XIXA with Matt Jennings

The Cedar Presents

XIXA with Matt Jennings

Wed, July 6, 2016

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:30 pm

Cedar Cultural Center

Minneapolis, MN

$15 Advance / $18 Day of show

This event is all ages

This is a standing show with an open floor.

Xixa
Xixa
“Every time we’d play a chicha song, it would steal the show,” exclaims Gabriel Sullivan of Tucson’s XIXA. He and fellow XIXA member Brian Lopez were touring Europe with Giant Sand, Howe Gelb’s pioneering Americana group. On the road, they started experimenting with chicha, the guitar driven, psychedelic cumbias born in the Peruvian Amazon, after obsessing over cult compilation The Roots of Chicha, released by Barbès Records ten years ago.

“People would mob us after the show, wanting to know the name of that one song. It was always the chicha cover,” “Cariñito,” an emblematic chicha song that Gelb ended up recording for one of his albums. They took the hint and started their own chicha cover band, pounding hours-long sets. Before they knew it, they were writing originals in the same vein, finding where north and south, rock and Afro-Latin rhythms ran together.

Shift and Shadow, the band’s debut EP (Barbès Records; release: November 13, 2015) shows this easy alchemy, blurring rock, punk, synth-pop, Afro-Latin rhythms, and Amazonian riffs in a north-south feedback loop. “It’s weird. It’s effortless,” states Brian. “I don’t know if it’s our backgrounds, with just enough Latin, just enough rock. Alchemy makes it meld. We never sat down in a room and said, ‘We need to sound like this.’ It’s not contrived. When we started playing chicha covers, we learned songs inside and out, and at some point that filters into your original music.”

Brian was in spitting distance of indie stardom with his band Mostly Bears. Gabriel hit the road with metal and punk bands in his mid-teens, but over the years he found himself fascinated with everything from Howling Wolf and Townes Van Zandt—“They made the most punk music imaginable”—to Prado Perez Perez Prado and Balkan brass music(Gabriel founded his own Balkanesque band, Taraf de Tucson). They both worked with Giant Sand and Calexico, when not pursuing their own solo songwriting. And they both moonlighted with Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta, falling hard for cumbia and mambo. Then they discovered chicha, and when they saw how fans clicked with the covers, they decided to launch a band that did nothing but.

It felt like a peculiar homecoming. Both Gabriel and Brian, like many young artists in Tucson, are second- or third-generation Latino. Though they never went in search of this identity, it found them in chicha. They felt how that music, those rhythms had always been there.

“All these beats and rhythms are in your brain your whole life, so they make a lot of sense when you start playing them,” reflects Brian. “Latin music is part of Tucson’s sonic landscape.” Only forty miles from the border, the city’s laidback vibe and Mexican communities nurture everything from strong singer-songwriter and hardcore scenes to great cumbia bands playing at out-of-the-way Mexican steak houses on the south side of town. Latin music is everywhere.

“Until you dive into Latin music, you don’t know if you have a strong sensibility for it,” Brian continues. “I grew up speaking English, but went to bilingual dances, was part of a folkloric group, your typical second or third-generation Latino family. My grandparents didn’t want my parents to speak Spanish, or to be Latino. Now, for our generation, it’s almost imperative to speak Spanish, even if you have to go to Barcelona or elsewhere to really learn it.”

They learned to speak chicha fluently, gathering musicians from the Tucson scene to form Chicha Dust, eventually growing to a sextet. “Winston played for Alice Cooper in the 90s. Efren ONLY knows Latin music, and didn’t know Led Zeppelin,” notes Brian. “You put them together,” that core combination of hard rock drums and Efren’s timbales, “and it’s XIXA.”

Without trying too hard, they began to write originals, somehow getting six players on the same creative page with remarkably little stress. “We’ve never had moments when we weren’t sure what to do with our sound,” Gabriel explains.

The effort comes in the studio, a recording space the band members built themselves. They will play with a track until it sounds right. “We come from that indie rock DIY mentality. You sleep in your van. You steal food from big box stores because you’re broke. You scrape together the money to record in a couple of hours,” says Brian. “We’ve come so far, and we realized we could build a studio, record our own songs, and not be satisfied with just anything. We could rearrange our songs until it’s right.”

The cumbia beat sneaks in everywhere, even covers like The Meat Puppets’ “Plateau.” “I was listening to Nirvana’s Unplugged set, and that song came on,” Brian remembers. “The song was perfect for us. The Meat Puppets are from Phoenix, very Southwestern, with that desert mystic feel. I kept hearing this classic cumbia beat behind it, and I suggested we record it and see what happened. The band thought I was crazy, but we just did it.”

“It’s so natural; it’s very strange to me that we haven’t been doing this longer,” muses Brian. “We don’t have to try to make something more rock or to incorporate cumbia into it. It’s just I think what each person brings to the table comes out in this blend of rock, cumbia, chicha. There’s no effort involved.”
Matt Jennings
Matt Jennings
Matt Jennings’ album H.O.P.E. was released in the summer of 2014. With sparse instrumentation consisting of nylon-string guitar, ukulele, bass, and percussion (all played by Jennings), the sound could be described as flamenco reggae. The songwriting on H.O.P.E. is concise and honest, coming from a place of sincerity and hope.

Jennings grew up in Pittsburgh mimicking hard rock guitarists and honing his songwriting skills from an early age. After moving to Minneapolis for college, he studied abroad in Mexico and later taught English in China. In Mexico, he was entranced by the sound of mariachi trumpeters and violinists practicing on the streets. And he learned the basic techniques of mariachi guitar firsthand from a man named Nacho. In China, he played in a live karaoke band and a Chinese hard rock band, while spending countless hours watching the South China Sea out his apartment window with a $20 Kapok acoustic guitar in his hands. After soaking in how these different cultures use rhythm and melody, he transformed his hard rock and folk roots into an international yet highly personal style of music.

Since returning from abroad Jennings has self-released three albums and one EP. He has toured the continent extensively, sharing the stage with acts such as Jarabe de Palo, Donavon Frankenreiter, Nick Hexum (of 311), Bombino, Dengue Fever, Anuhea, Seun Kuti & Egypt '80, Ozomatli, Orgone, and Los Amigos Invisibles. All of his albums are available on iTunes and CDBaby.
Venue Information:
Cedar Cultural Center
416 Cedar Ave S
Minneapolis, MN, 55454
http://www.thecedar.org/

ticinfo

Ticket options and info

PLEASE NOTE: Tickets are not always available at Depth of Field, Electric Fetus & The Cedar.

Check the top of this page under the “Buy Tickets” button for up-to-date ticket information.

  • Phone: 612-338-2674 ext 0 between 12 noon and 4pm M-F ($2 fee per ticket)
  • In person: Tickets can be purchased at The Cedar when we are open for shows. Check our calendar for show dates and door times  (no fee; cash, check, credit card). Our other ticket outlets are Depth of Field (no fee; cash or check only), and Electric Fetus (approximately $2 fee).
  • Online: (On Ticketfly, typically $2–$3 fee/ticket + $1 restoration fee) until 2 hours before door time on day of show
  • The Cedar is an all ages venue
  • Discounts: Students with ID, seniors over 65, and children under 12 may purchase tickets at a discount at the door (subject to ticket availability).
  • Access: The Cedar strives to make our facilities and programming available to as many community members as possible and will accommodate special requests to the best of our ability. To request special accommodations or seating at an upcoming Cedar show, please contact our box office at 612-338-2674 or info@thecedar.org.