The world stops at our doorstep

SOLAS, Tiempo Libre to offer Irish, Cuban flair at Fort Lewis

SOLAS is touring behind the band’s latest release, the historical homage “Shamrock City.” The Celtic folk-rockers return Wednesday night to the Concert Hall. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of SOLAS

SOLAS is touring behind the band’s latest release, the historical homage “Shamrock City.” The Celtic folk-rockers return Wednesday night to the Concert Hall.

It’s never been easy to get to Durango – even Will Rogers said so, after all – but for some the road is longer than others.

Celtic superstars SOLAS learned that lesson firsthand in October when an early winter storm stranded the band in Denver and forced the cancelation of their show at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.

Weather permitting, and it should, they’ll play their rescheduled gig Wednesday. It’s inconvenient, perhaps, but these things happen.

The journey that brings Thursday’s guests to town, Tiempo Libre, is the stuff of which movies are made. As the first all-Cuban timba band to live and play music in the United States, the band’s backstory explains why they look so happy every time they take the stage.

“I was in the army and told them I was going to Guatemala to visit my family,” said Jorge Gomez, Tiempo Libre’s pianist and musical director. In 1995, he left Cuba for good.

“I lost everything – my house, my family, but that’s the price of freedom.”

Gomez and his bandmates, who range in age from 24 to 44, spent their youth in Cuba during the 1980s listening to illegal radio broadcasts from Miami on the rooftops of their homes. It was, ironically, the only way they could hear Cuban music.

“When I was in school we couldn’t learn or hear Cuban music, only classical,” Gomez said.

“If they caught you listening, they’d throw you in jail for a couple of days and more if you’re caught again.

The only other music that was allowed was the Beatles – we had John Lennon Park, but that was it, and I think it was because Castro liked John Lennon.”

After Gomez made his break, the other band members followed suit. The bassist escaped to Germany, the conga player went to Argentina and the sax player went to Italy. They all met in Miami, which is now their base of operations, and it’s been an 11-year global party ever since.

“The band is like a big family. Every weekend there’s a party in someone’s house, we never stop partying,” he said.

“I call the concert a Cuban party – when we go on stage we want people to feel the way we feel at that moment. That’s the idea, to have fun.”

SOLAS also has a story to tell. The band’s latest tour features songs from “Shamrock City,” a collection of musical stories about turn-of-the-century Butte, Mont.

That’s where 25-year old Irish immigrant Michael Conway was bludgeoned to death in 1916 by local law enforcement.

Conway was the great-great uncle of SOLAS’ front-man Seamus Egan, and the album is a work in progress.

The band is soliciting similar stories about immigration to incorporate into the upcoming record, which is scheduled for a 2013 release. EPs of the first five songs will be available at Wednesday’s show, and fans also can share their family stories with the band at each tour stop or online.

ted@durangoherald.com

Tiempo Libre brings its Cuban party to the Concert Hall stage Thursday night. It’s the first all-Cuban timba band to live and play music in the United States. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Sony Masterworks

Tiempo Libre brings its Cuban party to the Concert Hall stage Thursday night. It’s the first all-Cuban timba band to live and play music in the United States.