Sunday, June 20, 2004

Los Hermanos del Castillo

(and look ma, no Spanish-English dictionary!)
( I was figuring on editing this, because I felt like I was picking on Mark, but there is a pattern of realization in this bit for even myself. Bear with it. I think it ends up being very positive.)

I am a bit intoxicated at the moment, so I am not inhibiting my words. Last night brought home much of what this band ends up being about. While the duo who fronts the music of this band are absolutely amazing, this band is more than just a front for a couple of guitar players. I would describe the two guys up front though to the best of an observer's ability.
They are of similar expertise on guitar, but both guys are stunning in their own right. I will start with the younger, Mark. He is trained very technically in music all the way around. He went to university for that, and it shows to anyone who knows something about music education on a higher scale. It is one thing to take lessons at any point in one's life from a teacher. It is another to immerse oneself in the science of music.
The mathematics involved alone are stifling to most of us. To able to apply them to playing and writing and performing takes an unusual soul most times. The discipline of learning it in university makes for a very different approach than someone who plays by the seat of his/her pants, as it were.
The first thing I noticed about Mark was the length of his fingers-always a sign of an artist, whatever medium he ends up choosing. His hands look like spiders moving over the strings, and I tell you what, those spiders seem to be on something! I am not certain what drives guitar players in particular to learn to play with speed; Count Basie could make a single note on the piano mean so very much, he never worried about speed. I watched Mark and Rick's hands both pretty closely last night, and I am still not quite sure how they do what they do without tying their fingers in knots.
I believe Mark plays a standard Spanish guitar, while Rick plays a classical acoustic. Both have been modified, so I am left making some educated guesses here. Mark's has a slightly wide neck and his series of pedals is different from Rick's. Not often one sees a wah pedal used with an acoustic....
Not meaning to set anyone off, I have noted a different approach to playing in each of these guys. I can tell you who is playing by sound alone. Mark seems to be far more technical, I suspect due to the schooling. It is perhaps unfair wording and I will look for better, but Mark's playing seems stiffer (?). No, that isn't it. And it isn't that he doesn't have soul pouring into everything he plays. There is just a looseness, a "where can I take it this time" to Rick's playing that sometimes doesn't come through in Mark.

Damn. That sounds awful. I will have to work at that, because I have seen Mark give it up many a time and get lost in the playing.

Wait...I think that's it. If one gets too caught up in the technicalities, the spontaneity fails to surface, and really the best musical experiences for both artist and listener usually come from those moments when all else falls away and it is just the human heart and the music.

Hmmm......I may have just managed to touch on their specialness. The whole band that is. When things are totally right with them, and the flow between each other and the audience is in synch, their performances can soar. I have seen what seemed to be a strained and difficult night turn itself around because that flow was so strong. I have also seen nights where they couldn't seem to tap into the audience end up being little more than rote playing of the set. THAT is very rare, but it has happened. Every artist has the right to have off nights. I think one of things that has always amazed me about these fellows is the repeated intensity of the shows. I do not get tired of hearing them, or their music. As many times as I have listened to the CDs or gone to see them live, as well as I know the lyrics and the ways they will approach most of the tunes, I never walk away without being moved and invigorated to the point of being unable to sleep or calm down for hours.
(They all thought I was nuts for driving home after a Dallas gig. I live 5 hours away, but I would have sat in any hotel room staring at the ceiling for the same amount of time it took me to get back to San Antonio. I knew that from experience, so I just used the time to do what I had to do anyway.)

Wow. Now, you see, that's what writing does for me. I just came to understand something that has been bouncing around in my psyche for months by trying to put it into words for others to read. I truly wish there was a way to put the live experience of Del Castillo to words, but try as I may, I just can't seem to paint the right picture through words. It goes beyond that which can be spoken, at least by anything other than the human heart and soul. They never fail to touch someone new everytime they play. All we veterans feel compelled to bring newbies with us, to bring more people into the family circle of the Castle. It is a mighty fortess, but very expandable and very gentle and welcoming to all those who come to find solace in its walls. May it stand for many years to come.

and now to bed to let the strains of "Rios Mysticos" invade my dream yet another night.


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