It'd be pretty hard to read the entries posted here in the past thirty days without noticing a sudden change of tone and mood, even for the newcomer. Except for the official announcement that was posted on the Mohave web site and sent to the mailing list, there's been no commentary about the circumstances leading to the recent departure of Randy, Bunky, John and J.D.
To be fair, I won't get into the reasons here because there are, as the song goes, "two sides to every story" and everybody involved has a valid point of view, not to mention that I'm not sure exactly what caused this fragmentation other than the fact that perhaps it was a long time coming. Everyone walked of their own volition. I wanted to play our remaining scheduled shows; two at Lake Eola, one in Hernando County and the CD Release Powwow. I'm intensely disappointed that we're not playing these shows and I know that many of our extended tribe are as well.
A good number of you have asked me privately about the situation, thanks for that, and the question is generally: so, now what for Mohave?
No question, Mohave's continuing forward. And to explain that, I'm going to try and shed some light upon how this southwestern world came to be.
THE EL REY DRIVE-IN
The rows are, of course, empty--they are lined with speaker stands that undulate along with the rolling waves of grey speckled concrete. There is a small stage at the front near the movie screen and the only other structure in the fenced-in area is a vaguely art-deco looking building that houses the concession stand, bathrooms, offices and projection room. The Impala pulls up to this structure and the young man steps out and looks around before walking up to a door and knocking sharply.
INT - EL REY OFFICE
VICTOR SIERVNEY is the owner/manager of The El Rey. He is Russian, in his 50's, and speaks English well. He pulls back the top half of the door with one hand, leaving a bottle of vodka in the other as he confronts the young man.
"Showtime's at dusk. You've got a couple of hours. Come back then," he says blearily, squinting into the sun. The young man smiles slightly.
"Actually, Vic. I'm looking for a job."
INT - CONCESSION STAND
Victor walks over past the candy counter and soft drink machines to a closet and pulls out a handyman's coverall. He holds them up with a rueful shake of his head and hands them to the young man.
"I used to fit in these, imagine it. They are still too big for you, but will keep you from getting stained. Everything is in here, it's a horrible mess. They've been trading off janitorial duties, those two. I am sorry that this is the only offer of work that I have. Some homecoming. Let me be the first to say 'welcome back.' And the ladies toilet on east side is problem. Wear the waders."
Mohave Oil: The Seed
In either 1997 or 1998 on a trip to Disney/MGM Studios, a trip to Catastrophe Canyon yielded the sight of the words "Mohave Oil" on the side of an exploding gas pump. The word "Mohave" slides across my mind.
I had been wanting to bring the mountain dulcimer into a new groove while maintaining deep love and respect for traditional roots music. Late spring of 1999 after a Strobe 7 show at The Social in downtown Orlando, bassist Mike Burney pressed a doob into my hand, told me that he liked my columns in Jam Magazine and that he wanted to jam together some time.
As I talked out the idea of putting the dulcimer into a rock situation, it became apparent that my internet radio show producer, McGyver, was also an accomplished drummer. So, there were the elements of this stew already sort of floating around when I hit the road on a summer tour later that year.
Mohave County: An Ephiphany
Now, the next part of this "Behind The Music" trip sounds like bull hocky. But it's not bull hocky. So if you're disinclined to entertain anything remotely resembling bull hocky, then go running madly, screaming away and I'll wait for you to go before I continue.
Okay, they're gone. So, we're in Kingman, Arizona heading towards Las Vegas and it's hotter than hell and it's only seven-thirty in the by-God morning. Suddenly, we're pulled over onto the side of the road and I'm running butt-ass naked down the side of the highway. Sneakers on, of course, because I'm not a complete nut-jobber.
The word "why" might be floating around in your cerebral cortex and, to be honest, I don't blame you a bit. See, that's exactly what I was wondering as the trucker drove by with his air-horn blaring and a sprint back to the car revealed that every glory-holin' bit of butt-nakery was caught on video. Replaying the moment, literally, it can really only be chalked up to pure abandon, no peyote necessary. At the root of it was just a simple, primal desire to get natural; to be unafraid and unadorned.
Just outside of Kingman, Arizona. This is critical. I'll explain later.
On the way back east along Interstate 10, which is the longest goddamn road in the universe, several new songs were born. "Moment Of Hell" came in Phoenix; "Ring-A-Ding" in Houston. The seeds for "Down To Earth" were planted in Las Vegas, not long after the ass-happy dance just outside of Kingman. It was coming back through that corridor when we discovered Kingman, and that stretch of road subject to streaking, was located in Mohave county.
There was that word again. Now, there was Mojave with a "J" in California. But Mohave with an "H" was Arizona. Both were First Nations peoples, which sounded a deep drum within my spirit. At the heart of Native American music is a tribal rhythm that pulses, that sets a groove for living, not as distraction or as product, but as an expression of flesh and spirit. The Scots-Irish roots of the dulcimer share much in common with the music of First Nations and African performers who keep one foot solidly in the soil when they create.
And this is all swirling in my head on the road to Phoenix, where we promptly blow a tire at six in the bloody morning. What is it with early on this trip?
Cactus Rose: Thar She Blows!
Anyone who's fixed a tire only to discover that you not only didn't fix it, but you went so far as to cause further damage, can attest to the fact that it's humbling. It's also a stinker of a way to start a 1200 mile lope across three states in a vain attempt to reach San Antonio before a hurricane hits, but you pick your battles. And we hit a Midas and they send us on our way, there I'm staring out the window at these huge fields of cacti. Tall suckers. Ten, fifteen foot, some of them. They looked to be arranged almost symmetrically. Dark-to-pale green with variegations and striations of yellow to murky brown all along their prickly arms. Dozens and dozens of them, streaming past like troops under review.
Thinking about dulcimers and tribal roots, of the sudden energy burst in Mohave county along Highway 93, of a drummer and bassist that had suddenly made themselves available, of the music that had been pouring forth on this tour, inspired by the different people and places throughout the southwest, and then I saw the red bloom.
Stark, crimson red, beaming from the center of a cactus that was smack dab in the middle of a cluster of cacti. Just one red cactus flower. I kept my eyes wide open at watched the passing shapes for any more signs of seasonal bloom on red cactus flowers and I'll tell you directly, there were none. I watched for twenty minutes and then gave up because my eyes were plotting a revolt; not another red bloom to be seen.
The word "why" stuck its head in and said 'hey.'
There is beauty in the desert.
What the hell kind of new-age crap was that? When all of the above sort of came crashing together and melded into one simple core of existence, it sounded like the inner fold of a Hallmark card. But in time, I've come to decode what it sort of means. And that's what makes Mohave work.