Vail Daily artist interview: Marrakesh Express answers 7
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was one of the biggest bands in the world after the demise of the Beatles and is one of the most enduring and influential musical groups of all time. The band, born in the turbulent years of the late ’60s, released hit after hit that spoke directly for its generation. Tribute band Marrakesh Express upholds the integrity of that music with its vivid and realistic performance of CSNY’s most recognizable songs. The band will perform at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek on Tuesday. Members of the band recently took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.
Vail Daily: What can the audience expect from a Marrakesh Express concert?Marrakesh Express: Our concerts reach audiences on a lot of different levels. They’ll hear all of the CSNY acoustic and electric hits, deep cuts and fan favorites they’ve come to love over the years. Older fans will reminisce about the late 1960s, and younger fans will get a feel for what it was like to have “been there.” Our musicians are long-haired hippies, so it’s a rather authentic Woodstock-type vibe and visual at our concerts. And the music and its themes are timeless and still relevant, especially these days with the Occupy protests.
VD: How do you choose which CSNY songs to cover? Do you take requests?ME: We go into every show with a set list, but if someone asks for something and the band is feeling it, we try to accommodate! As far as covering CSNY, certain songs are standards and have to be included. Most of the songs in our repertoire are from “CSN” and “Deja Vu” period, but we also perform some songs that appeared on the members’ solo albums. Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With,” Neil Young’s “Down by the River” and “Cinnamon Girl,” Graham Nash’s “Chicago” and “Immigration Man” are a few that fall into that category.
VD: What songs will be included on your set list at the Vilar Performing Arts Center?ME: People can expect to hear the radio hits along with a few deep cuts and fan favorites. The eight musicians of Marrakesh Express are all songwriters and we’ve written a few things while trying to stay true to the vibe of CSNY. We may drop one of those in if the crowd is feeling it. We’ve got two hours to fill plus encores, so if you have a favorite song we’re probably going to play it!
VD: How challenging is it to cover CSNY songs?ME: The music, and especially the intricate, layered vocal harmonies are very challenging. The original band set the bar very high when they wrote and recorded together. Marrakesh Express has four vocalists, each with a different range and timbre to their voice. Our vocal director Rick Hemphill dissected each song and assigned vocal parts to present the truest, most accurate harmonies possible. Our guitar players and rhythm section are spot-on with their renditions of every song, from the hardest electric rocker to the mellowest acoustic tune.
VD: In your opinion, what is the best CSNY song of all time?ME: That depends on your mood! If you’re feeling rebellious, “Woodstock” is perfect. If you just broke up with a girlfriend, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” or “49 Bye-byes” might fit your mood. Happily settled in and married? “Our House” is right on. Angry at the government? Listen to “Ohio.” Every parent and grandparent loves “Teach Your Children.” If you want to just groove to the music, “Carry On,” “Southern Cross,” and “Helplessly Hoping” are all classics. All four of the musicians – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – were geniuses at capturing the moods of a generation.
VD: What is one of your most memorable band experiences?ME: There have been a lot of band highlights but one of the best was headlining the 40th Anniversary Tribute to Woodstock concert. It was a three-day event held at an airport in Woodstock, IL, so helicopters were landing and taking off just like in the movie. Attendance was about 15,000 and most people camped on the airport grounds. The quality of the other bands, such as the tributes to The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, Joe Cocker, and Jimi Hendrix, were all top-notch. It was a magical weekend.
VD: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about your band?ME: Everyone in the band loves what we’re doing, we have a lot of fun, and we love the reaction we’ve received from audiences who appreciate the music of CSNY. It’s a privilege to keep this music alive and bring it to people who may have been too young, or who for whatever reason never got to see the original band. We would dig meeting you after the show, so if you enjoyed the concert stick around Vilar Performing Arts Center and say hi. Hope everyone is having a holiday season filled with peace and love, and we’ll see you on Dec. 27th!