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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Diego's Umbrella Is One Of The Most Wild, Raucous Bands In The Bay Area

Posted By on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 at 11:47 AM

click to enlarge ERIC URBACH
  • Eric Urbach
It's not every day a violin player goes crowd surfing.

While playing a show at a tiny club in Bend, Oregon, Diego’s Umbrella violinist Jason Kleinberg decided to go crowd surfing. But it didn’t go as planned. The crowd dropped him and he fell on a pint glass, which got stuck...in his butt.

Luckily, the next show was at a festival at Horning's Hideout in Portland, and he went over to the emergency tent and got the glass removed, with the addition of a few stitches in his ass, of course.

"Who cares if the lead singer went crowd surfing, they always do that," Jake Wood, drummer for the sextet said. "But how often does the violin player go crowd surfing, let alone get dropped by his own fans? Not that often."

San Francisco's self-called "Ambassadors of Gypsy Rock," Diego's Umbrella originally got started at UC Santa Cruz around 2002-03. Throughout the years, musicians have shuffled in and out of their lineup — Wood has been with them for the past seven years – as the band has continued to spread its "polka and rock and steroids" sound.
"I wish we had a better story," Wood said. "Like, ‘Oh, we were working in a nuclear lab and a spider came floating down with a guitar and bit one of us and we were produced with radioactive guitar skills.’ But it didn't really happen like that."

The band has released four albums to date: 2006's Kung Fu Palace, 2007's Viva la Juerga, 2009's Double Panther, and 2012's Proper Cowboy. Not to mention the band’s most recent release, last year's EP Songs for the Juerga, which found the group trying to grow up...at least a little bit.

With its heavy collaboration and replacement of abstract humor with emotional candor, Songs for the Juerga sounds almost "like [something from] a new band," Woods said. "That's not to say we don't still carry the humor on stage. We have a lot of fun on stage. But the most recent record is a little bit more on the serious side. I think we also all believe it might be our best work to date, as far as songwriting and production goes."

Wood engineered and mixed the band's upcoming album — they're still settling on a name and a release date — which was also recorded at his own studio. It will be the first album (along with the prior EP) that the band has completely done in-house. Previous albums had been self-produced, but handling all the mixing and engineer work for the album allowed Diego's Umbrella to make the album sound the way they wanted and intended for it to sound.

"Nobody will ever put as much love and attention into your project," Wood said. "That's not going to happen."
And while mixing is a long (and difficult) process, and one that can be frustrating for a band to navigate internally without an outside voice, Wood still feels he'll probably be happier with the end result this way. The album also follows in the same slightly serious tradition it tried to set with Songs for the Juerga.

Within those songs, Diego's Umbrella's brings in a lot of different sounds and influences under its musical, well, umbrella. Wood mentioned that when first learning an instrument, every player has a choice: to learn the one style of music you like, or to branch out and learn other styles. He thinks most of Diego Umbrella's players come from the latter.

"I love learning every style of music," Wood said, “versus only playing Sabbath-style rock and roll or something like that."
And those myriad musical influences all blend together, creating the kind of musical atmosphere where it is the violin player — not the lead singer — that decides to jump out into the crowd and surf.

"That's typical tour life for us," Wood said. "That's the only glass-in-ass situation we've had, but there have been other stitches situations, other crowd surfing situations. Stuff just gets kind of wild."

Diego's Umbrella plays with Zach Deputy at 9 p.m., Thursday, April 28 at the Great American Music Hall. 
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Willie Clark

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