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An American Gypsy
From here on in, let's refer to Patrick Contreras as an anthromusicalogist.
No, that's not an official title (heck, it might not even be a real word), but it fits better than the alternative, simply labeling him "eclectic."
OK, musically he is eclectic, combining classical violin training with the school-of-hard-knocks learning he gained from sit-in jam sessions and on tour with the progressive rock/flamenco group Zambra and a love for everything from Amy Winehouse to Nickel Creek.
By way of example: Contreras debuts "American Gypsy", 8 p.m., June 22 at Arte Americas. The show, featuring a nine-member all-star band and a lineup of guests like Jay Rossette, Eva Scow and the flamenco dance group Cuadro Espanol, is the culmination of the last three years of his musical life.
Contreras has done solo shows before — big ones, at the Tower Theatre — and has always crissed and crossed musical lines. He'd play a Chinese song and follow it up with a traditional Mexican tune, a few jazz numbers.
And part of Contreras' draw as a musician is his ability to venture out and play different musical styles, says Steve Ono, a longtime local musician and guitar player in Contreras' band.
The pair start a jam session at Full Circle Brewery playing old fiddle tunes (Contreras is building his chops for a fiddle competition). By the end of the night, they've been joined by a vocalist and are doing Mexican ranchero songs.
The concept of American Gypsy, which Contreras will take across the country on a tour this summer, is to mix that all into one song, one sound. "What if I took some of this, took some of this, and put them together," he says.
You'd get something explosive.
Like the group's performance at KFSR's Evening Eclectic En Vivo show, which Ono says was one of the greatest musical moments of his career (and highlighted by Contreras jumping up on table and chairs).
And Ono is a guy who quit playing music in the 1970s because it was too loud.
This is loud, too. Contreras plays the violin like a guitar, like Stevie Ray Vaughn or Hendrix. And it's rock, Ono says. Not some classical guy trying to play rock.
And yes, it's "eclectic," too.
That might not be an easy sell in Fresno, where indie, metal and Top 40 bands seem to rule. But he's the exposure that Jay Rossette and Eva Scow are getting. He's also seen the audience response to his music, and says the audience is ready. "A lot of bands and clubs underestimate Fresno."
Maybe they just need an anthromusicalogist to explain it to them.