Bobby Young & Son
SAN FRANCISCO – Last Friday evening, November 29, the second annual Red & Blues music concert to benefit AIM WEST was held at the Brava Theater in San Francisco.
The blues concert was the final event for the week-long AIM WEST Conference held in San Francisco and organized by Tony Gonzales. The blues concert was emceed by Dr. Jose Cuellar, better known as “Dr. Loco”, a well known Bay Area musician and professor at San Francisco State University. He is an accomplished saxophone player with his own band, “Dr. Loco and his Rockin Jalepenos.”
The concert featured three different local Bay Area American Indian Blues bands. An unexpected and very special evening unfolded as each band featured a father and son performing together on stage. Luta Canelaria, Rumsen Ohlone, opened the evening with an Ancestor song and an Acorn song in his own language to honor the indigenous people of the San Francisco Bay Area. Daniel Rodriquez then performed original songs on acoustic guitar in Spanish, dedicating them to the Mexica people and their current struggles.
Twice as Good
Twice as Good, the Pomo Indian father and son blues duo from Santa Rosa was the headliner band. This well known father and son blues act won a Grammy from the Native American Music Association last year, and as expected rocked the house with their signature piece, “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You,” by Wilson Pickett. The audience was treated to another surprise when The Bobby Young Project stepped on stage. Not only was the band musically tight and extremely well-rehearsed, but Bobby Young (Cherokee and African American) introduced his young son, Nick Young, a very talented and seasoned guitar player. This was the first time this father and son duo ever played together on stage, due to Nick’s very busy touring schedule with his own band. It was a delight to see these two communicate through their guitars and music. Bobby Young opened his set with the standard, “Standing on Sacred Ground”, and encouraged audience participation (singing along) with the old tune, “Mustang Sally”. His bass player and co-lead singer, London, entranced the crowd with his stunning vocal phrasing and showmanship as he casually left the stage and played bass while strolling up and down the aisles of the theater. By this time, he had to move through audience members who were up and dancing in the aisles.
Dr. T and eight-year old Thunderchild
The final blues band set was performed by “Dr. T and the Blues Criminals”. Dr. T is a member of the Chumash Nation and holds a doctoral degree in Theater and Dance. Again, the audience was surprised to see a young boy only 7 or 8 years old on stage. This was Dr. T’s young son, “Thunderchild,” who played harmonica with his Dad’s band. He did a tremendous job, and is a natural performer. For an eight year old, it is usually very difficult to hold the spotlight on stage for so long. However, Thunderchild seemed to enjoy the experience. He hit every note on key with his harmonica, and broke into song several times. Dr. T opened his performance with a beautiful acoustic rendition of “I’m Not Your Highway” by Audioslave and “Thorn In My Side” by the Black Crows. He sang both songs without his own guitar, just minimal accompaniment and it was a good decision because it showcased his dramatic and intense vocal ability.
Bill Means, co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM) spoke about the importance of artists to the Movement.
“There has never been a successful revolution without music. Indigenous artists and musicians are just as important as the warriors. We started this whole movement on Alcatraz,” recounted Means. “Alcatraz was the spark that lit the fire of the Indigenous movement worldwide. Now there are 375 million Indigenous people around the world organizing for our rights. The colonizers have always needed three things: 1) land 2) resources and 3) cheap labor. They need these three things to keep the system operating. These young musicians will carry on when we “old soldiers” are too old to carry it forward,” said Means.
Indeed, if Friday’s concert was any indication, it proved that American Indian musicians are already passing on their knowledge, experience, talent and dedication to the next generation.
Nanette Bradley Deetz is of Dakota, Cherokee and German descent. She is a poet, writer, educator and sometimes musician whose poetry appears in several anthologies. The most current is “Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down,” published by Scarlett Tanager Press; “Turtle Island to Abya Yala, A Love Anthology of Art and Poetry by Native American and Latina Women,” Malinalli Press, and “Alameda Island Theme Poems, 2004,2005 & 2006.” She combines poetry and music in her band, Redbird Giving which performs at many Bay Area native and non-native venues. She is a correspondent for the Alameda Journal, Alameda Sun and Native News Online.
PHOTOS Courtesy: Valerie Drouillard