Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Bodega Boys, Revisited

Starting in September, 2008, Thurday nights would find me throwing my guitar in the back of my car to truck some ten miles out of Oaxaca City to the town of San Pablo Etla.

The destination was Casa Raab, a rambling country spread owned by ex-pat Tony Raab. Tony hosted a weekly music jam that encompassed the range of styles--Blue Grass, Country, Rock & Roll and Blues were all standard fare.

We'd set up and play by Tony's Bodega (workshop) in a remarkable setting. There is a stone patio with the building looping around it, creating near perfect acoustics. A few seats ring the patio, welcoming the audience into the fold. Trees spring up on all sides, framing the moon, the clouds and the night sky.

A ramshackle array of regulars and swashbuckling visiting musicians would pass through, from a steady supply of California lawyers who fancied themselves the second coming of Jerry Garcia, to Kim Burly, an actual Grammy winner from the Canadian group the Stampeders!

Tony would croon & strum, taking frequent breaks to top off everyone's mezcal, audience and players alike. We'd take turns leading tunes from an every evolving repetroire.

I was drafted into this singular weekly scene by one Todd Spiehler, a polymath musician who was equally at home on guitar, harmonica and mandolin. I could barely play when I first started in with "The Bodega Boys", but Todd had no problem with that and showed me the ropes. What a generous soul!
Tony Raab, photo by Jeff Charles

Tonight, it's Thursday night and I miss the Bodega Boys. It was never professional, and wasn't meant to be--just people standing up together to make some music and have a ball. It's where I learned to play in an ensemble, and more importantly, to listen to what's being played!

Tony has been working in the States mostly for the past two years. He drops in here and there and convenes  his magic jam with his good-natured hospitality, but mostly he's away. Across the street from Casa Raab, the Bodega Boys have continued at the home of master washtub bass player Bill Black. This man, in full swing on the washtub, is a sight to behold--a true artist, a beautiful human being and the heart and soul of the Bodega Boys. We are now the Pool Boys as it were, convening on a less frequent basis by Mr. Black's pool

So, the weekly Thursday session is no more. The pool sessions are infrequent. Indeed, the Bodega scene has attracted more and more expats who like to play a bit, and several local bands have sprung out of the weekly jam. Fine bands they are, playing here and there in Oaxaca, but the freewheeling mayhem and profound good cheer of those magic Thursday evenings seems to have passed us by.

This is all by way of introduction -- I'm linking to a piece here that I posted four years back, about a night with the Bodega Boys.

I think I captured a bit of the feel in the piece, do enjoy it!