2 Full Nights of Music, Dance, & Inspiration
Friday & Saturday - 7:30-10pm
Authentic Gypsy & European Traditional Tonic!
American Blues Rock Sagwa!
“Good for what ails you!”
Once again, we are thankfully able to provide to you at no extra charge, two nights of entertainment and festivity, a chance to get excited and dance after long days of sitting – rapt and attentive – in your favorite classes. Each of the two nights fare is centered around a theme, with Friday’s theme being the “Folk Herbal Resurgence” set to a soundtrack of pulsing Blues-Rock, and Saturday being an honoring and celebrating of “The Medicine of the People”. And as these nights might prove... music, too, can be an agent of wholeness, the rhythmic entrainment of health and groove.
Folk Herbal Resurgence
The Curtain Opens
Welcoming words to lift the heart and quicken the pulse, a verbal tonic to deepen the processes of both reason and delight, a celebration and evocation of this folk herbal resurgence with
Jesse Wolf Hardin
Big Daddy D & The Dynamites
We’re pleased to welcome for your rockin’ pleasure, Big Daddy D and the Dynamites – a five-piece, high-energy Rhythm n’ Blues band from the mountains of northern Arizona, delivering a strong catalog of original songs and covers with impeccable musicianship and unmistakable personality.
The band was started in the '90s as the rhythm section for Freddie (Li'l Junior) Cisneros and The Leisure Kings, later going independent in 1998. Years of hard work in the wild and crowded saloons of historic Whiskey Row refined the sound, and proved a real-world testing ground for the stream of original new material.
In 2007, the Dynamites won the Arizona Blues Showdown and a place onstage at the 2008 International Blues Challenge. They have performed at many larger events, including the Glendale Blues and Jazz Festival, Blues Blast, the Scottsdale series Sunday A'Fair, and the Bisbee Blues Festival. The band has released four albums to date, including their latest, Down, Boy!
From soulful slow ballads to bun-shaking Americana blues-rock, Big Daddy D & The Dynamites will be providing over two hours of heartful-feelin’, feet-stirrin’ and sometimes humorous entertainment to delight the resurgent herbalist.
Medicine of The People
The Curtain Opens
An evocative tribute to herbalism, the Medicine of the People – a celebration of lineage and call to empowered practice and action, with
Jesse Wolf Hardin
AK & Her Kalashnikovs
We frankly couldn’t believe our good fortune in discovering AK and The Kalashnikovs, after many days of searching for the best possible new act for our conference entertainment. There’d proved to be no shortage of 90’s rock cover bands, laid back folk acts and Sun City retirees doing stock bluegrass covers within a day’s drive of Flagstaff, but our needs are always for a truly unique band exhibiting a flavor all their own, proficient, passionate and danceable.
AK is truly all that and more, driving all the way from Los Angeles with a songlist drawing from musical traditions from the steppes of Western Russia and Ukraina to Spain’s Andalusia, each infused with their soulful spirits and propelled forward with a rockin’ edge. There will be no sitting down when Alissa the boys are playing, two wonderful nights, September 17th and 18th... their musical magic propelled by six genuinely awesome musicians: Keeping an audience’s feet moving with the snaps and thumps of PrincessFrank’s drum kit and Sebastian Steinberg’s note-walkin’ upright bass, the dapper Jake Fiskin providing a range of rhythms and moods on his Manouche guitar, Isaac Shankler mercilessly stirring a range of deepest emotions with his killer accordion while Danny Graziani excites compositions to flight with his awesome violin licks. Alisa Kueker plays violin as well, but it is her voice that is the defining instrument of this ensemble, powerful and emotive throughout its broad range, unequivocal sonic demonstrations of love and comfort, suffering and rage, sentiment and bliss.
When imagining the qualities of her voice, think of the mournful vocalizations of Portuguese Fado or Greek Rembetica, the trill of the Apache song or Tuareg blues, stirring octaves of fiery flamenco, French chanson or uninhibited Roma celebration, and you will have at least a general sense of the fuerte – the emotional and spiritual strength – emanating from her throat every time she performs. And imagine, for a moment, the mystique of fringe-dwelling fortune tellers, earthy wayfarers and outlanders, wagon-riding minstrel bards and music-inebriated ecstatics, and you may now begin to grasp the rapturous duende of the Kalashnikovs. Positively revolutionary!
Loosen up after long days of intense learning, celebrate the folk herbal culture.
Come have a dancin’ good time!
Big Daddy D
by Jesse Wolf Hardin, TWHC
Big Daddy D and the Dynamites is Arizona’s five-piece, high-energy Rhythm & Blues band, fronted by soulful blues man Darryl Porras. In 2007 they won the Arizona Blues Showdown, and perform at numerous events from the Glendale Blues & Jazz Festival and Bisbee Blues Festival to our Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference. Come enjoy their rich musical gumbo, Friday evening, Sept. 14th.
Jesse Wolf Hardin: We were looking for a hard driving Americana band to balance out AK & The Kalashnikov’s exotic Gypsy and world tunes, and the blues-rock of Big Daddy D & The Dynamites sure qualifies! Are you psyched to perform for some wild minded herbalists at Mormon Lake this September?
Big Daddy D: We are totally psyched to be performing for your event. Anywhere there is an appreciative music crowd ready to dance and have fun, is where we love to perform. I’ve discovered over the years, great crowds come in many different forms. It’s really just the band performing at a high level.
JWH: When did you first start playing seriously? Did you have teachers, or are you self taught?
Big D: I picked up the guitar a little late. I was 17. I had and still have a burning desire to learn the guitar. My brother also played guitar…he and I performed at local coffee houses and open mics when we were in college. NAU to be exact. So I’m familiar with the Northland area. I started professionally when I was 22 with Freddie Cisneros, guitar legend out of Texas and have been performing every since. I’ve had my own band since 1998.
JWH: I hear shades of classic Boogie-Woogie, Chicago blues, New Orleans Jazz, funk and soul in your performances. If I had to compare you to any single band for the sake of our readers, it would be the group Roomful Of Blues. Is that fair? Who all do you consider your primary influences?
That’s a really good comparison and I’ve heard it before, so we must be on to something. We’re pretty diverse in our influences and the types of tunes we love to perform and replicate in our own music. I love swing blues, and Texas shuffle blues, and good old soul music. Steven loves to perform offbeat classics from any genre. Drew is our edgy guitar player and pulls from a rock background. And our sax player is just fabulous, he draw on everything. He’s just a great player.
JWH: Name and describe the current band lineup, who plays what, and what they feel they bring to the music.
Big D: Well there’s me…I bring a unique, original sense to guitar. I’m primarily influenced by blues, jazz and soul music in my improv style. Equally I love soulful tunes to sing. Drew is our rocker. He brings the rock n roll out and he makes us more viable with the younger kids cause they understand rock/shred music. His guitar playing is incredible and vocals are great. Steven plays bass. He provides a good musical sensibility to the band. He steers the band in terms of solid performance and production of music. He has a wide array of styles he likes. He’s a solid player and very good singer as well. Gary, our sax player, is just plain ol’, flat out dynamic. He joined the band approximately 2 years ago and has been an excellent addition. He plays in all styles to perfection. He plays two saxes at once. You really just have to come out and hear him to truly appreciate how good he is. Trust me once you hear Gary play, you will not enjoy any other musician/instrument unless of course he’s with this band. Finally, our newbie and young lad Sonny Ryan on drums. Sonny picked up the drum gig in January after our long time drummer of 11 years Carlos B. Jones decided to move on. Sonny is a natural musician starting originally on guitar but moving to drums about 3 years ago. The kid was just born to make music.
JWH: Your latest album, “Down Boy”, has a lot of cuts driven by a 50’s feeling Yackety Sax, has that always been a central feature of the band?
Big D: As long as Gary is playing, yes, that’s been our overall feel. He provides so much instrumentation that we just build around him. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t center our world around him, but we do a different feel when he’s performing with us.
JWH: Do we get to hear stand up bass, electric or both?
Big D: On this show you’ll only see electric bass. Due to space constraints it’s difficult to pack all the instruments and travel.
JWH: How much of your repertoire are written by you or Drew? What’s provided the inspiration for your songs?
Big D: Drew and I have written all the songs on our cd’s save for two. One Steven wrote for Down, Boy which was Hip Deep and we cover Feels Like Rain which is a John Hiatt tune. Otherwise we’ve written every tune. Inspiration comes in the form of real life such as Too Late which is a tune about a girl who’s too late to get love back. Or Collide, a tune about how tough love can be. Drew wrote 04/09 Blues which is a tune about his father’s passing when he was 21. Drew and I both discovered it’s better to write honest and open tunes that any person can understand and relate to. It removes the barrier of a guy just playing a guitar and singing to actually reaching out to your audience and drawing them in. Life is our inspiration. We are fortunate to have a good outlet.
JWH: What artists do you think you might also be covering? Any rootsy stuff like John Lee Hooker, or rockers like ZZ Top or the Neville Brothers? And hey, can I make requests?
Big D: Oh…we’ll be covering all sorts of cool stuff including Dr. John, Neville Brothers, Sam and Dave, Brian Setzer, Black Crows, James Brown, Stevie Wonder… We’ll have a good mix of fast songs, and slows songs….it’ll be a party.
JWH: We auditioned a lot of bands before selecting you guys. Everyone in the Dynamites is tight, proficient and with stellar timing. What’s the secret?
Big D: I’d love to tell you that it’s hours and hours of rehearsal, but it’s actually hours and hours of stage time. The past couple of years we’ve been performing just about every weekend at least 2-3 performances per weekend. It’s rigorous and the best practice you can get. Your chops get good and tight.
JWH: You could move your band anywhere but you’ve stayed based in Northern Arizona, what’s it like bringing sooty city blues sounds to the deserts and mountains of the Southwest, and how might the ambiance and feel of this special area be effecting you and your music?
Big D: It’s interesting for sure. Northern Arizona is a great place to perform and have a band of any style just as long as it’s good music performed at the highest level. We’ve been pretty fortunate to be a local band that’s been able to get so much stage time and great publicity regionally and nationally. I think that’s testament to our music and how we own the stage and the music. The trick has been that we’ve been able to nurture our music/craft with intimate shows in Northern Arizona. I think it’s kind of a synergistic thing where we feed the music to the people and they in turn give us great feedback. The city is too big, too spread out. Less intimate. Cold. Although we do have great fans out of Phoenix.
JWH: There’s an interesting anomaly when it comes to the blues, listening to even the most tragic of blues lyrics and gut wrenching of melodies somehow seems to make people feel better... not worse. How do you explain that?
Big D: Once again I believe it’s relating to your audience. People love tunes for the emotion they evoke within. We love our pop tunes because they strike a chord. The truth, while brutal, can also be uplifting and self actualizing. I think there’s a couple parts to that….like the feel of a tune, or the speed, the types of chords used, and obviously lyric selection. It’s part mystical, but very magical when you can reach an audience.
JWH: I know I’m going to hope to hear some heart-milkin’ numbers like a Stevie Ray slow jam and your own instrumental, “Broom Hilda”, but you seem to love the faster numbers, right? After sitting all day in conference classes, folks are going to want your enticement to get up and move.
Big D:We love upbeat numbers. Our primary goal is to make you feel. Either its lyrics or it’ll be the overall groove of the band. But if you’re not up and dancing, well, you better be asleep or dead.
JWH: You’re ready to rock the conference, then?
Big D: We are ready to rock the conference. The real question, are you guys ready to let goal and let the music take over?
AK & Her Kalashnikovs
(Alissa Kueker and band)
In Dialogue With Jesse Wolf Hardin, TWHC
JWH: How did the band AK and The Kalashnikovs come together, and when?
Alissa: It was beautifully spontaneous. To make a long story short, it was through my love and appreciation of music and my amazing friends playing music. I simply wanted to contribute to the magic they were making. And so it ensued. Our band formed to play a show in the spring of 2010.
JWH: What ethnicity are you, Alissa, and where did you grown up? Was it a happy time for you?
Alissa: I’m of Eastern European decent. I was born on the east coast of America, but grew up in Southern California. It was indeed happy. My parents and sister are a blessing.
JWH: How were you first exposed or introduced to music? And what kinds of music?
Alissa: My parents. My father loved and introduced me to Motown sounds and gospel and my mother loved any singer that could wail like a banshee. She would do likewise through the house while going about her business and my father would wake me up early Sunday mornings as a child to his stereo blasting and bongo playing to his favorite jams.
JWH: Did you have teachers or mentors?
Alissa: The first time I saw a violin was in elementary school. The music teacher invited us in her small, free standing class room. We sat on the floor. She held up instruments, one by one, and said, “You can choose any of these to play.” She held up the violin. I thought it was so beautiful before I even heard it. Then she played it. My hand shot up. That was my first intimate exchange with music. Again, it’s my parents that really ignited me. Also, when I made first steps towards singing, it’s my little sister who said to me, “Sing as loud as you can!”. And I have ever since.
For violin mentors, I have to say, Fabrice Martinez of Fishtank Ensemble was and is definitely an inspiration. He plays exquisitely. And fiery. When I decided to pick up the violin again as an adult and coming back from Europe, I asked myself, “Will I have to find an 80 year old Ukrainian man somewhere in L.A. to teach me?!” And bam! I walk into a house party in the middle of the night, I see a bow go up in the distance, I beeline to the space and there is Fabrice and The Petrovjic Blasting Company playing. I immediately approached him during the first pause in their playing and declared, “You must teach me!”
JWH: What were your earliest public performances?
Alissa: I used to make spontaneous solo performances of dance, act and song in my livingroom for my unsuspecting babysitters when I was a child. I’d start by calling them
in to sit down and then rush to hide behind the couch. In elementary school I was in honor chorus and orchestra.
JWH: Kalashnikov material covers a wide cultural and geographical range, from the flamenco of Andalusia to the rousing music of Russia and the Sechs. In many cases, these places are parts of the diaspora of Roma (so called “gypsy”) dispersion and migration. Was that intentional and thematic on your part, or simply the result of your personal history, far flung tastes and interests?
AK: I lived in Europe for a few years. It was the Roma musicians that I encountered. Their music hit me like an arrow through my heart. It is intentional that I pay homage to their tradition.
I was fortunate to perform with with the Antwerp Gypsy Ska Orkestra in Begium, and to sing with my Serbian, Croatian and Macedonian friends in the Rotterdam bars. There are other tunes, Brazilian, Italian and more, always chosen for the same reason no matter where they are from... for their passion and power!
Jed Bluenote: Alissa's taste forms the backbone of our sound; she has an unerring ear for what she can sing and sing convincingly. Even if she meets considerable opposition amongst her band when she first moots a song, which I will admit occasionally happens, with patience we'll all eventually come round.
JWH: You asked for an herbal consultation while at this year’s conference, and we expect that more than one herbalist reading this will be writing us to volunteer. What is that you look to find in plant medicines, and what is it that you value about them most?
Alissa: The earth provides everything to us. It heals and teaches me (and us) even when not ‘administered’. In the capable hands of practitioners, I’m sure amazing healing can happen in accelerated ways.
JWH: You seem to hold nothing back when you’re singing. Do you feel like an outgoing person, or is it the music that brings you out?
Alissa: I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an outgoing person. I can be quite shy. I do love and want to connect to people. Music helps me do that.
JWH: You do some songs by Tony Gatlif, the genius but largely under-appreciated film maker from France who mostly focus his movies on Roma (gypsy) culture and music. Is there a way that his work been an influence on yours?
Alissa: Certainly. It was at the time I was living in Europe and encountering Roma music in the streets and in the nights... at the same time my dear friend was showing me films from around the world..and he showed me Gatlif’s and Kusturica’s films.
JWH: Even given all the diverse musical influences in your life and the lives of your bandmates, “authenticity” is perhaps the number one defining quality of your collective work, even more so than your considerable gusto and verve. It inevitably feels indigenous and homegrown, root and real.
I’d like to ask about the other five Kalashnikovs, your lives and music, and the instruments you play.
Jed Bluenote: My first memory of music is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, when I was about four, through a very early-nineties program called "Microsoft Multimedia Beethoven." I fell deeply in love, andIhaveyet— indeed, ever— to get out. It was, quite literally, life- changing. The Period of Common Practice was joined by early rock n' roll and Irish traditional song within a few years, and everything started snowballing out of control from there. I took piano lessons from age five through age thirteen, but nothing took. It was only when I picked up the banjo whilst fifteen pages into Moby Dick at the age of thirteen (I've since finished it, rest assured) that music suddenly began to express itself through me; banjo, 'ukulele, guitar, mandolin (that's what I originally played in the Kalashnikovs), pennywhistle, and then a bunch of much stranger things — button accordion, Irish flute, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, bodhrán... I was in a swing jazz band for about a year, between early 2009 and not- quite-so-early 2010, an acoustic string quartet in the spirit of Django Rheinhardt, Eddie Lang and Benny Goodman, and we had an old acquaintance sit in with us one show. He called me up a few weeks later and asked if I wanted to meet this singer he was working with at the time — Alissa. We met in early May 2010, and I did my first gig with the inchoate Kalashnikovs a week later.
A standing joke I have is that the band consists of five Gypsies and a tinker — me. My tastes tend very strongly towards Western Europe, in contrast to the Eastern Europe of the band's palette. Irish, Scots, traditional English, Appalachian, Auvergnat and Breton, Old High German and Cajun music, as well as its rock-infused derivatives (the Pogues and Steeleye Span, in particular); rock'n'roll such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry and Paul Simon, Elvis and Ray Davies, and always, always, Beethoven by all means and at all times. Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick, Liam Clancy, Stan Rogers, the Beach Boys, all kinds of unknown composers from Gottschalk to Billings, de Fesch and Szymonowska. Theodore Roethke, Dylan Thomas, James Joyce, A. D. Hope, Tom Stoppard, Chaucer and Homer. Some Lily Allen, Erwin Schrødinger, Jack Parow, Kenny Burrell, Billy Connolly, Stan Laurel, Will Cuppy, Amazulu, Rip Rig + Panic, Mahlathini, Lonnie Donegan, Mike Seeger, Brenda Lee, the Sex Pistols, Roaring Jack, Michael Prætorius, Dan Bern, the Panorama Jazz Band, SteveFerguson, Elvis, Alkan, Amédé Ardoin, the Falcons, Julie Fowlis, Muireann Níc Amhlaoibh, Cathy Jordan, and Bulgarian women's choirs. I'm an amateur linguist, lover of gin, brandy, claret, mead, madeira, ale, chocolate, milk and tea, a wearer of kilts, a learnèd if not official metaphysician, virtuoso orthographer, neologist and perænnial seeker of Truth, Beauty, Music and Love.
Isaac Schankler: I started playing the accordion in college when I joined a klezmer band led by an avant-garde jazz saxophonist, so I came about it in a kind of roundabout way, through experimental music. I joined up with AK&K after meeting through Killsonic, which is like a huge gravity well that sucks all LA accordionists into its orbit somehow. I have kind of a stuffy academic background too, and lead a double life as a composer of chamber and electronic music. But I fell in love with klezmer, Balkan and gypsy music, all kind of simultaneously, partly because of all the cross-pollination between them, the fact that you can throw all kinds of things in there without changing its essence. Even now I’ll often play something “wrong” or “out” just for the heck of it, just to see what happens, and hope I get away with it. Chaos! But I like that it’s chaos people can dance to.
Alissa: Sebastian Steinberg, upright bass beast, played with Soul Coughing throughout the band's entire history, from 1992–2000. He also recorded and performed with guitarist Marc Ribot, performed on the Dixie Chicks’ 2006 "Accidents and Accusations" tour, and with k.d. lang during the Summer of 2007, in the film “Funny People”, and in “7 Worlds Collide” alongside members of Radiohead and Wilco.
Fiddle Dan Graziani is self taught as well as a deeply scholastic trained musician. Hailing from the Berkeley School of Music he plays for such heroic bands of punk rock as, The Adicts as well as exciting and exstatic Vegas- glorious avante guarde, Fish Circus.
“princess Frank” is one man embodying the holy ghost of musica. He is the heart of the drum line in the 20+ mobile orchestra, Killsonic (which also consumes Alissa via accordion section), the one man show of princess Frank - American Soul and Rock & Roll, the engine behind The Killsisters and the fist in Master Slave.
JWH: I understand that conference-goers may be treated to a little traditional Irish music, too, courtesy of JB: dapper, mutton- chopped guitarist?
Jed Bluenote: (The mutton chops have turned into a beard, at least sometimes, or the very 19th century way of connecting the sideburns with a mustache, which I don't think even has a name.) But "traditional Irish music" is in fact a convenient shorthand for the traditional Irish context of my songs, my singing and my performance: the songs may be drawn from South Africa, Tin Pan Alley, England, with more and more self-penned numbers and poetry, but the lens is very much a Gaelic one; a living tradition that I try to live in and continue.
JWH: I understand that you are acting as the band’s manager, promotion department and booking agent, as well songstress. That’s very impressive, but you could sure use some more help with the business side of things so you could focus your time more on your art. What do you do for yourself, that nurtures and rewards?
Alissa: Oh my! Well...yes, help would be a wonderful gift! A great booking agent would be fabulous. But, all in all, this is all an act of love. It’s effortless. Mostly. Ha! It’s playing together that really fuels the fire.
JWH: What do you hope for in your future?
Alissa: To play together often and continue enjoying making music together. And I would love to have a vineyard and farm with a barn converted into a music venue and recording space, and to hold a festival there once a year. Right now I’m looking towards AZ for that dream.
JWH: What message, advice or cheer would you like to leave our readers with?
AK: Live every moment with clarity, joy and love as much as possible. And then do it some more. And then more.
Thank you so much, and we so look forward to celebrating with you!
JWH: Thank you too, Alissa and all. We couldn’t be any more excited to welcome you to our folk herbal event, and to get to hear you play! You are one more big reason for folks to be anxious for September.