TOFU AND WHISKEY While it'll be hard to say goodbye, Brass Menažeri's founder Peter Jaques might have the best possible reason for dissolving his decade-old, San Francisco band. He got a Fulbright grant to study traditional Greek music — in Greece.
He'll be traversing the Grecian island of Crete, coastal Epiros, mountainous Florina, and capitol city Athens, studying with Greek master musicians. So yeah, don't cry for Jaques. It'll more be the Bay Area Balkan scene's loss than his, given the group's influence on the local set, lo these past 12 years. (Remember that Tofu and Whiskey column on the bumping Bay Balkan scene a few weeks back? That wouldn't have happened without it.)
With two full sets of Balkan dance music, the band will bid adieu at a final show this Fri/1 (New Parish, 579 18th St., Oakl. www.thenewparish.com. 9pm, $15). That night will include four-part horn melodies, special guest dancer Zoe Jakes of Beats Antiques, and the debut of trumpeter eO's new DJ set of "glitch-seasoned, heavy Balko-electronic compositions and remixes."
With that in mind, I asked Jaques to give me the rundown on the highlights — and low points — in the life of Brass Menažeri.
There are those less-than-ideal band situations: "the sound guy who insists he needs to boost the 'kick drum' (we don't have one) in a room with overwhelming bass resonance. We could hear nothing at all aside from the drum; playing an outdoor festival at Civic Center 100 feet from a techno stage; getting stiffed for a measly $200 when a venue said they'd paid our money to the other band (why?) and the other band denied it."
And then there are the inspiring moments that kept the band humming: "collaborating with Boston MC Mr. Lif at the Seattle Folk Fest in 2010; playing for Ruth Hunter's 50th birthday party while the sun was setting on a beachfront in Seattle; crowd surfers at Amnesia; the 2008 CD release at Great American Music Hall with Aphrodesia, and returning there for Kafana Balkan last year with Fishtank Ensemble; crowd reactions at the Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival; chasing Rupa around the Mission during her birthday procession a few years ago; double bill Balkan brass afterparty for the Goran Bregovic show, with Inspector Gadje last year; the first Kafana Balkan at ArtSF in the Mission, with people hanging from the rafters"
Wouldn't you know it, there's a Kafana Balkan night this weekend as well. As Jaques mentioned, Brass Menažeri played the first of these raucous Balkan dance parties. This Sat/2 is the club night's sixth anniversary show, with Inspector Gadje, Jill Parker and Foxglove Sweethearts, and DJ Zeliko (Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com. 9pm, $15).
So yes, you can pretty much spend your whole weekend reveling in the Balkans.