Words by: Nick Boeka :: Images by: Susan J. Weiand
New Monsoon :: 08.17.07 & 08.18.07 :: Independent :: San Francisco, CA
In this industry, one of the most difficult decisions a band has to make is what to do when an individual member's goals or dreams divert from the group's goals and dreams? How do you handle this situation? Do you disband, take an extended break, restructure or simply take the ebb and flow in stride? For San Francisco-based, New Monsoon, the approach has been to hit the ground running and not look back.
| New Monsoon :: 08.17 :: San Francisco|
At the tail end of last year, three members of the then seven-piece band veered off from the group's path. Bassist Ben Bernstein left suddenly, paving the way for one of the best jamband-free-agency acquisitions, namely Ron Johnson of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe fame. Shortly thereafter, both tabla/percussion player Rajiv Parikh and percussionist Brian Carey put another crush on the New Monsoon rhythm sound, announcing they were leaving the band to focus on their families. With determination, they emerged to a sold-out performance at The Fillmore in early 2007 - the band a leaner, tighter, more cohesive unit focused on creating a full rich sound. With that performance, we were introduced to New Monsoon V.
As 2007 progressed, NM5 have been touring coast-to-coast, and spent this past summer playing heavily on the festival circuit. In addition, they found time to record a new album, appropriately entitled V, which was produced by John Cutler, best known for his time with The Grateful Dead, where he was a recording engineer, Front of House sound engineer, and co-producer of In the Dark, Without a Net and the Jerry Garcia Band's How Sweet It Is. What's apparent when listening to this recording is the group's effort to capture the essence of each track. The result is a skillfully crafted album that flows very well from start to finish, and offers strong, concise solos and vocals from everyone in the group.
These special weekend performances at San Francisco's Independent served not only as the official CD release party but also as the final hometown performances by drummer Marty Ylitalo, who recently announced he is leaving the group to pursue a full-time position with the Blue Man Group. Unpredictably, the band and fans alike have actually warmly received what might have been another blow to New Monsoon's psyche. Each night at The Independent, homemade laminates with a picture of Ylitalo in full Blue Man face with the saying "Blue Man-Soon" at the bottom were handed out. Every band member wore the laminates, often attached to their instruments, to further show Ylitalo their support for his decision. Before the group's final encore on Saturday, Ylitalo emerged to say a special thanks to family, friends and band mates, and visibly struggled to hold back his tears.
| Haque & Miller :: 08.17 :: San Francisco|
These shows also featured members of New Monsoon's extended Bay Area family in opening slots. Friday night found a stripped down Fareed Haque Group with Haque on acoustic guitar, Eric Levy on piano and new addition Bubai on tabla. The set was an inspiring display of musicianship, as the group moved through Haque originals, restructured renditions of classical standards, and new material. On Saturday, Trevor Garrod from Tea Leaf Green offered a solo set. As the crowd shuffled in and the room began to fill, Garrod worked through some TLG material and solo pieces, a one-man-band using a loop machine to create backing rhythms as he moved from piano to guitar, percussion and even flute.
On both nights the crowd was eagerly awaiting New Monsoon and when they played the energy in the room simply poured out of the venue. Electric guitarist Jeff Miller provided some awe-inspiring solos throughout the weekend, especially a "Mountain Air" on Friday that featured Haque exchanging licks with him, clearly a stand out for fans of both artists. The group crafted the setlists remarkably well, including some strong covers like Led Zeppelin's "Wanton Song," Supertramp's "Bloody Well Right" and the Grateful Dead's "Help on the Way"> "Slipknot" and "Franklin's Tower." To mark Saturday's final hometown show for Ylitalo, the group also invited Tea Leaf's Josh Clark to sit in several times on guitar.
| Ron Johnson - New Monsoon :: 08.18 :: San Francisco|
If the past is any indication of New Monsoon's determination in dealing with change, the future will be very bright for this group. At publishing time we await the final confirmation of the Ylitalo's replacement, but the word on the street is that this new "kid" is an incredible talent, playing multiple percussion instruments AND tabla besides a traditional kit, which may offer snippets of the older World Beat sound. The band hits the road hard in September and October, and will be traveling the country. So, if you haven't seen New Monsoon recently make a point to check them out now!
| Marty Ylitalo - New Monsoon:: 08.18 :: San Francisco|
Set 1:Bridge of the Gods, The Other Side, Blackjack, Water Vein, Song for Marie, On the Sun, Bron Y Aur Stomp, Mtn Air*
Set 2: Freedom, En Fuego > Wanton Song Instrumental > En Fuego, Alaska, Lotus Dreams*, Neon Block, Gelstream
Encore: White Sky Rain
* with Fareed Haque
Set 1: Sweet Brandywine, Greenhouse, Romp, Bloody Well Right > Blue Queen, Patato's Mission, One Step Ahead of the Blues*, Traveling Gypsies
Set 2: Southern Dew, Help on the Way > Slipknot > Double Clutch, Get Behind the Mule*, Copper Mine, Daddy Long Legs
Encore: Rock Springs Road, Stagger Lee > Franklin's Tower*#
* with Josh Clark of TLG
# with Trevor Garrod of TLG
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