We’d like to thank …
Sean Barfly and Mind X celebrate the musicians you’ve never heard of
It was another Monday night at Marty Holland’s jam session at the Blue Lamp. Sean Barfly, the amiable yet wired leader of local jam band Mind X, watched the musicians—mostly from his band—crammed onto the cave-like stage in the corner. They were hunched over their instruments, lightly perspiring under the red and yellow stage lights as a man dressed in white, neatly creased slacks wailed his blues into the microphone. The musicians played together comfortably while a few people watched in the darkness.
Maybe you’ve seen this scene before, or maybe only musicians can appreciate the jam-band style. It’s easy to classify the open jam session as an unstructured opportunity for any yahoo with a noisemaker to climb onto the stage and live a dream. Barfly disagrees. To him, the jam band is where musicians shine.
Over the last 10 years, Mind X has toured the western United States supporting its self-described “never-ending, high-energy dance party” world-beat music. Members of the band’s rotating lineup have performed with such heavy hitters as Curtis Mayfield, Tower of Power, and Joe Craven from the David Grisman Quintet. But, most important to Barfly and his entourage, Mind X has created an outlet for lesser-known musicians to hone their chops.
Now, Barfly wants to give something back to the musicians who’ve lent their skills to the band. On April 23rd, Mind X will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a CD-release party at the Torch Club. But this isn’t your typical CD release. Mind X has self-produced and independently distributed a five-disc box set titled Live in a White Trash Town that features many of the local musicians who have performed with the band over the years.
The anniversary establishes Mind X as the jam-band patriarchs of the Sacramento music scene, a label Barfly prefers because it avoids genre classification. Despite two Sammies nominations in the “best jazz band” category, Barfly insisted that Mind X is not a jazz band. Although the band covers some jazz standards, the songs might be rearranged with a reggae beat. Other cover songs are disguised, like a bluegrass version of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” Barfly, the band’s only original member, described Mind X as an eclectic, improvisational world-beat band influenced by Latin, calypso, bluegrass, zydeco, Celtic and African music with a touch of Southern rock.
Aside from the Allman Brothers-esque jam of “Praise” and sweeping references to the Grateful Dead, Mind X can play with the lounge-jazz sound of the Squirrel Nut Zippers (as in the original song “Party Everyday”) or gypsy-jazz swing (heard in a rendition of the Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli classic “Minor Swing”). Each song showcases the individual musical prowess of each band member.
Barfly, who sings and plays mandolin, fiddle, banjo and guitar, often relies on a rotation of musicians for Mind X, but guitarist Rick Zamora, percussionist Shawn King, bassist Marty Holland, keyboardist Kevin Burton and drummer Peter Philis make up the current—and seemingly permanent—lineup. Barfly said he feels fortunate to have played with an A list of local musicians, as well. But they are, Barfly lamented, people rarely mentioned in the press—the working musicians who remain in the shadows. Mind X contributors include local musicians Gerry Pineda, Erik Klevin, Joe Lev, Tony Passarell, Scott Anderson, Jimmy Pailer, Steve Stizo and a dozen more. Many plan to perform at the anniversary show.
The members of Mind X—both regulars and sit-ins—praised its existence as a creative outlet for able musicians, an outlet necessary in any diverse music community. However, even the band’s permanent members had trouble agreeing on a description for their act. Some of the members preferred to describe themselves as “the best party band in town.” Bassist Holland called it “a mind- and soul-altering experience maintaining an esoteric oasis.” Perhaps keyboardist Burton best summarized the experience of Mind X when he said, “[It] provides the freedom to express, to venture into all aspects of music.” Barfly agreed, “It’s the freedom.”