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Unique sound, unique venue

Erik Vienneau

The media world may be going more big-business as companies like Clear Channel and promoters like Nobody in Particular present an increasing number of Colorado’s concerts and club dates. But the grass-roots tradition ofmaking music and touring through a small circuit of friend’s venues is thankfully still alive.On the acoustic world-fusion music scene, artists like Michael Mandrell and Benjy Wertheimer, who play an unconventional venue the Om Zone yoga studio in Edwards, Wednesday, Sept. 18 are busting out their Indian-inspired, soul-stirring music through an underground network that crosses the country.Mandrell says he’s played at yoga retreats, studios, churches and at an increasing number of home concerts over the last few years.”We’ve gotten substantial support from the yoga community,” Mandrell says. “They seem to tune in more to the acoustic music that we play because they really hear it.”Mandrell, a virtuoso guitarist who takes cues from many of the world’s sounds, says that most mainstream clubs and bars “just don’t know what to do with performers like us.”So when he met Jamie and Justin Alison, owners of the Om Zone yoga studio last year, they exchanged numbers and promised to play when they came through Vail.Part of the challenge for artists like Mandrell and Wertheimer is the misconception that world music is “out there” and “spacey,” and also the difficulty of gaining mainstream radio play.Although Mandrell has been featured on National Public Radio’s popular Echoes show and opened for mainstream performers from Lyle Lovett to Nancy Griffith, while Wertheimer has played with Krishna Das and opened for Carlos Santana, getting mainstream radio exposure has been tough.”The pop radio market is a very controlled market,” Mandrell says. “The major labels used to be a place where talent and creativity was exposed, but now it’s just about what sells.”That lack of access to the mainstream hasn’t been a problem for Mandrell and Wertheimer, as they’ve simply chosen to embrace those who appreciate their music.”We’re developing a grass-roots audience from the ground up,” Mandrell says. “We’re establishing ourselves as artists that are connected to the world-acoustic wave that is picking up along with the yoga boom.”He says that many of the old listening rooms from the ’70s have gone by the wayside, but that today’s grass-roots network is getting more personal.”We’re finding that people from all different backgrounds are finding something they can relate to in the music,” says Wertheimer, who is inspired mainly by Indian music and plays instruments ranging from the tabla and congas to guitar and keyboards. “Just because we are products of America doesn’t mean we don’t look to other cultures for inspiration. People are looking for ways to expand their consciousness and awareness.”We’re becoming curious about cultures besides our own and that really brings people into the world fusion music we create.”The world beat kicks into action at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 18 at the Om Zone yoga studio, Edwards Commercial Park, Building D, Unit 202. Call 926-3536. Tickets cost $15.


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