Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – This might go on for a few hundred words, so if you’re short on patience I’ll save you the scrolling: had a blast at Isla de Los Muertos, looking forward to the Kasava Karnival November 12… the Uprising will be there, see you in the streets.
With that having been typed, one great piece of advice I received in advance of the The Pleasant Uprising’s fist big gig at Isla de Los Muertos was to form as many memories as possible of the big day, and it resonated with me.
I’ve heard more than one story of people who forget the finer details of their own wedding day – the biggest celebration most people will ever attend – because they were so busy following the script that they forgot to stop and form memories.
Sharing a body with another entity as I do, I promised my selves that I wouldn’t let that happen to us here.
The Uprising arrived on the Isla that day at 2 pm sharp for sound check, toting the half-ton of gear that makes a show go and glow… amps, pedals, cords, stands, lights, signage… hell, a prop or two in the case of the Uprising.
Let’s actually take a second to unpack this: if you’re a big fan of the local live music scene and haven’t hugged a drummer today, go ahead and do that.
Seriously, take a good look at a drum kit sometime. These devoted musicians tote dozens of pieces of heavy, awkward, surprisingly fragile items to and fro, gig after gig, rain, sleet and snow (well maybe not frozen rain in Vallarta but you get the idea).
Anyways, after we had finally shuttled everything up the pedestrian pathways of the Isla Cuale and to the stage where we’d be performing that evening, we plugged it all up and waited.
And wait, it’s almost 4:00 now isn’t it? “Isn’t the first act about to come on?”, I inquired with a festival staffer. “Yup!” came the cheery, factual response.
Obviously, the schedule being booked solid with talented performers from 4 on, we had to start sound check before any performance so that our sound would be checked before our performance, it made sense to me at least.
Just then, an organizer informed us that we couldn’t perform sound check at the moment…I just think he didn’t believe in our vision hard enough, because we proceeded to do just that.
“We are The Pleasant Uprising and this is Dance on Vaseline!“, I announced to the quickening trickle of early arrivals.
We were. It was. Everyone will just have to live with that.
As the sun set, show time crept up with increasing urgency.
At the risk of breaking the suspension of disbelief that holds up the entire edifice of entertainment… I get as nervous as anyone else before going on stage.
Lookit, there have been a range of studies on fears in our strange little species and a commonly cited outcome of these is that the top fear amongst the general public is public speaking.
Consider that sentence thoroughly: Many people would rather DIE than go before their fellow members of society and speak their thoughts (unless you count social media, which people somehow believe isn’t real life).
I think that’s kinda dumb, but then again I guess that’s the mindset that sees some unsuspecting person place a microphone in your hands with no idea of your intentions for its use.
One more aside then we’ll get to the gig: In the wrong hands a microphone can be as volatile as a pipe bomb… the vibrations that come from an amplified human voice can send shock waves through civilizations.
However, on the other side a microphone can also be an indomitable force for the common good. The platform that it provides can give voice to the voiceless, and indeed speak truth to power.
Not many people feel comfortable wielding that level of magic.
That includes some people you’ve absolutely seen on stage… for example, Freddie Mercury is well-known to have overwhelming stage fright.
Yeah, that Freddie Mercury.
Obviously, the guy pushed through it from time to time.
And so, about an hour before show time, I uttered the magic incantation that drags me through my normal human insecurities into performance mode, one learned long ago from a veteran of bright lights and big stages: “Don’t stop. Don’t apologize. You’re the shit.”
Ooh, my body started to spin and my legs began to shake. WOO-OOO!!!
The lightning hit me. Warflower Jones was ready to rock. Hearing guitarist Kimbo and drummer LoLo warming up on stage, we knew it was time.
With a sharp lung full of air, we blasted through the curtain and assumed our organizational position at the front of the stage. The audience looked on, suspicious as always of an unestablished act but certainly open to enjoying it.
This is the moment that keeps most people singing in the shower and picking away at a ukulele in their bedrooms… the moment of judgement, the moment of truth. It’s not for any lack of talent or inclination, but a simple lack of audacity.
Few have accused AJ Freeman of being in-audacious – just listen to the guy, he refers to himself in the third person – but for a public performance of this profile, I couldn’t go it alone. Fortunately for me, Warflower always lurks within. Together, we started to sing on stage where people could see and film us.
“We will be victorious!” we belted in the grand finale to our first song, the lyric swelling in our spirit to the approval of the audience. Soaking in the applause and whoops, I finally believed it… the Uprising Era had arrived in Puerto Vallarta.
The band powered through a few more songs before my first solo song came up… it would be easy to hide behind a singer with the towering talents of our own female vocalist/keyboardist ZiZi, but let’s be honest… her core skill set doesn’t include analyzing the lyrical mastery of Anthony Kiedis.
Mine does… besides, as the only band member without an instrument – saving up for that electric guitar, my secondhand acoustic isn’t really gonna cut it on a stage of this size – if I don’t sing a song or two solo I’m basically a mascot.
Warflower, sensing that I was about to break the “no apologizing” rule after barking the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Give it Away directly at all of Gringo Gulch, quickly snapped me out of it by acknowledging aloud that if I was actually sorry about it, then I would have given up the microphone… and we damn sure weren’t gonna do that.
The rest of the show proceeded as practiced… when the set was finished, I walked off the stage and into the appreciative crowd to shake some hands, kiss some babies, and seek out the holder of The Envelope.
“FEELIN’ GOOD, MY BROTHER’S GONNA HUG ME!”
The line from that set list selection echoed in my head as I draped myself over our bassist Sr. Grooveman, an acknowledgement of my fatigue after a long day as much as it was an appreciation of his abilities.
He returned the embrace immediately, but as I handed him his share of The Envelope in the embrace, his squeeze got just a bit tighter.
The festival finished, it was time to put Warflower back in the box… at least, until The Pleasant Uprising’s next gig at the Kasava Karnival November 12. I actually think he’d be cool to have around on an everyday basis, but I suspect relatively few people ACTUALLY like to hang around a guy who’s always bursting into rooms wailing while throwing confetti and jump kicks.
In any event, the annual Isla de Los Muertos may only be in its second year, but I feel pretty confident saying it was the best… or maybe that’s just Warflower talking. It’s hard to tell any more, especially since I have to lean into his presence this season.
Hey, we’ll see what happens.
AJ Freeman has enjoyed Vallarta’s warm welcome for over 5 years and hopes he has done some good during his time here. Passionate about self-expression and human potential, he combines these interests in weekly wrap-up “Vibrant Vices.” AJ also shares a body with Warflower Jones, ringleader of The Pleasant Uprising… which is totally just a local party band and not a political organization of any kind as that would be against various jurisdictional laws.