Latin Hendrix to play KDNK blues fest
August 21, 2008
CARBONDALE Listen to a dose of Omar Torrezs fingerwork on guitar and youll hear his family’s influence. And a little Hendrix.He plays flamenco, Latin funk, rock and blues with passion, eyes sometimes closed, his fingers a blur as they move across the strings.My father would always say music is the medicine for the soul. I really took to that, Torrez said Monday from his home base of Los Angeles. Maybe thats why I didnt turn out to be a juvenile delinquent. For me, it was therapy growing up.Carbondale will get a taste of Torrezs medicine when he performs at the sixth annual KDNK Blues and BBQ Fest on Saturday, Aug. 23, on Main Street. Torrez and his band will top off an event that begins with cooking demonstrations and barbecue at 3 p.m.Performing alongside Torrez, from 7-9 p.m., is regular bandmate John Wakefield on percussion and keyboard, Roberto Vally on bass, and Donald Barrett on drums.Torrezs music is as varied as his heritage; he has Spanish and Basque (via Mexico), Norwegian, Native American and Russian roots.Described as a guitar wizard and the Latin Hendrix, Torrez gained national acclaim when he won the National Jimi Hendrix Guitar Competition about 10 years ago at the prestigious Bumbershoot Festival.The award should come as no surprise he was introduced to Hendrixs work at an early age.Torrez, half-jokingly, says he got his start in music soon after my parents hooked up. His mother was a singer, and his father was a Puebla, Mexico, native who played guitar and sang traditional Mexican rancheras.Born and raised in Seattle, Torrezs parents always had exposed the family to a variety of music, including Hendrix.Torrez first started playing music with piano lessons at age 8, but it wasnt until he grew a bit older and became obsessed with the electric guitar that he actually started playing with feeling.I saved my paper route money to buy a guitar. I took to it pretty fast, he said of his teen years. I pretty much locked myself in my room for two years in early high school.He discovered girls and changed his focus for the latter half of high school, then went on to study literature at college. But the guitar remained in his life and he continued to play, and his passion for creating music was unmistakable to those around him.Everyone always knew what I would do except me. I was always playing, he said.His talent was recognized by musical poet and balladeer Tom Waits, who hand-picked Torrez to play guitar on Waits recent southern U.S. and European tour.They play with race-car precision and they are all true conjurers. They are all multi-instrumentalists and they polka like real men, Waits said about his co-musicians in a National Public Radio interview.Torrez returned Aug. 1 from the tour.When it comes to songwriting, John Prine and Waits are his role models, so it was life-changing for Torrez to see Waits in action every night for two months.Now I have higher standards for myself. Trust me, after my Tom Waits experience, Im going to be changing some things, he said, explaining that now hell be aiming to add a twist to his work.For me it was like going to school in how to be unique. I was going to the University of Uniqueness. Last year I was just shooting for quality. Now quality is not good enough.Torrez admits hes aiming for perfection but also says he knows how to take it easy.Im also extremely good at relaxing and debauchery hanging out with friends, drinking great wine, eating great food, he said, laughing.
Food is the other highlight of the KDNK Blues and BBQ Fest. Beginning at 3 p.m. Smoke, A Modern BBQ, will fire up the grills. Micro-brewed Tommyknocker beer and cooking demonstrations by valley chefs also are on tap.New this year is an Amateur Sauce Contest. Entries will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Those who cannot be present can drop off concoctions at KDNK before Saturday. Each entry must be at least 10 ounces, with all ingredients listed. The winner receives a dinner for two and will have the sauce featured at Smoke in Willits.There will be a kids Ferris wheel and a backyard farmers market for those who have excess fruits and veggies from their gardens. Concluding the evening will a slide show of Mountain Fair images compiled by Jane Bachrach.To volunteer or for more information, call 963-0139 or visit http://www.kdnk.org.