‘Rock flamenco’ guitarist El Javi to play Colorado Music Showcase at the Wheeler Opera House
IF YOU GO …
What: Colorado Music Showcase
Where: Wheeler Opera House lobby bar
When: Sunday, Aug. 5, 8 p.m.
How much: Free
More info: The evening, part of the Wheeler’s Sunset Sessions series, includes performances by Miss Meaghan Owens, Roma Ransom, Valle Musico and El Javi; wheeleroperahouse.com
El Javi may be the king of “rock flamenco.”
The Denver-based guitarist also coined the term, basically invented the form and founded this kingdom himself — melding the hard-edged electric shredding style of heavy metal with the romantic folkloric Spanish tradition of flamenco.
“I’m still a rocker,” he said in a recent phone interview.
El Javi will play the Colorado Music Showcase at the Wheeler Opera House on Sunday, performing with a trio and introducing listeners to his unique style.
The free showcase of Centennial State talent also includes performances by indie folk artist Miss Meaghan Owens of Glenwood Spring, the Colorado Springs psych-folk outfit Roma Ransom and the Roaring Fork Valley’s own Valle Musico.
The event is among the last in the Wheeler’s eclectic summer-long Sunset Sessions series, which has proved to be a popular addition to the packed summer events calendar in Aspen, including two recent standing-room-only performances of Aspen singer Nina Gabianelli’s one-woman show. This weekend also features a free Sunset Sessions open mic night for local comedians Friday. The series closes Aug. 10 with comedian Julian McCullough.
Raised in Mexico City, Javi was a metalhead as a teen. Inspired by Metallica and Led Zeppelin, he dreamed of life as a guitar hero.
When he came to the U.S. to study at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, however, his bubble quickly burst.
“I was pursuing the whole rock life,” he explained. “But when I was there, I realized everybody else was, too. Everybody was a metalhead and a shredder. I was like, ‘Oh s—.’ I didn’t feel special or unique.”
Disillusioned, he put down his guitar for half a year.
“I was so depressed about it, I was like, ‘I don’t know what else to do now,’” Javi recalled.
He even sold off his guitar and his amps. But, on a whim, he bought a flamenco guitar and started noodling with it. That instrument would help him find his voice as an artist and would send him on a yearslong creative adventure.
He put aside rock and metal and started teaching himself the flamenco technique, listening and playing along to classics like “Friday Night in San Francisco” by Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucía and John McLaughlin.
He then went to Spain in 2004 to study flamenco at the source.
“That changed my life completely,” he said. “When I went to Spain, it became a passion and I immersed myself in it and the lifestyle.”
When he came back to the U.S. and settled back in Los Angeles, Javi had a light-bulb moment that birthed his “rock flamenco” style.
“I was like, ‘Well, this is all nice but I don’t want to be sitting down and playing the guitar,’” he recalled. “I’m still a rocker. I play hard. So that was when I started experimenting combining the essence of rock — the chord progressions, the rhythm — with the flamenco.”
His 2012 album “Self-Portrait” announced the new style.
His most recent record is “A Gypsy Journey, Part II.” Released in 2017, it is the second in a series of albums based on his travels playing music and immersing himself in world cultures. He’s taken an increasingly elastic approach to genre, bringing in elements of jazz with horns, and folk traditions with violin, moving easily between electric and acoustic guitar.
“It’s a reflection of the travels, the people we meet, the places we go and finding inspiration to write music about that,” he said.
The new record includes a tribute to his adopted home titled “Colorado.” Javi has been based in Denver for three years and has become a regular in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley with regular gigs at the St. Regis and elsewhere. After this weekend’s showcase at the Wheeler, he’ll be back in the valley next weekend for the KDNK Hootenanny in Carbondale on Aug. 10.
“What I feel I get is more of a small-town, quiet nature,” he said of life in the Mountain West. “That’s something I haven’t ever done — camping and fishing and all this stuff. It’s more about self-discovery.”
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The nonprofit VOICES led 39 bilingual Basalt Middle School students through a visual journaling project to tell their stories this spring.