MANUEL THE BAND
Joshua Tree, California – Saturday, February 26, 2022
It didn’t take being named Los Angeles based, Latest Magazine’s “2019 Hot 100 Live Unsigned Arti sts & Bands,” for desert musicians to recognize the depth or level of talent encompassed in Manuel the Band. Having competed in local competi ti ons against local favorites, there was no shame in taking second here, and in some minds, the lingering thought was, “If this band can’t summit the proverbial music industry
mountain, then who?”
Just as the troupe experienced momentum, the historic oppression of live music smothered it. It didn’t crush their work ethic, however, nor did it pull them apart. The band returns to the desert with a new album and a new will to make a mark in this thing they call the music business. At the forefront, is Manuel Grajeda, a mild-mannered schoolteacher by day, and a badass rocker by night (or whenever the music summons). The charismati c performer audiences have come to love and follow (Covid-19 be damned), has recently fi nished his master’s degree in internati onal studies with a focus on economics and sustainable development.
Grajeda was born into music, the son of a musical mother. “My mom is a singer and piano player, so I grew up always hearing her playing and singing. As I got older, my mom would bring home instruments that I could teach myself to play. Over the years, I picked up guitar, piano, steel drums, and more.”
The lead singer/guitar slinger was not the only one born to play (or with great hair). Drummer, Brandon Charlesworth, has been a friend and bandmate since 2010. With an inner-meter like a machine, and a Ginger Baker touch, he regulates the heartbeat of an eclecti c range of styles and feels this band produces. His pure joy on the drums becomes yours. Kevin Nowacki helps deliver the feels and lays down a soulful and powerful foundati on for this rock band of many moving parts. Richard Fernandez, on trombone and trumpet, makes you wonder why you don’t have a horn in your own band.
Coupled with Matt Kalin on sax, this horn section is the envy of any artist, signed or not. It is not an easy thing keeping a 5-piece band together, cohesively working together, and moving forward at this level. For most unsigned bands, it’s an upside-down business plan. The payoff is in an experience that is musically satisfying. You also have to like, or at the very least, respect the people you’re working with if you’re going to stay together long enough to get really great. From Grajeda’s perspective, “The pandemic just forced us to be more resilient. I’ve had my fair share of overlord breakdowns, over the last two years. But I think I’ve learned that it’s ok to have those moments; it’s imperative that you keep going.”
Allow me to introduce the sixth member of this phenomenal band. George Madrid shares the front of the stage on pedal steel. The young Madrid is beyond his years in musical intuition and tone. It would be easy to tip the stage sideways with electric guitar, bass, and a horn section all trying to find their place. Madrid makes you wonder what rock and roll ever did without pedal steel. If there’s a song that is cutting you open, Madrid’s parts are salt on the wound. If the music is filling your soul, Madrid will make it overflow.
This six-piece ensemble, while making their music look effortless, only does so because of hard work and passion. With the release of their second album, Things That Can’t Be Seen, they once again pick up momentum and then some. “The album is a mixture of songs from over the years,” shared Grajeda. “Some were written years ago and came back into fashion for me as a song writer, while others were written months before recording. It goes all over the place in terms of theme. Some songs are about love, others heartbreak, some reflect on my own individual growth, and others are just about being a broke American with college debt.”
Some things can be seen and should be, like Manuel the Band, live, in one of the best sounding, funktastic venues in Joshua Tree. Get your tickets soon. Space is limited. Search Eventbrite: Manuel the Band Record Release Party at FurstWurld.