Divine gypsies descend on the Saloon | VailDaily.com

Divine gypsies descend on the Saloon

Wren Wertin

DeVotchKa is perhaps the only Latin-Slavic-flavored ensemble in all of Colorado, if not the United States. Their music intertwines a myriad of weepy strings and a passionate accordion with frenetic guitar and sassy brass. Add in a flashy stage show, and it’s gypsy music through and through. They play today at the Saloon in Minturn at 9 p.m.

How do they feel about being associated with technicolor dreams?

“For me, music is the ultimate form of escapism,” said Nick Urata, bandleader. “Black and white cinemascope, tuxedos and evening gowns – this is the stuff of my most romantic dreams. I am so happy that the music can evoke that sort of imagery for anyone beside myself.”

DeVotchKa’s story began long ago in the Windy City. Urata and his friend, Jon Ellison, would lug whatever portable instruments they could carry between the two of them (usually guitars, accordions and hand drums) and set up shop in the subway station. They let loose with spirited Spanish polkas for the unappreciative audience. Eventually, fed up with the depressing Chicago cityscape, the duo migrated to Colorado.

The “cosmopolitan chamber troupe” takes its name from Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” in which Alex DeLarge describes a desire for women as,” a little of the old in-out, in-out on a weepy young devotchka.” But instead of being sinister beings, they’re romantics.

“I would like to think that we tap into a place of the subconscious that connects people with their long-suppressed gypsy roots,” said Urata. “If you realize the gypsies have intermingled with virtually every race on the planet, you will see that they connected us all.”

On stage, Urata (vocals, guitar, trumpet) is joined by Tom Hagerman (violin), Paul Fonfera (clarinet, accordion), Jenie Schroeder (tuba, upright bass), David Rastettar (drums, afro-cuban percussion) and Sam Young (drums). They get their volume from the sheer quantity of instruments they bring on stage.

“The great thing about this music is it can be at its most powerful without any electricity,” said Urata, who cites getting kicked out of his first band as the defining moment when he knew he’d follow music forever.

Their debut album, “Supermelodrama,” was released in 2000. It’s comprised of Urata’s lyrical waxings and the group’s hard-to-define sound (critics have tried, coining such phrases as mariachi polka punk to Slavic shockabilly). They’ve just recorded a second album.

“We went to the desert and stayed in a haunted hotel,” he said. “Hopefully we got some of those ghosts on the tape. It will be out this winter, but we are selling a sampler of the new stuff at our shows.”

Their shows get a bit rowdy, with everyone diving into fantasy-land and the musicians’ penchant for encouraging such behavior.

“Without an audience our songs wither and die,” said Urata. “When there is an audience involved they become a totally different animal, and if we’re on, they become a giant, love-giving wildebeest.”

They’re just returning from a tour in the Midwest. On the road they listen to all kinds of music, but prefer “the stuff that can make you laugh or bring tears of joy,” such as Tenacious D, Ludwig Von, Tom Waits and Flaming Lips.

For more information on DeVotchKa visit their Web site at http://www.DeVotchKa.net, or visit the Saloon in Minturn today at 9 p.m.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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