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AJ Freeman’s Vibrant Vices: What’s in Store for 2024

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Well, it’s been a while since my last post-gig report following the first Pleasant Uprising last year, and it ain’t because we’ve been gigless.

Oh no, since that first day of playing on the Isla Cuale, the Uprising has really started to win some hearts and minds. Kasava Karnival made some noise along the Libramiento, we pizazzed a posada in a pizzeria, we even stormed the beaches of Banderas Bay on our first night playing at El Solar… our drummer YoYo made an entire highlight reel about it, we’re really cool and there’s a solid body of proof.

Our early successes as a band have started to open doors for us on the scene, one of which led to our Day One debut in 2024! While many nursed the New Years’ hangovers they so doggedly strived for the previous evening, we the working class set about business as on any other Monday… and this gig had some pretty high stakes for so early in our journey.

On the line this January 1? The very first weekly residency for The Pleasant Uprising, this at a classified (but picturesque) location for security purposes.

In a town where weekly spots are hard to come by, and there are local bands out there putting on some truly great shows – shout out to The Lovers, who played their latest party at sea recently, wanna be more like them when we grow up – an offer of weekly residency is an enduring vote of confidence, a tangible endorsement of an act’s ability to deliver the goods time and again.

It was time to find out if this ambitious quintet could rise up to the challenge.

Showtime washed onto the city’s sandy shores, bringing an unexpected and short debate about which would be our first song of the year.

Having grown much more comfortable in his role as it seems we all have, Warflower would have none of this and decided we’d start out with “Dance on Vaseline” …I would have advised against throwing out what I think might be our strongest song first, but the hell with what I think.

It’s not that I don’t love the song, a genre-defying, lyrically stimulating David Byrne arrangement that we’ve really worked to put our own spin on over the past months… it’s just that a more cautious mind would have saved such a surefire, tried-and-true crowd pleaser for some of the later rounds.

…but over time I’ve learned that’s not the kind of band we are. We’re going for a KO the moment the bell rings, and we’ve got plenty of punches in the tank.

Let’s dance.

The crowd loved it, obviously – weren’t you reading that last bit? – and having maintained the attention of the assembled with Stevie Wonder/Coolio collision we like to call “Gangsta’s Pastime,” I launched into “Wolf Pack,” an original composition that delves into the collectivist concept of a band, the indispensability of its rhythm section, and, of course, how very cool we are.

It doubles as a band intro segment, and people dig it to an intensely gratifying extent… if you wanna hear the whole thing come check us out at our next confirmed public demonstration at the Red Diamond Rally in El Centro January 19, but short version is “don’t turn your back on the wolf pack.”

Later, during a performance of Marian Hill’s “Down,” guitarist Kimbo reached into his reggae and roots influences to call for a dance hall-flavored breakdown on the fly… caught it on camera and I promise my reaction is an authentic one. I think my favorite part of attending The Pleasant Uprising’s shows as a fan is that not even I’m sure what we’re going to play… but dammit, it always jams.

What had to be one of the shortest hour-and-a-half periods of my life slipped away on the Banderas breeze that first January afternoon, and before I knew it we’d played our last song, said what I hope are our weekly farewells, and packed up our instruments and adulation to head home. I’ll find out if we scored the return this week, and you will next week… promise.

In any event, it was the first show on the first day 2024, and I gotta say I feel truly fortunate to probably have plenty of both to look forward to this year.

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.

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