Monday, November 28, 2011

¡Viva El Presidente!

If the biblical story of Noah was true (it wasn't), then people had some interesting relationships with their family members.  Richmond's music scene was not dissimilar: there were probably more bands than there were musicians.  These incestuous relationships often produced offspring with some fascinating mutations.
Henry Street Gallery ca. 1995. My friends Mike Mehigan, John Swart, and Ben White formed a band known as the Sparky Collective, and this was their first show.  Maybe I was in a good mood, or maybe it was the "vibe", but I thought they were sparktacular.  One of their songs had this jug juggity jug jug drop D riff with the chorus "Five dollars an hour, five dollars an hour" endlessly repeating over top; and during a drum solo, the bassist and the guitarist totally high-fived.
For whatever reason, Ben left or was kicked out of the band and replaced by this tall, red-haired, bearded dude named Mike Jarvis.  From that point on, they became known as El Presidente.  Now that I think about it, it's entirely possible that Sparky broke up and Mike/Mike/John formed El Presidente, but you know how complicated these relationships can get.
Jarvis's influence on the band was pronounced.  The songs got more mathy and metallic, but still retained a degree of humor.  El Presidente was definitely Jarvis's band - in fact, after a year or so, he was the only original member.  John and Mike were replaced by two stoners named Trip (drums) and E.T. (bass).  Eventually they even got a second guitarist, by the name of Ryan Lake.
Ryan was one of a handful of true hot-shot guitarists in Richmond.  You know the type - those dudes that give off the impression that their moms' ultrasounds had weird bits of wire and wood floating around with their embryos in the womb.  He played in a Black Sabbath cover band called Brown Sabbath (also with E.T. and Trip), and legend has it that he once accidentally split a Gibson SG Custom in half by accident.  The long way.
Anyway, you know the story.  Band forms, band plays a bunch of shows, records a couple of demos, breaks up.  It's a shame that more people haven't heard this band though.  Some of my best memories of Richmond were drinking Long Island Iced Teas at Hole in the Wall, praying that K.M. would show up so that I could ask her to come back to my apartment and watch Tron (never happened), and El Presidente blasting through low-register pentatonic riffs like a Deep Purple record that kept skipping during the good parts.
So where are they now?  Last I heard, El Presidente was actually still around.  I don't know if Ryan Lake is in the band any more, because he went on to be in the infinitely more popular (and questionably named) Alabama Thunderpussy.  This is not their story.
Here is the El Presidente album.
Some time in the very late 1990's, I recorded an El Presidente live show on my 4-track.  Here is their cover of Deep Purple's Bloodsucker.

1 comment:

  1. Jarvis here. corrections: The SG Indecent did happen, but not the long way. Trip Hill never drummed for Brown Sabbath, and we are not still around. We have broken up many times before, not a big deal.......