Wenatchee band a blending of sounds
By Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writer
WENATCHEE -- A Wenatchee musician with a taste for blending sound headlines the Tumbleweed Folk Music Festival on Labor Day weekend.
Michael Carlos weaves his music savvy through several instruments -- he plays piano, guitar, harmonica and accordion, as well as sings. Combine that mix with his seven-piece band, and you have a sound that will rock and soothe your soul at the same time.
The 33-year-old musician is of Spanish-American decent but was adopted by a couple with Eastern European roots and raised in California's San Joaquin Valley. That fusion of heritage could have something to do with his eclectic taste in music.
He blends punk, Latin, blues, country, alternative, jazz and folk as well as something he calls "cheesy classic rock." This creates a live stage show that could lead to anything.
His band is made up of bassist Eric Frank, Vern Smith on percussion, Darren Reynolds on drums, Sergio Cuevas on guitar, Andy Cuevas on violin, Cathie Lau on cello and Angel Saavedra on percussion and backup vocals.
The Michael Carlos Band was named northcentral Washington's favorite musician/band in 2005 in a Wenatchee World readers poll. He's performed as a solo acoustic folksinger as well as played with a number of bar bands around the Northwest before forming his own band a few years ago.
Carlos released his debut album in 2004 titled Yesterday's Icons. That was followed by last month's Damage and Remainder, which included music evoked by tragedies in his life -- the death of his father and a car accident that nearly cost him his life but killed his girlfriend.
Jambands.com calls Carlos a reincarnation of Warren Zevon, minus the chemical self-destructiveness. Zevon is a Grammy-winning musician known for his cynical view of life, which at times brought a dark, sometimes humorous side to his music.
Carlos doesn't really appear to be so cynical when you listen to his music or watch his videos on YouTube.
But you can judge that for yourself Aug. 30 at Howard Amon Park. The evening concert starts at 7 p.m. The Michael Carlos Band will wrap up the Tumbleweed evening following the music of Dan Maher, Hot Heads of Gypsy Jazz and Uncle Bonsai.
Return to Top
Another successful Acoustic Music Festival
Cashmere Valley Record Staff Writer
It was fitting Wenatchee musician Michael Carlos opened the 15th Annual Leavenworth Coffeehouse's Acoustic Music Festival at Waterfront Park Saturday as each has survived troublesome times of late.
Since his 2004 debut album, "Yesterday's Icons," his father died (2005) and Carlos was involved in a car accident a year later on Blewett Pass that claimed the life of his girlfriend Jennifer Reese.
Recent turbulent times for the organizers of the Coffeehouse threatened the 2008 season because the venue had to vacate its former digs at the Chumstick Grange.
But brighter things are seemingly on the horizon for both as the Coffeehouse has found a new home at Barn Beach Reserve and Carlos has just released his second album.
The 37-year-old Carlos, known for his eclectic, mix-and-match tunes, endured the punishing midday heat, which wreaked havoc on his guitar strings, in a black t-shirt. But other than the color of his shirt and a cumbia dedicated to Reese, there was little to suggest he was a man in mourning.
There was however, plenty to suggest that this was a man who survived some hard times. His lyrics spoke time and again of being out of control, of having more than one way to fall, and of wearing adversity well.
True to Carlos' musical trademark, he mixed the chaotic lyrics with happy songs and goofy banter with the audience during his one-hour set.
"The next two performers are personal friends of mine," he said. "They should call this CarlosFest."
One of the songs in his set that enchanted the audience the most was an fast-paced tune in Spanish called "Playerita" (Little Beach Girl), which once again reflected the black-and-white nature of Carlos' music.
"I'm dealing with a lot of dark, personal things," said Carlos, whose real name is Karl Michael Polivka. "And "Playerita" was just conceived as a daydream, someone imagining an ideal dream girl on the beach, kind of as a distraction."
His new album, which he also pitched during the show, is called "Damage and Remainder"
The festival itself was a welcome distraction of sorts for the Leavenworth Coffeehouse, after a year of wondering what's next.
Cindy Rietveldt, bookings coordinator for the Coffeehouse, remembers last year's uncertainty.
"We had a festival...but we didn't know if it was going to be our last event," she said. "We wanted to continue the coffeehouse, but we knew we had to make some real changes to keep it working. Then we had the opportunity through Icicle Arts to move into their wonderful space at the Barn Beach Reserve, which for us was fantastic."
The new building is financially supported, Rietveldt said, freeing the Coffeehouse from having to pay rent.
"That makes something as small and grassroots as we are a lot easier to produce music, she said."
Rietveldt also had kind things to say about the Coffeehouse's former landlord.
"The Grange was wonderful to us, they offered us a fantastic deal on the rent for many years," she said. "Unfortunately, beyond their control, we had to come up with our own insurance. Their insurance would not cover us anymore...also beyond their control, it's an old building that didn't have easy access."
Performers and audience members struggled up and down the Grange's stairs, Rietveldt said, so it was time to move.
The 2008 concert series for the rejuvenated Coffeehouse starts in September.
"You just can't get people indoors in Leavenworth in the summer," she said, explaining the date.
Outdoors, it's a different story, and the acoustic festival proved that. People trickled in all day long, but in smaller numbers than Rietveldt expected, to watch Carlos and six other performers.
"We usually get a large local audience, and people are worried about where they're going to park with all the construction going on," she said. "But we have a nice audience."
Cashmere Valley Record | See artical here
Return to Top
Acoustic festival is all about the rhythm
By Alejandro Gonzalez
World staff writer
Posted August 04, 2008
LEAVENWORTH — Jean Mann performs with her harmonica and guitar on stage without her shoes so she can wiggle her toes with the beat.
Debbie Horand of Bainbridge Island lies in the grass with her two dogs, Paisley and Cher, as she and her family listen to Deb Seymour and the Debonairs of Seattle at the Acoustic Music Festival in Leavenworth's Waterfront Park on Saturday. (World photo/Kathryn Stevens)
"It's all about my rhythm," said Mann, 47. "It's sort of been an extension of the hands."
Mann was one of the musicians who performed Saturday at the 14th annual Acoustic Music Festival in Leavenworth. Organizers didn't know the exact number of people in the crowd but estimated 600 to 1,000 people attended the festival, which was held along the Wenatchee River at Waterfront Park.
Cindy Rietveldt, coordinator of the event, said all the musicians had performed at the Leavenworth Coffeehouse, which relocated to the Barn Beach Reserve in September.
"This is the kind of event that attracts a group that wants to appreciate music," she said.
Many of the people who attended said they appreciated the performance of Michael Carlos.
Tom Martin, 70, of Entiat, said he didn't expect to enjoy the Latin-influenced sound of Carlos, who released his CD "Damage and Remainder" last week.
"If I know he's playing at Caffé Mela in Wenatchee, you can bet I'm going to go see him," Martin said.
Music played at the festival included folk, jazz, bluegrass, Celtic and rock. The crowd was attentive during the performances. Some of the songs had political statements and others were light and calming.
Erica Lerer, 29, of Seattle, took in the event with her family and friends.
"I usually like classical, but this has been really fun," she said.
Wenatchee World | See Review
Return to Top
Carlos sets a new path on second album
Posted by Abby Holmes on July 29
"Michael Carlos is not one to rush. Many of the songs on his sophomore album, “Damage and Remainder,” were conceived years ago.
Carlos strives to accomplish a few things on this new record: make a connection to his Latin roots, address some recent personal tragedies, and establish a more hard rocking sound than what can be heard on his 2004 album, “Yesterday’s Icons.”
michaelcarlosband.jpgHis influences are apparent in some of his songs — Carlos channels Los Lobos and Tom Waits, among others (he even throws in a riff from The Knack’s “My Sharona” near the end of opening track “Out of Control”), through a variety of musical styles. He experiments with many different sounds on the album (especially where percussion is concerned), leaving it fresh and surprising at every turn.
Carlos’ lyrics leave the songs feeling a bit esoteric; though songwriting affords him catharsis for his personal conflicts, the specific meaning is lost on the listener. The words remain broad and impersonal. In “Winning Streak,” a song about a successful person being humbled by a catastrophic experience, Carlos sings, “Payback showed up to collect/ slide uphill and watch the wreck/ feel the ground beneath you getting colder/ your little winning streak is over,” along with a superspy theme sound.
Portions of the album were recorded at Eric Frank’s studio in Wenatchee, while the rest was contributed by Ethan Sellers et al at a studio in Chicago. Sellers provides a lot of the string, horn and percussion orchestration that boosts the caliber on several of Carlos’ compositions.
One of the most successful tracks on the record is “Jenny’s Cumbia,” which holds its own without Sellers’ touch. In a tribute to the memory of Carlos’ late companion Jennifer Reese, he taps into his Latin blood with a danceable, Spanish-language tune. The most engaging and inventive track on the record — which incorporates the talents of players on both sides of the Rockies — is “More Than One Way Down.” With a swampy bayou beat and dark vocals, the tune seems tailored for radio play.
Former band member Darik Peet has a small role on the record, providing electric guitar for “Out of Control,” “She Doesn’t Like Me Much” and “Wear It Well” — songs that Carlos has had in the works since Peet was a major player in the band, and have been featured at several of the live performances since Carlos recovered from his late-2006 car accident. Peet still makes appearances at some Michael Carlos Band concerts, ripping up the stage with the lead singer. Other band members joining him on stage and on the album are (everyone’s favorite) percussionist Vern Smith, bassist Eric Frank, and drummer Darren Reynolds."
- Abby Holmes, Wenatchee World staff writer. Wenatchee World | See Review
Return to Top
Broken bones, open arms
By Abby Holmes, World staff writer
Posted May 03, 2007
Dreams are often as fragile as the people who have them. But, with enough support, some dreams can survive even the greatest challenges.
Last November, musician Michael Carlos' dreams suffered a crushing blow when his truck collided with a semi-tractor trailer on an icy Highway 97, about 10 miles south of Blewett Pass, injuring him and causing the death of his passenger and girlfriend of several months, Jennifer Reese.
"I thought I already had a sense of how random processes can have dramatic consequences, but never expected anything like this to happen to me," Carlos wrote during a recent e-mail interview. "I have a greater sense of my own mortality, having been very close to death and having no
During the first few days after the crash, he was in a medically induced coma. In addition to several broken bones -- including a vertebra fracture that commonly results in paralysis or death -- and a head injury, Carlos suffered some damage to the tendons in his right hand, which still affects his ability to play music from time to time.
Since the accident, he has not performed, except for a couple of open mic opportunities to get back into practice. That changes at 6 p.m. Friday, when Carlos and his band play Memorial Park in his official return to the stage.
Though Carlos was out of commission through the end of 2006, he still wound up tied for second place with Michael Dickes as North Central Washington's best local musician in Go! Magazine's 2007 World's Best Survey. It is only one of many ways people in the area have reached out to him.
"I felt a strong sense of community that I wouldn't have expected after only living here for four years," he wrote. "There are so many ways in which this support was not just helpful, but essential."
Besides a flood of e-mails from well-wishers during his hospital stay, Carlos returned home to find his day-to-day care being organized by the Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. He was also overwhelmed by the benefit show arranged by Caffé Mela, Rocci Hildum and Joyce Fikkan last December.
Carlos' eclectic style of folk music rings positively with a variety of listeners throughout the Pacific Northwest -- and in his native Chicago -- and his tour schedule for later this year is fat with activity following his difficult recovery.
"I have very little evidence of the injuries I had, which is remarkable considering how severe they were," Carlos notes. He says that he expects the emotional scars of the situation to outlive the physical effects.
Music has played a key role in his recovery. While not performing, Carlos took over duties as organizer for the Cascade Coffeehouse, an East Wenatchee venue for local and regional talent. He also spent plenty of time over the past several months songwriting. "Music is about the only thing that remains constant from before the accident and it has been like a lifeboat to me," he says.
In the year between his father's death in 2005 and his accident last year, Carlos had begun to devote a lot of effort to returning to his Spanish and Latin American roots.
"As an adopted child, I didn't have that connection before and I've recently felt the desire to embrace it, both through music and personally," Carlos wrote.
He's made a couple of attempts at songwriting in Spanish, but hasn't yet completed any of the tracks.
Carlos has finished some songs over the months, which he plans to reveal during his comeback performance. New songs included in the program are an alternative rock song about his self-realization following his father's death and a classic rock-style tune giving a "silly look at the ups and downs of any normal relationship," he describes.
"Some of the other new material has a darker edge to it, for reasons that should be obvious enough," he admits. "I'm probably going to hold it back for the festival, though, because I hope to keep this show as upbeat as possible."
Carlos says he chose Apple Blossom for his comeback show because, being a significant community event, it's the best opportunity for him to express thanks to the people who supported him and Reese's family following the tragedy.
"When I was still in my hospital bed … I calculated three to four months to finish healing and two to three months to get back in shape to perform … which was perfect timing for the festival," he says.
"At the time, that was probably considered an unrealistic prediction, but I'm very proud to say that it worked out that way." - Abby Holmes, World staff writer
World | Read
Return to Top
"On Yesterday's Icons, former Chicagoan Michael Carlos provides
critiques of everything from politics to entertainment. Though
sincere, he retains a lightheartedness so he doesn't sound dogmatic
or humorless. "Armani Suits And Handcuffs" is a perfect
example with its reference to recent white collar criminals. "Reality"
is his take on various insipid TV shows and rings with a nostalgic
and melancholy tone. Throughout, his guitar playing is deft and
capably complemented by a roster of Chicago musicians."
Patrick Conlan, Illinois
Return to Top
"Michael Carlos covers a wide range of musical
territory and offers much humorous commentary on American pop
Return to Top
"This political and cultural commentary is
done with smart sardonic humor. The ease with which Michael Carlos
portrays Americana is refreshing. There is no biting edge or anger
that so often comes with music despondent with the world. Instead,
Carlos takes the straightforward approach. He sings about life
as he sees it, and his picture is clear." - Rikk's
Revues | Read
entire text here
Return to Top
"A singer-songwriter in an age where singer-songwriters seem
like woefully archaic relics, Michael Carlos's Yesterday's Icons
succeeds against many odds. While the arrangement choices don't
separate Carlos much from the pack, his lyrics are packed with
prose-like details of life in contemporary culture. Songs like
"Armani Suits and Handcuffs" -- with lyrics like "There
must have been some kind of mistake / Guys who wear suits don't
get taken away / In handcuffs and squad cars in the light of day"
-- and the Spanish-influenced "Maria," Carlos might
be sold as a reincarnation of the brutally observant Warren Zevon
(minus, it would seem, the chemical self-destructiveness). When
Carlos loosens up a little, he'll be fantastic.
Oblique Strategies sez: 'Always first steps.'" - Jambands.com | See
Return to Top