Break ’em on down

Music brings people together, that’s one of life’s unifying truths. But sometimes it’s easy to forget the truth, and it takes musicians to remind us of it.

I don’t remember the exact sequence of events that led to the creation of the Average Biker Band, but suddenly there they were doing a sound check at the All Clubs BBQ and 7th Annual South Bay Cycling Awards, and if it hadn’t been outdoors they would have blown the roof off.

The organic creation of the group was much like the organic creation of a group ride. Somebody said, “Let’s play,” and voila–Ellen Shinogle, Gary Cziko, Sly Joseph, Don Sachs, Jaycee Cary, Todd Bernhardt, Tony Johnson, Thomas Ward, Harry McQueen, Dasha Orlova, and Yasuko Davidson had formed a band, rehearsed religiously, and showed up polished and ready to play.

Play they did, with blindingly good renditions of Superstition, New Sensation, Brick House, Play that Funky Music, Sex Machine, and a loaded set of other killer tunes.

But … even though you can’t pick out the best, I can sure as hell pick out my favorite, and it was Harry McQueen owning the stage with Muddy Waters’s Hoochie Coochie Man. I’ve seen lots of live blues performances in my life, heard lots of the greats, but have rarely been treated to such a tremendous foot-stomping, hand-clapping display of musical genius. Not only did Harry turn his harp into something living, but the rest of band sank their teeth into it with cutting, slicing, professional abandon.

The musicianship of the entourage was an intense punctuation mark to the event because it showcased band members helping each other out, making space for each other, putting egos aside to get the hard work done of making great music. And make no mistake, it was incredibly hard work, whether judging from the rivers of sweat pouring off the players, or from the sheer physical labor of setting up the stage.

And of course it was worth it, worth it in the extreme because it brought a level of entertainment, excitement, and unity to an event whose entire reason for being is to highlight unity.

Nor was the Average Biker Band the only sound in town. Before they took the stage there was a major eruption of percussion. Dave Worthington and David Pulliam on the box cajon and bongos, Rahsaan Bahati on the bongos, Queen Bahati on the congo drum, Al Shorts on the bass drum with wood mallets and Congo, and the ace ringer percussionist and Prince of the Polyrhythm, Orlando Hutcherson himself on congo, Will Holloway on djembe conga, with Jaycee Carey drummer Tony Johnson, both of the Average Biker Band, pitching into the drum circle. Other cool rando peeps rotated on the egg-shakers, blocks, maracas, sticks, and tambourine, and all of this incredible sound was BEFORE the main musical event.

Drawing people together, initiating friendships, sharing common bonds, that’s all yet another outgrowth of this event that was dreamed up by our very own Ken Vinson. And draw people together it did.

Don’t worry if you missed this tight and righteous performance–Facebag is breaking with the videos floating around, and guess what? Plans are already underway for even more music in 2020. Stay, as they say, tuned!


The Not-So Average Biker Band!

8 thoughts on “Break ’em on down”

  1. I must add, Ellen dropped the trumpet like it’s hot! Great performance by everyone on the band. I might have to book JCary for my weeding.

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