Eclectic Dance Band Returns To The Big Room
Diego’s Umbrella is a six-piece ensemble of young musicians who play what’s been called “gypsy rock.” Even only a sampling of the stuff they’ve got up on YouTube reveals musical traditions seldom expected from rock-based outfits. There are hints of Klezmer, and flamenco, and the Ramones, and polka, all blended into a musical smoothie that nourishes the spirit and can even take off calories, if you’re among those who can’t resist the dance beat these guys lay down.
Until a few weeks ago, what I didn’t know about Diego’s Umbrella was a lot. They played the Big Room before, highly touted by Bob Littell, the room’s impresario, but I couldn’t make it to that show. I was later told I’d really blown it by not turning up. My younger daughter has seen the band play a couple of times, and she’s a stone cold fan.
So, because I’ve never seen a bad show at the Big Room, and because the music editor here at Synthesis was interested in a preview piece on the band’s upcoming appearance there on Tuesday, June 3, I figured I’d replace what I didn’t know with what I could learn through a brief phone interview with Benjamin Leon, one of the band’s two guitarists.
I began by commiserating with him about the rigors of the road, quoting B.B. King, who once said, “They pay me to travel, and I play for free.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” Ben said. “The time we’re not on stage is what they pay us for. If you take in the other hours required to get to the gigs, it works out to about $1.75 an hour.”
So why, I wondered, would anyone log all those hours on the road, in a cramped van?
“You do it because you love it,” Ben told me, with passion and humor in his voice. “Once you’ve gone with the music, once you get the bug, especially if you get the bug when you’re young, it’s pretty much impossible to replace that feeling in any other way.”
And what sets Diego’s Umbrella apart from other bands?
“We like to let the music explain itself,” he answered. “It started with California/Mexican music, and it’s ended up being this bizarre hybrid. It’s got lots of Balkan flavors now, much of that brought in after the band toured Eastern Europe. Jason Kleinberg, our amazing violinist, is mostly responsible for adding that sound, but we still have a hefty dose of American music and rock. Whatever else is in it, it invariably comes out as filtered through a bunch of American kids who grew up in California. Our goal is to get people up and dancing, And we do. We love the Big Room because the sound and the audience are really great.”
I won’t be missing Diego’s Umbrella this time. You won’t want to miss them, either. They’re an eclectic good time party band, and the fans at the Big Room are sure to be working themselves up into a sweat after the band takes the stage.