My Lost Days with My Cousin and Her Rocker Friends



Ziggy Mack @fomoloop

Last week my first cousin from Chile rolled into town. When I have family visiting from South America, I create an agenda of cool stuff to do in Memphis and run our visit like a Disney tour guide hitting all the highlights, magic, and never waiting in line for anything. This visit was different though because my cousin is in a band and they were booked solid with four nights of gigs in which I had to visit around their schedule, not one I put together. This was a return trip for her band, Tomates Rocky, and companion band, Rising Sun Orchestra. They were here in March, met a few key folks, played some gigs and were asked to come back and perform their infectious Chilean psychedelic rock a few more times. They are: Maria Eugenia “Kena” Goldenberg (my cousin), Nico Bowen, Sebastian Bielefeldt, Jose Tomas Herrera, Francisco “Caco” Diaz, Francisco “Chico” Prieto Zanartu, and Gonzalo “Chalo” Salazar. Together, they form the two bands and have been building a U.S. tour which includes stops in Austin, Memphis, Philadelphia, and Charleston. It’s important to note that they aren’t just your average Chilean psychedelic rock band. Both groups were granted federal funding by Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes (much like our National Endowment for the Arts) to produce their albums. They are officially considered to be ambassadors of modern Chilean music and are touring the States representing the Shoestring Republic — super choro, which is Chilean slang for “way cool.” And they all left behind day jobs and families too ...Kena is an art director, Nico is an architect, there are also businessmen, contractors in the mix and some hold master’s degrees from universities here in the U.S. But they also happen to be really good musicians that perform incredibly well together and have a synergy that is truly special — everyone in Memphis felt it, adored it, and wants more of it. 

Their gigs were nonstop: Wednesday night at Newby’s, Thursday night at Bar DKDC, Friday night at BristerFest, then Saturday at the Hi-Tone. They behaved exactly as young rockers should and they loved every second of their gritty Memphis experience. The Newby’s show was ironic because Kena had actually been there back in 1996 when she was in Memphis last for my wedding. We actually smuggled her in (sorry, Todd!) with my wedding party many years ago. Seeing them play where I spent many college nights was beyond surreal. The DKDC show also doubled as a birthday party celebration for my bestie, Lucia Heros, and she got a special rendition of “Feliz Cumpleanos” sung to her by the Chilenos — more on those festivities in a future post. I hired photographer Ziggy Mack to capture those moments and you’ll be able to relish his pics in the gallery attached. By happenstance, Don Perry was there too with his camera and his shots are also in the gallery. Friday during the day, I took Caco to Graceland where I strategically placed light pressure on my left eye only because it made the lingering rum drinks from the night before go away ... all while trying to explain what The Jungle Room is to Caco, who was in total shock and awe. We met up with the other roqueros to soak our hangovers at The Four Way Grill where they were introduced to such Southern soul kitchen delights as neck bones, yams, corn bread, and sweet tea. They Were Enthralled ... and Chile has GREAT food. We turned the corner over to STAX and boogied through the museum. I had to chill Friday night but they went on to close BristerFest and blew everyone away. Saturday, we checked out the Vinyl Record Swap in Crosstown put on by Goner Records. They picked up gems from Devo, Johnny Cash, and The Rolling Stones while I carted off with Fleetwood Mac (Bob Welch years), Bryan Ferry, and JJ Cale. After that, they played the Hi-Tone in the ping-pong room and my handful of friends including Megan Barger, Sheryl Butler, and Dewayne Campbell boogied nonstop. Sunday was Mother’s Day and it was a real treat to have Kena here with my family celebrating — even though we were feeling the burn of endless PBR’s from many nights before.

Monday afternoon the bands came by my house to play an acoustic set for a small gathering of friends and neighbors. The best part was watching my oldest son, John Henry, sit behind the drums and play around with these guys who really nurtured his interest. In Chile, when you become really close to friends, you call them family. These musicians who came to Memphis with my cousin all became my family ... they call me Prima Goose, or Cousin Goose. Totally cool with me. They are all my rocker cousins and I am sure this is not the last U.S. tour they will be embarking on. Salud a Tomates Rocky and Rising Sun Orchestra! 

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