"New group brings world beats to St. Cloud"

Story by Dana Drazenovich in the St. Cloud Times published Thursday, July 11, 2002.

Starting tonight, Tavern on Germain will be rocking to a different beat on Thursdays.

Put on your dancing duds and head downtown. The Stearns County Pachanga Society, a group of musicians taking a fun and somewhat loose approach to playing what rhythm guitarist Mike Hasbrouck calls "Afro-Caribbean music with a Stearns County twist" – if you can imagine such a thing – takes the Tav’s Thursday night slot through Aug. 15.

Expect lots of percussion, lots of new takes on old songs, a night full of highly danceable tunes and, perhaps, a new appreciation for some rich music tradition.

"We’re trying to do a lot of tunes from reggae, ska, cumbia (from Columbia), samba (from Brazil), salsa rhythms and such …," Hasbrouck said.

"Rhythmicwise, I think it’s really interesting music, and I think people want to hear different stuff."

They don’t play the pure forms of traditional music, necessarily, he said. "It’s those musics through a rock filter, or something like that. It’s tunes from other traditions slightly rockified …."

Manu Chao gets covered frequently, and the group also plays tunes people here are more likely to know, from the Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Neil Young songs, with a slightly different rhythm.

About a quarter of the songs are in Spanish, another quarter or so are from other cultures, and the rest are Stearns County Pachanga Society’s unique takes on rock. The music manages to feel familiar yet new, with a definite party feel.

"If you have music that’s fun and people can dance to, they’re going to enjoy it," Hasbrouck said.

"Pachanga" is a Spanish word that can mean to have a good time or to party, Hasbrouck explained. Hasbrouck, who has spent time in Spain, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and most recently four months in Costa Rica as the director of St. cloud State University’s study abroad program there, wanted to bring the concept of pachanga home.

Hasbrouck e-mailed his brother, Hoolies lead singer and guitarist Mark Hasbrouck, about the idea while he was in Costa Rica from January to May 2001. When he got back, he hooked up with Hoolies drummer Brian Heying and started practicing.

Mike Hasbrouck was excited about the idea of bringing Afro-Caribbean music traditions to St. Cloud, but others at first were skeptical about the idea. But not Dave Copa of Tavern on Germain.

"He was the first person I told the idea to who had no skepticism, who said, ‘Yeah, that sounds interesting. Let’s go for it,’" Mike Hasbrouck said.

The Stearns county Pachanga society debuted with two shows in June. The core group is mark Hasbrouck on lead guitar, Mike on rhythm guitar, Heying on drums, Stacy Bauer of Collective Unconscious on percussion and Jim Feia on keyboards.

It’s an interactive experience. The group puts out percussion instruments so people on the dance floor can add to the rhythmic mix. Hasbrouck said the group plans to bring up guest musicians to sit in on certain tunes, and he also hopes that people who are into percussion and different music traditions will start bringing their instruments as well.

I think it’s going to be a thing that will continue to evolve and change as it goes," he said. "The openness lends itself to that."