King Cartel in San Diego

Report filed 1/25/00 - 7:52 am - Had the pleasure of catching the King Cartel on Friday at the Tiki House in Pacific Beach. I've enjoyed Chris King's music for several years. Back in Vegas, King first hit the scene through the coffee house route. Evolving from acoustic to electric, King's approach has always been beatnik. The guy's an artist. And his band is great!

Don Hartley is a fearsome drummer, very aggressive when he wants to be, but he's also a master of dynamics. Not only can he handle soft, jazzy brushwork, Hartley plays sax while he's drumming. Not all the time mind you - just when a sax would add the right texture.

On standup bass, Marcus Sjafiroeddin is a percussive force. A classically trained musician, Sjaf is an adventurous player who's wide open approach and highbrow tone anchors the Cartel's sophisticated, signal processed sound with a stunningly wide band of bottom register, musical information.

I caught the 2nd night of a pair of shows the Cartel were doing in southern Cal to promote their new release, Atomic, on Las Vegas based, Jampot Records. It's always fun to watch these guys. King is a natural performer, and the band rocks. With Hartley's drumming and sax playing, Sjaf's unlimited assortment of bass lines, as well as King, who occasionally puts down the guitar to blow a little horn, the Cartel covers alot of musical ground. Check out our Artist Profile and link to the Cartel's website for more info on their sound and background.

Although the Cartel played great, they were sabotaged by a faulty PA system. The first set was pretty good, except for the ear splitting feedback screeches that rang out every so often. Early into the 2nd set though, things got nutty. King uses alot of effects with his guitar and vocals. He runs a two mic. combo to get a voice mix that can be set to an array of combinations. Anyway, after about 45 seconds into each song, the mic. would die and he'd be left with no vocals.

Now, the Tiki is a tiny place. Always one to seize the opportunity to connect with his audience, King jumped onto the pool table in front of the stage, and hammed it up, singing to the crowd at the top of his lungs. Funny stuff, but after a while, the sound problems got frustrating. The weird thing was that the vocals would work for the first minute or so of each song and then cut out... it was a study in optimism and great theater. King kept going back and starting the tune with live vocals and time after time got cut off mid lyric. By then end of the set, King was obviously pissed over the sound snafu - wildly flailing his colorfully painted acoustic/electric guitar through the air as they blasted through the final song - sort of out of control almost to the point of a Pete Townsend style guitar demolition, but he stopped short of doing any physical damage.

Other than the Cartel show, it's been business as usual here at the Anytime/Anywhere Studios. Finished transcribing another wave of interviews for the Relix book with writers and photographers from the past and present, and now it's time to start interviewing the performers who have played a prominent role over the years in the Relix story.

Let's see, what else? We've got a new -tour journal- entry from WMO's show at Quixotes in Denver and are looking forward to submissions for our two WMO contests. We're also compiling a bunch of new links and writing up a CD review or two that'll be posted before too long.

Note to bands with new CDs: send 'em in for review! Check the FAQ for details.

'Til next time, that was this time...