This show ranks as one of the wildest shows RLS has ever had. On the Friday night of the Fest, we were the last band on a night of a dozen acts…lots of metal-head Cuban rocker kids. It was a good crowd and an incredible venue. Big as a football field and big production. The stage looked like “the Oscars in 1979″ – johnny.
At one point during the show, at the end of “Slander” , the kids just lost it and started pouring on stage. For a moment, I think every RLS member thought we were about to be “torn to bits”, but to our “adrenalyzed content”, they started moshing and dancing and interacting with the band. Security wrangled them off, but they rushed the stage again during “Hustler”. It was a fuckin’ blast!!!! The night ended with injuries, blood and broken guitars…success in our books!
As part of the tour, we were booked to host some seminars for Cuban musicians. Havana had a tropical rain that night so the crowd was pretty intimate, and what started as a few questions and clumsy bits of advice (along with Humbe and Cesar on translation detail) very quickly turned into a great jam.
We started off doing a few RLS tunes and then let loose on some tunes from the Cuban bands. Sounds cheesy, but it was a moment when language and cultural walls just crumbled and music became the communicator and was translating every word perfectly. We jammed with members of Tesis-DeMenta, Cuba Libre and Ivan, who would end up playing several shows on Guitar with RLS. It was a real “musical brotherhood” experience.
3. Performing for the kids at The Oncology Hospital
I think if you ask any member of the band, this will rank number one as the most memorable and meaningful moment of the whole Tour.
As part of the Tour, we had planned to gather donations and perform for the Kids at the Oncology Hospital in Havana. We thought it was a good way to give back and do something special during our time in Cuba, but none of us really expected that those amazingly brave and happy little kids and they’re families, would completely inspire and change us.
At least one bandmember will not rank this as his best moment. This was our first “big concert” in Havana’s prime rock club and Johnny was just floored by a bad hamburger the night before. Sick as a dog with food poisoning (bound to happen to someone). He couldn’t even make sound-check.
Johnny arrived at Maxim late. Moments before going on stage, he was in the back puking his brains out. But he stood up, wiped his mouth off and rocked it like a pro!!! This was Cuba’s first “real” look at Red Light Saints and we put on a heavy, “big performance” set that really made an impression with the audience. We had people running afterwards taking pictures and hugging us. Saying they “loved the show” and how “the energy and power is so different from the record”. It made us feel welcomed and like we weren’t just a novelty or a “freak-show of foreigners” coming to play rock music in Cuba. “Things were gonna be alright”!
5. Recording at Egrem Studios:
Humbe thought it would be a good idea to visit the biggest recording studio in all of Cuba. This was Egrem Studios, where he had recorded several albums previously.
After getting a little tour of the place (and man was it a huge joint!!!) and a few of Humbe’s nostalgic tales from days past, we listened to a few tracks the producer was working on. This place had one of the best collections of vintage recording gear I’ve ever seen with these antique Reel-to-Reels and rickety processors, and a sprawling Amek console that stretched the length of the control room.
6. Interview with Juanito Camacho:
All we can say about Juanito Camacho is, he is one of those characters you don’t forget. He has been in the Rock/Radio business as long as anyone, is a veritable encyclopedia of music knowledge and has a million stories. He has a widely recognized program on Cuban radio and is a respected figure in the scene. This was our first radio interview in Cuba. It was an hour long and it was a real discussion as opposed to “How did you get your name”?…Who are your influences”?
We talked about the state of the music industry in Canada and Cuba, Cuba’s historical relationship with well known figures in Rock. They played a few RLS tunes off the new album and talked about how we felt about being musicians…not about fashion or viral video’s…but about music.
A month earlier, Juanito caught wind that Jimmy Page was in Havana, so like a “special agent” of Rock n’ Roll, he tracked him down, cornered him and coaxed the elusive Jimmy Page into an interview. Juanito Camacho has a charm that can catch you off guard and speak without inhibition.
7. Concert At Bertold Bretch Theatre with Sintesis:
On our last night in Cuba, we played a show with a legendary Cuban rock-fusion band called Sintesis. This band has been playing a mix of Rock/Jazz/Funk with African music for over 35 years in Cuba, and is a very well known and popular band. That was a real honor for us. Their sound was incredible.
At this point we were all exhausted from the busy week and hadn’t slept in about 24 hours. Everyone was a bit on edge and cranky This was also an audience that had come to see Sintesis and we weren’t sure how they were going to take us.
It actually turned into one of the most relaxed and fun shows we played in Cuba. The vibe was great, the audience loved what we were bringing to the place and we had a circus of musicians come join us on stage. Some expected, some were not, but it was an amazing show. The highlight was a 15 minute version of “The Monk” with an extended guitar “wank-off” with several great guitarists. On stage that night was Ivan (our Cuban 2nd guitarist), Andres on violin, Patricio Malo jumped up for some vocals, the guitarist from Sintesis snatched Johnny’s guitar for a while and of course Cesar on vox and ryths. We had to cut our set 2 songs short and run off stage in order to make our plane home…close call!
8. Radio Habana and the “museum” of Cuban Music:
At this point we had done quite a few radio interview in Cuba, so the novelty had worn off a bit. We showed up at Radio Progresso and had 2 back to back interviews scheduled. This is government run radio, so we got in shit for snapping pictures, but still managed to snag a few photos of the Anti-capitalism, Down with Bacardi, Viva Fidel-type posters all over the walls. The interview went predictably well, but it was the 2 hours afterwards that really stood out.
We had been spending our time with Carlos and Pancho, 2 of the engineers at Radio Habana with a combined total of about 60 years between them at the station. They led us to the lower floors of the station where they keep all the archives of of Cuban music shelved on vinyl. There was a wall to wall history of all the greatest music from Cuba…all on vinyls dating back to the 40′s. All the most important music and influential artists lived on these shelves. Some of them had even recorded in the basement of that very studio. We were given an unforgettable lesson in Cuban music, politics and history and when the conversation turned to Benny More (one of the biggest music legends to come from Cuba and one of the only ”big names” we knew). Carlos was so excited to share tales of when Benny More recorded at Radio Habana and after disappearing for a few minutes, came back with an 6 disc box-set of More’s music as a gift for the band. This visit to Radio Habana was a valuable gift by any standard and really expanded our view of why music is such a large and important part of Cuban life. And why they are proud of their rich artistic history.
9. Day at Santa Maria Beach:
This was as close to being on vacation as it got for RLS. Our days and nights were filled with music related stuff, but on the Sunday before we left, we headed down to Santa Maria Beach. It’s not Cuba’s best known beach…it wasn’t even a particularly hot day (kinda windy actually), but for a bunch of scruffy musicians coming out of a Canadian winter…it was pretty much Utopia.
The water was warm, the beers were only a peso and we just sat there and got sunburned and reflected on the week we just had. We certainly had mixed feelings about going home. Cuba had been very good to us. Our second “District”.
10.Saturday Night at The Cuerda Viva Awards: