Moonpools and Caterpillars

“The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.” — Mother Teresa


The above quote was read to the audience by Tamara Maher, who is married to Gugut Salgado, drummer for LA’s female-fronted Moonpools and Caterpillars, as she announced the band’s long-anticipated return to the stage at the Whisky A Go Go (after a 15-year hiatus) for a Lunchtime Rock Show on Saturday, January 4, for over 400 fans, raising over $20K for Philippine Typhoon Relief.

I was a fan of the band back in the day, thanks to my friend Shyam who first saw them in the early ‘90s opening for a friend-of-a-friend’s band called The Extinct. Shyam began to see every show he could go to after that, and later I started to go as well. It became a tradition for us. The band was eventually signed by East West/Elektra and they released one album with the label before being dropped in 1997. Shyam estimates that he and I saw them 15-20 times together in those years, and that his number is closer to 30.

A good portion of the gigs we went to were at the Whisky, which is also where they recorded their very first (self-released) Pink Album (they couldn’t afford a demo so they just recorded the sound mix from a live gig). I heard they even brought back the same Whisky soundman Saturday who did sound the night that album was recorded.

It was a sad day in 1998 when I learned that after having been dropped from their label, they were breaking up. Their 12 Songs album which was sold at their final couple of shows (the last show was at The Whisky on June 6, 1998) was what was supposed to be their next album for East West/Elektra. They snubbed the label and sold it to fans anyway. It’s a step up from their debut major label release Lucky Dumpling (in fact, all my favorite Moonpools songs are on the album). Instead of letting this amazing band develop over a few years, the label did their usual thing and dumped them, even though they were clearly exponentially improving and writing nothing but potential hits.

I read that lead singer Kimi Ward Encarnacion was pregnant at the time (she is married to the band’s guitarist, Jay Jay Encarnacion, so I don’t see how a baby would have been a problem for the label’s bottom line, and even if so, only temporarily), and their being dropped suspiciously coincided with the label learning about her pregnancy. Doesn’t surprise me, but man does it sicken me. Reminds me of when Sinead O’Connor was pressured to have an abortion by her label when she was pregnant with her son, Jake.

As my friend and bass player Hector Ferreiro always says, “The musicians always get fucked!”

Whisky Marquee

Whisky Marquee and Chevrolet Chevelle, by Shyam Yadav

Corporations are dumb and cruel. Not only to the bands they rape from the day they sign them, but to the music lovers of the world whom they obviously loathe. Corporations should have nothing to do with art. I look forward to a day when people wake up and begin to see their true colors and refuse to buy their shitty products – and when bands figure out they don’t need labels. Capitalism ripped something vital from the world when it fucked this band over (probably to promote some terrible flavor-of-week band with an “MC”, or whiter band members – and fans – or maybe the famous-for-being-famous son or daughter of an idiot celebrity).

How many bands put out records with one good song that labels fawn over until they realize they can’t sell more than one record? Do you think they give a fuck that no one in the band can write a song? Does it matter to them? I doubt it very much. It’s only whether or not they can pull the wool over the eyes of music-buying public long enough to get them to buy an album with gimmicks. It doesn’t matter how socially relevant it is, how good it is, how many lives it changes – nothing. This is America baby. Deal with it. One-hit wonders sell more records, period.

I honestly forgot how much I loved Moonpools’ music. I hadn’t listened to it for a few years. I ended up being surprised how I knew every note of almost every song they played on Saturday, and how good their music made me feel.

All the times we went to see them; we never talked to anyone in the band. The other fans of the band seemed like an extended family and we never really thought of ourselves as a part of that. But this felt different. Watching Kimi connect with the crowd in a way I have never seen a singer in a band do was extremely moving. I sensed nothing but love in that room, and no one was excluded. It really felt like one big family, and she was mom (a cool mom, who stopped the show to go upstairs to adjust her stockings and again later to tie her shoe).

I’ve written a bit on this new blog of mine about politics and music, and have called out bands who tend to create music that serves no other purpose than to distract us from the horrors of the world and the crimes of our government while it robs us blind to pay for sending our kids to war to kill civilians (or be killed) and incarcerates as many innocent people as it can for slave labor in for-profit prisons.

But there is another purpose that music serves, which is to connect us. It stirs our souls in ways that nothing else can, and this show did that for me in a very deep way. I realized that, in a way, this music is as anti-empire as any protest music could ever be. It kicks against the best psy-ops the power-elite pricks could ever come up with to divide us. No one at that show was concerned about anyone’s race, political affiliation or sexual preference. I am 100% sure of that. Despite the close quarters, everyone was polite (even Whisky security was cool).

I never paid much attention to what Moonpools songs were about, but it doesn’t matter. Because the spirit of the music, the personalities of the band members onstage (Kimi’s loving, animated new wave kookiness; Jay Jay’s Eddie V-smile – as infinite as his U2-inspired guitar riffs; bassist Tim De Pala’s straight-faced, yet always-amusing antics; and drummer Gugut’s “geek-chic” cool) and the love that pours out of every person in the room for them (and vice-versa) is as vital as any truth to power.

Power will never understand art. It will never completely co-opt it. Moonpools & Caterpillars are back, playing their great music and raising money for good causes. The world needs them more than ever.

I felt an incredible connection, not only with Shyam and his mom, Sandy who also attended, but with the band, and with Kimi afterward when she kindly took photos with us and wanted to know if we had ever been to see them before. I told her I knew every song they played and she was so extremely humble and sweet and appreciative and full of hugs and kindness, especially toward Shyam’s mom (who said that the music made her feel “happy”), which also moved me deeply.

Yes, “we draw the circle of our family too small”, but Saturday’s show was a large reminder that there is hope.

After 9/11, Bruce Springsteen was inspired by a fan who called out to him on the street, “Bruce, we need you!” He then went on to make his essential album, The Rising. The world did need him and he delivered. I hope Moonpools & Caterpillars can feel their calling and rise to the occasion. This was their second reunion benefit show in six months (the first was on July 27th of last year to raise money to ship ambulances to a village in Ethiopia that is lacking in emergency healthcare).

Capitalism wants us to believe rock and roll is dead because they know how powerful it is. How connecting it is. That’s why the real thing gets squashed so often in place of watered-down, dumbed-down music for the overly-medicated masses that follow everything the corporations tell us is cool.

In a world where the powers that be want us divided and to fear and hate each other so they can “protect” us with more “security” and less rights, bands like Moonpools and Caterpillars do a great service to all of us by reminding us that “each other” is not the enemy. There aren’t many like them so I look forward to more shows and a new album (they’d kill on PledgeMusic).

Connectedness is our natural state but is constantly being worked against by the forces of power that seek to divide and conquer for their own gain. Bands like Moonpools and Caterpillars are the perfect antidote. They recently got the rights back to their music. Go buy some. You will love it, I promise.

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