Our superpower is making people dance like monkeys, even if they never heard our rhythms."

TS: Lastly, why do you do what it is that you do?

MR: "Because of our love of music. Music is there when we most need it to express ourselves . We want to offer musical experiences that touch people emotionally and that inspire them to consider other ways of life, racial equality and the feel that we are all in this together."

Santa Pachita plays Club Congress's 10th annual Cinco De Mayo party on Saturday at 8 p.m. You can also catch them live at one of their regular haunts, Playground, on Friday at 6 p.m.

Block Party at the Mercado and Tucson Folk Festival

This Friday marks the seventh anniversary of the Mercado de San Agustin just west of Downtown Tucson and the opening of the complex's new annex. To celebrate, the Mercado is hosting a weekend long block party complete with food trucks, vendors, deejays, local performance artists Flam Chen and (most importantly to regular readers of this column) a wealth of live music by notable local performers including Leila Lopez Band, Golden Boots, June West, Hey Bucko, bluesman Tom Walbank, and Giant Sand. The celebration begins Friday at 4 p.m. and continues through Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, a festival of a different sort is happening throughout Downtown this weekend. Tucson Kitchen Musicians' Association began as a group of friends hanging out and jamming around the literal kitchen table, but over the years it has grown into a fantastic local resource for folk and traditional musicians. The centerpiece of TKMA's operations every year is the free Tucson Folk Festival, which is one of the oldest free festivals of its kind in North America.

This year marks the festival's 33rd year featuring dozens of local musicians performing at four main stages in the Presidio area of Downtown. For more information (and a full listing of this year's lineup) check out the festival's website.

Also happening this week: KRS-One, Weird Al, Jean Caffeine

Just as we settled down to the dullness and quiet of post-SXSW touring season, another torrential rain of out of town music is about to hit Tucson and we're more than ready. As summer festival season gets off to an early start, expect visits from a number of touring artists, as well as more reawakenings of various hibernating local bands supporting groups they've toured with or met along the road.

Among the more notable visits this week is an appearance at 191 Toole on Saturday night by legendary and somewhat controversial Bronx rapper KRS-One. Meanwhile, that same night at the Fox Theatre a far less contested but certainly equally famous name comes to town - the one and only master of parody songs and accordion prowess, Mr. Weird Al Yankovic.

Later in the week, on Monday night in the lounge at Flycatcher, Austin based musician Jean Caffeine comes to town in support of her newest album "Sadie Saturday Night." The folk rock storyteller and veteran punk drummer came of age in the early San Francisco and NYC punk scenes including stints in all girl punk band The Urge and Ann Magnuson's group Pulsallama before settling down and playing "electrified porch music and garage country" in Austin's vibrant underground music scene.

Check your local listings...

Each week this column compiles a choice selection of live gigs in and around Tucson with the help of good venue and band event announcements and other resources, including local musician Chris Black's site www.whoplayswhere.com. If you've like your event listed in this space, or if your local band has major news or a new release, drop me a line at arts@tucsonsentinel.com.

Friday, May 4

  • Santa Pachita 6 p.m. - Playground (Downtown)
  • Bryan Thomas Parker - 9 p.m. The Parish (North)
  • Sons of Rainer - 8 p.m. Exo Bar (Downtown)
  • La Cerca w/ Edmund Wayne - 9 p.m. Bar Passe (Downtown)
  • Los Lobos, Greyhound Soul - 8 p.m. Rialto (Downtown)
  • Jenny Don't and the Spurs - 8p.m. Owl's Club (Downtown)
  • Lucky Lenny, Amber Ikeman - 8 p.m. Saint Charles (S of Downtown)
  • Mauricio Claveria - Tribute to La Ley - 8 p.m. Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Tucson Folk Festival Kickoff Party - 6:30 p.m. La Cocina (Downtown)
  • Cement Shoes, Alive & Well, In Lessons, Spider Cider, All Harmless - 7 p.m. Spark Project Collective (Central)

Saturday, May 5

  • Tucson Folk Festival Day One - 12-9 p.m. Presidio Museum, Telles Stage, Wildflower Stage (Downtown)
  • Tucson Folk Festival Day One - 12-9 p.m. La Cocina (Downtown)
  • Carter Winter w/ Billy Shaw Jr. Band, Drew Cooper- 9p.m.Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Adam Townsend Band -6p.m. Mercado San Agustin (W of Downtown)
  • Armando Moreno & the Southern Revival - 7 p.m. Hotel Congress (Downtown)
  • KRS-One -8 p.m. 191 Toole (Downtown)
  • Santa Pachita- 8 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Nathaniel Burnside - 8 p.m. La Cocina (Downtown)
  • The Rifle and The Echo Bombs - 7 p.m. Che's Lounge (Downtown)
  • Manteca 6 p.m. Playground (Downtown)
  • The Demons - 8 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)
  • Greyhound Soul - 10 p.m. Che's Lounge (Downtown)
  • Deorro - 8 p.m. Rialto (Downtown)
  • Weird Al Yankovic w/ Emo Phillips - 8 p.m. Fox Theatre (Downtown)

Sunday, May 6

  • Tucson Folk Festival Day Two - 12-6 p.m. Presidio Museum, Telles Stage, Wildflower Stage (Downtown)
  • Tucson Folk Festival Day Two - 12-9 p.m. La Cocina (Downtown)
  • The Rifle and The Echo Bombs - 7 p.m. Che's Lounge (Downtown)
  • Ghost - 8 p.m. Tucson Music Hall (Downtown)

Monday, May 7

  • Jean Caffeine - 7 p.m. Flycatcher Lounge (Downtown)
  • Mystic Ritual, Suicide Forest, Abhorrent Contagion - 8 p.m. Flycatcher (Downtown)

Tuesday, May 8

  • Golden Boots - 7 p.m. Flycatcher Lounge (Downtown)
  • Tom Walbank - 8 p.m. Sky Bar (Downtown)
  • Steff Koeppen - 8:30 p.m. Sky Bar (Downtown)
  • Bali Baby - 8 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)

Wednesday, May 9

  • Pink Mexico - 8 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)

Thursday, May 10

  • Louise Le Hir - 6:30 p.m. La Cocina (Downtown)
  • Rusko - 8 p.m. 191 Toole (Downtown)
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courtesy of Miguel Reyes

Santa Pachita

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