From May 2 to 7th, Mandrágora was on our big east coast tour. We drove 3300 miles, burnt 130 gallons of gas, played 5 milongas, and insulted each other's manliness uncountably many times. Most importantly, we had a tremendous amount of fun and we still (more or less) like each other. This was our first trip outside of Minnesota, and our big goal was to let milongueros across the country know that we have it going on up in Minnesota.
More details and a "trip diary" after the jump.
We left Minneapolis about 2 hours late, and got to Magnus about 30 minutes before we had to go on. Magnus had a great 2-level stage and nice sound system, so all was well. There were 3 dozen dancers waiting for us before we even played a note. It was nice, cozy, dimly lit place that was perfect to start our tour. The room was quite small, and since the dancers did not generally follow line of dance, only a few of them could dance at a time. As far as I know, there hasn't been dancing to live tango music since Christian's
Violinist Christian Zamora used to live in Madsion and is good friends with the brothers that own Magnus and several other restaurants in town. After the gig, we went to one of those places: "The Weary Traveler". I had an amazing Hungarian goulash, but Rahn hit the jackpot when he ordered the "Carne Asada", which was a tender juicy cut of beef marinated with just the right amount of spices. We also had a lot of beer. Christian stayed with his friends and the rest of us went back to the apartment of Stephen Fosdal, president of the Madison Tango Society.
After partying all night at Stephen Fosdals, we woke up around noon for the relatively short drive to Chicago. Our primary goal was to get to Devon Avenue for the best Indian food in the midwest. We go to Mateo's favorite restaurant, Sher-e-punjab, right as the put our the evening buffet. We ate some of the best Indian food we've had in a long time. We got back in the van and headed to Café Duvall on the other side of town.
Café Duvall is a charming little coffee house / art gallery run by Bill Duvall. Bill is a big fan of Tango and has regular tango nights at his café. Julie Koidin of (a href="http://www.tiempotango.com/>Tiempo Tango Chicago stopped by to say "hi" and played a few tunes with us. The gig started slowly with few dancers, but by the second set we had a good crowd dancing intently and with the music. Argentine tango instructors Tete Rusconi and Silvia Ceriani stopped by with and Ray Barbosa of the Chicago Tango Festival. Tete and Silvia were
on their last night in the States before returning home. We had met all 3 of them a week or two earlier when he was teaching in Minneapolis. They were joined by another visiting tango instructor, Carlos Copello with Netza Roldan of the American Tango Institute. Basically, we had never played for so many fantastic dnacers in such a small place. We were going to play untill 12:30 AM and get on the road, but thigs didn't work out that way! We played a birthday tango for one of the dancers, and all the fabulous leads in the room strutted their stuff with plenty of holleo (hollered affirmations, like in Flemenco). We ended up playing about 8 encores untill 1:30 AM. When we played milongas, everyone went wild. We ended with Piazzolla's Soledad, which is quite slow, long, and difficult to dance to. Zamora played his best violin solo ever. I was almost in tears. The dancers reflected every nuance that we played. We've never reached that level of "tango-connection" between musicians and dancers untill that night. If you can image your emotional reaction to the best dance you've ever had, that was what we were feeling that night.
We didn't leave Café Duvall untill about 2:30AM, but we still hit a lot of traffic leaving Chicago. Our plan was to drive all night and show up mid-morning at my in-laws house in Buffalo. We had it all planned out: since I can't stay up too late, I would drive the first shift. As a professional musician and heavy partier, Scott is used to staying up late, so he would drive the wee hours. Since Rahn is a postal worker, he is used to gigging until midnight, sleeping 3 hours and getting to work at 4AM. We figured he'd be able to sleep first and drive the anchor shift from 6 to 8AM after sleeping a few hours. This all kinda fell apart: everyone stayed up way too late goofing off. Rahn and Christian we the first to fall asleep and left Scott to drive. I couldn't sleep: every time I was almost asleep, Scott would hit a rumble strip or jerk his head awake. This didn't phase Rahn and Christian. The upshot of this is that we had to stop at a rest area and all sleep in the car until one of us was rested enough to drive. We got to Buffalo at 1, ate some roast-beef-on-weck sandwiches, took showers and had long naps before the drive to Rochester.
The milonga in Rochester was pretty uneventful. We showed up with just a few minutes to spare and had some serious problems with our sound. It was "Lindy Hop" weekend, and there were demos during our breaks. The crowd was pretty big and the dance floor was even bigger.
We had a little "Tango Brunch" at the home of one of the dancers before we hit the road for Boston. It turns out that I was the only one who bothered to sleep the night before, so I drove the entire length of New York while the guys snored away. Christian was driving when we pulled into Boston about 3PM. It was his first time driving in Boston and it scared the crap out of him. We had to pass though a series of tunnels downtown. Christian had his sunglasses on and could not see the signs. But that wouldn't have helped him anyway, since the don't bother to put signs up until the actual exit. We found our hotel. Some of us took naps and some of us watched "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" on a giant flat screen TV. We met the milonga organizers and went to an amazing Brazilian restaurant for dinner. I had an amazing bean dish called a Feijoado and the guys had the buffet, also heavy on beans. This turned out to be a tragic mistake.
Springstep was a very nice dance center devoted to social dance. We gave a class on tango musicality that we called Dancing in the Music. We talked about how tango music evolved and about different ways you can dance to it. I was super nervous and forgot to say half of what I prepared. It took a while for us to get our sound right, but once we got it, we sounded pretty good. We played 4 30 minute sets over 5 hours, so I got a lot of time to dance. I met a tango DJ named Elmira who has a radio show in Portsmouth, NH. She had even played us her show the week before. I would guess that there were about 150 dancers there, most of whom really dug our act.
After the Milonga, we partied really, really hard with Rob Connaire of Philadelphia. We met Rob last June when he came to Minneapolis to organize a bachelor party for his brother. He wanted to throw a milonga for him, so he hired Mandrágora and had us hire about 8 followers for his brother's friends. (For my part, I loved acting as a "tango pimp". I got a kick out of asking my favorite followers if they would dance for a bachelor party). Everyone had a good time at the bachelor party. Rob drove up from Philly to see us and dance to our tunes. We ended up getting really wasted in the hotel room. We were considering trashing the place like we were a hockey team, but we figured that that would give tango a bad image. We woke up just in time for check-out and were on the road by 11:30, fortified by Dunkin Donuts Coffee (which just so happens to be the best in the world, as long as you don't buy it in Minnesota).
We got to New Haven by 2:30 and had a musician's master class for the Yale tango orchestra, which (at the time) consisted of a pianist (Linda Alila) and a Cellist (Linnea Weiss). We sat down in a circle and worked on playing a tango tune ("9 de Julio") in the most tango istic way possible. We took a break to eat some Indian food and went to the milonga.
The Yale Tango Club is an awesome tango scene. It is the youngest, most enthusiastic tnago scene I've ever experienced. A lot of the were great dancers and the ones that weren't were nurtured by the ones that were. We played in what looked like an 1850 Frat-house dining hall out of some John Irving novel. We played acoustically and could fill the whole room with sound. We made a good connection with the crowd and had a great time.
A few days later, Linda Alilia posted a mini-review of our minlonga to the "University Tango" mailinglist, an email community of grad student tangueros:
Believe it or not, we left New Haven at 10:30 Eastern time and made it back to Minneapolis by 6PM the following afternoon. We decided to drive through New York City to savor that big city feelings. One of my all-time favorite sights is the view of Manhattan from the George Washington Bridge. (Did you know that if you take all the cable in the George Washington Bridge and lay it end-to-end, the bridge would fall down?) We found an all-night Dunkin Donuts in the far suburbs and stocked up on their life-giving elixir. After leaving the sprawl, New Jersey and Pennsylvania proved to be quite monotonous. Somewhere before Ohio, we once again had to sleep in a rest area until one of us was fit to drive. The midwest was monotonously boring, but we hung on until got back home.
A few weeks before our trip, I got a call from Bill Kuzbecko of the Cedar Cultural Center asking if we would play on May 11, since some national act had to cancel. Every few months, a national act cancels and Bill asks us to play some weekend date. This is the first time in quite a while that we could make it. We didn't have a lot of time to promote the show and our fans know that they can see us for free every Sunday, so we didn't get that big of a crowd. We took the best of our tour music and put it together for a 2-set "Best-of" show that we recorded for posterity. Watch this website for downloadable MP3s of this gig.
Posted by bbarnes at June 1, 2007 4:20 PM
Posted by: Elmira at June 13, 2007 11:39 PM