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New release a turning point for Rockaz

Fri., May 3, 2013, midnight

Although Real Life Rockaz is releasing its second album tonight, this is truly the band’s proper debut.

In its three years, the local reggae-soul-hip-hop powerhouse has been stymied with personnel issues. With a revolving door of players coming through, it’s been a series of stutter steps to release an album that is representative of the band, thus the re-tweaked mix tape the Rockaz put out at the end of 2011.

With the Rockaz lineup somewhat solidified, they are finally releasing “Bar One,” a full-length studio set that accurately reflects Rockaz’s even distribution of upbeat reggae, classic R&B and conscious hip-hop with tinges of Latin grooves and jungle beats.

De facto leader Zac Fawcett runs down the line on the attributes that make up Real Life Rockaz:

On drummer/vocalist Juan Parris: “Juan doesn’t really speak Western music language, but he knows what he is talking about. … He has a creative energy we really thrive on. It ignites whatever’s within our ability from a schooled background and trumps all of that with raw personality and musicality.”

On bassist Jimmie Denny: “He has the gift of sound engineering, which is indispensable. He can be a sound engineer live while playing bass live, and he is one of our main producers. He is a real asset. Without him, there’s not rock in our Rockaz.”

On guitarist Brook Gannon: “Brook’s a high school teacher and he’s got a hunger that comes from the inspiration he gets in the classroom. … And he comes with a strong technical understanding. He builds his own amps and pedals and makes really amazing sounds. The colors he brings really enhance our sound.”

On vocalist Daniel Harrington: “Daniel has a charisma that can connect with anybody, from being pulled over by a cop in North Idaho to selling 10 CDs to people that have never listened to reggae. He’s consciously minded and pays attention to global issues. He’s the socio-political voice in our group. … He can freestyle in two languages. … He can be in streetside cipher rhyming about any buzzword you give him and in the next breath he’s giving you a detailed list of local edibles and horticulture practices.”

On multi-instrumentalist/ vocalist “Poncho” Paul Flores: “Paul is our musical director. He’s one of the most gifted players I know. He plays sax, keys, flute, trumpet, drums. … He comes from a collegiate jazz background, but he grew up listening to Bob Marley and salsa music. He knows how to achieve the intended effect music can have on an audience and he’s a monster sax player.”

On Zac Fawcett: “I describe myself as a Zac of all trades. I’m a multi-instrumentalist, I was self-taught and I went to school to learn my p’s and q’s. In many ways I’ve adopted the managerial position in this group. I write a lot of the music, I play guitar and trumpet and keys when needed, along with lead vox and background vocals. I helped produce the album with Jimmie. … I also play sitar at a yoga studio. I teach trumpet lessons. I’m sometimes called on to play trumpet with bands like 5 Alarm Funk and True Spokes. … I’m working on my Nepalese … that’s not going too good.”

Cinco de Mayo reggae remix

Some might think it odd that a ska-funk-reggae- hip-hop-soul-brass band is playing a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Blue Spark.

But drummer/lead singer Jordan Rain of Yogoman Burning Band sees dance music as a universal language among a nation of immigrants.

“It’s already a quirky quality for people that aren’t Mexican to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Basically, people just want to party. There’s not much connection to the actual holiday. I’m just calling a spade a spade,” Rain said during a telephone interview.

Bellingham’s Yogoman plays an eclectic style of music that speaks to cross-genre, cross cultural and cross generational audiences.

“We played a show in Leavenworth, and we’ve built up a great audience there, but it seemed more culturally diverse than I ever expected. There were people from Chile, Chicanos and a whole posse of Punjabi people, and it’s like, ‘Where are we? Oh, right …’ ”

Rain said there are some Latin influences in Yogoman’s music, “so there’s a little Latin culture in our tunes, but only a little. … And it’s in a pretty white-bread way.”

More Cinco de Mayo mayhem

Blues, R&B, jazz and funk are on the menu for a weekend long Cinco de Mayo celebration at The Viking, 1221 N. Stevens St. Tonight’s featured local band is Stepbrothers, while Bacon Phat sets up shop on Saturday. Of course there will be special on tacos and beers with Spanish names. Music starts at 8 p.m. both nights.

If you forgot your mustache at home, or shaved it off prematurely, don’t fret. There will be free mustaches at the door at the Nacho Average Mustache Party on Saturday at 9 p.m. at Marquee Lounge, 522 W. Riverside Ave.

DJ Joey Shmoey will be spinning on the ones and twos with backup from the Cuervo Girls for the all-day Cinco de Mayo party on Saturday at Whiskey Dick’s, 3027 E. Liberty.

Isamu Jordan is a longtime Spokane music writer, DJ and musician.

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