A culmination of artists from San Francisco, this gypsy-rock band is self-described as “a blend of eastern European gypsy traditional stuff, Spanish Flamenco, polka/ska rhythms, and good ol’ pop and rock from the west. It sounds schizo to describe it, but it all comes together as dance music. It’s a show for getting drunk, sweaty and making bad decisions.”
Hearing this band for the first time was like accidentally witnessing a volcanic eruption. I could not only see smoke and spurting lava, but I could feel precious mother earth herself vomit, as if she was purging the ills of all humanity. Rushing molten flow consumes its path, taking with it a history of geologic contribution. Last night Diego’s Umbrella rolled through my bones, fusing stomps with fiery Flamenco, churning chaotic Polka spins, and detaching head swinging grunge. Was I an Appalachian clog dancer, a Romani gypsy girl, a costumed La Cucaracha performer or a biker chic? I couldn’t decide, so I became all of them, expelling dormant data from every music and dance tradition ever experienced.
The musicians were independently exquisite, each carrying torches in full flame. The drummer Jake Wood pounded relentless strength into each throbbing tune with a muscular framework of undeterred might. He went from “playing the bones” to pounding a marching band drum to banging on a trashcan. Kevin Gautschi worked away on electric guitar, stepping in and out of each chord, effortlessly pulsing both rhythm and fanciful finger work as he stood in concentrated commitment. His riffs cradled each tune with just enough venom to kill at just the right time. Vaughn Lindstrom appeared centered and stalwart, belting powerful lyrics into battle cries from his stately stance, fast strumming an acoustic guitar refusing to melt under pressure. Red Cup played the bass with hulking heft. His fast fingers hit the strings with stolen grit; slapping and pounding the long neck as purposefully as a nineteenth century mountain man would fire a shotgun. The violinist, Jason Kleinberg pulled from his bow a weighted tone that withered appropriately, weaving around sturdy melodies. He’s learned the dances only the bow knows, a fiddler off the roof. He never stopped, in fact, none of them did, nor did the music they made. Songs moved from crescendo to crescendo, artful refrain and back again to crowd calling rally, raising the bouncing audience into sync.
I established long armed territory left of the stage and blissfully danced sweat through ill chosen winter tights. I missed the band members when they jumped into the crowd, but I stayed with them in movement. My low back is sore and my right ankle hurts just enough to thank me for wearing orthotics in low-heeled boots. Even so, if they were playing again tonight, I’d go and I would dance my way past the crust of expectation. I’d go again just to claim this band’s uniqueness in my body, to fully join the event, travel the world and embrace the eruption that is Diego’s Umbrella.
Anne-Marie Buckland is a Yoga teacher specializing in private, individualized instruction. She teaches Holy Yoga and Vinyasa Flow.