Once you’re a fan of gypsy music you’re a fan for life. Doesn’t matter if you were once a punk rocker or jam band kid, an EDM fan or guitar-strumming folkie, when you commit whole hog to the world of gypsy music, you are in it for the long haul.
That’s how it is for Durango locals Michael Rendon and Brian Arens, two dudes continuing to fly the gypsy music flag with Carute Roma, the eight-musician local band who will celebrate the release of their second record with a show Friday (June 3) at the Union Social House and Saturday at Mancos Brewing Co.
Their affair with the music began years ago.
“I went to Europe specifically for Roma music festivals, and that was anything from gypsy swing to traditional stuff that we play,” Rendon said. “I love it. It’s fairly simple, super fun, everybody can dance along to it, it’s there for a good time.”
“I was living at Michael’s house 17 years ago, he busted out this gypsy violin book, he was a closet gypsy violin player for a few years. I would see if I could play along the chords while he played the melody. It hooked me from there,” Arens added. “It’s got a different, worldly sound to it that spoke to me, and ever since then I’ve just loved it and loved hearing more of it from around the world.”
The gypsy music scene is a whole world not unlike America’s jam-band or bluegrass culture. Pre-internet, the music was spread by fans trading tapes at shows and festivals, while the musicians are keeping songs from the public domain alive that are decades – if not centuries – old. It’s a modern, musical history lesson that digs into the music and culture of old-Eastern Europe, while influencing jazz, folk, indie and even punk rock here in the States.
Carute Roma’s new record, titled “Roma Road,” celebrates the genre’s history by featuring some songs whose original sources are unknown because of their age. Those songs of the public domain are mixed in with some Carute Roma originals, new tunes that sound as if they were written ages ago. It’s a bouncy and fun package of music from a band that operates as a collective; the new tunes are written by the whole band, who in addition to Rendon and Arens are Nicole Carey on trumpet and vocals; Robert Aspen on accordion; Lisa Sumi on accordion; Mark Walser on violin; Jon Broholm on bass; and David Sachs on drums.
WHAT: Carute Roma CD Release Party.
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday (June 3).
WHERE: Union Social House, 3062 Main Ave.
TICKETS: $10 suggested donation.
MORE INFORMATION: Call 759-4144.
“A lot of the times someone brings this very basic format of the song to practice, just a chord progression and a simple melody. And we start jamming it out, and everyone adds their parts. Everyone is a songwriter, because the songs wouldn’t be complete without everyone adding their part,” Arens said.
“Each instrument adds its own piece, then you have a song,” Rendon added. “We fiddle with it a little bit and change a few things, but for the most part, each musician is responsible for their own part and adds their own parts to it.”
This is music that is part folk, part jazz and all world-inspired dance music. Its influences are limitless, and the band is similar, as Carute Roma is a group made up of local musicians who have banged around in other local bands for years; the one common denominator is that they all dig on all styles of music.
“Mark plays in bluegrass bands, David has played in all sorts of bands over the years. I played in punk bands growing up, so it’s a whole group of folks from a wide variety of backgrounds,” Rendon said. “It’s a whole group that are a bunch of lovers of music.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.