Diego’s Umbrella expands with a smile, followed by a toe tap, a head nod, then rhythmic waist bends … “and before you know it,” its lead singer says, “everyone goes ape shit.”
The San Francisco band of gypsies with a klezmeric crescendo bent returns to Lake Tahoe Saturday after a 47-week hiatus from the place Mark Twain called the “Jewel of the Sierra.” We mention Twain because the humorist would have appreciated the fun frenzy that accompanies Diego’s Umbrella.
The players will bring their “Lasers ‘n Lesbians,” but the shard of glass has been removed from the fiddler’s ass. The aforementioned vocalist, Ben Leon, explains:
“We were in Bend, Ore., in smallish club that was really packed and Borg (Jason Kleinberg), the violin player, goes into the crowd. Every time he does this the guys are holding their breath, channeling all the chi we possibly can so that it doesn’t go badly.
“He’s on his back, leaning way back, playing violin with people carrying him. Then something happened. All I know is he came down and there was a bottle that got shattered. This poor girl, her hand got cut, and Borg’s ass got cut. That was a bad one. He got gashed but we really didn’t know how badly. It wasn’t until the next day when we played a festival.
“He went to the medical tent. They pulled a chunk of glass out of his ass that he did not even know was there even though he was uncomfortable and in pain. This was a big chunk of glass about the size of a quarter. He kept it as a souvenir. I think he was out there crowd surfing the very next day. He’s kind of like a Kamikaze pilot. Nothing seems to faze him.”
Tyson Maulhardt and Vaughn Lindstrom began playing together and recording when they were in college. The first Diego’s Umbrella album, “Kung Fu Palace,” was released in 2005. Two years later, Leon and drummer Jake Wood had joined the band for its second record, “Viva La Juerga.” In 2009, “Double Panther” came out along with one of the band’s iconic songs, “Lasers ’n Lesbians,” a long-running expression coined in one of Maulhardt and Lindstrom’s classrooms. “Proper Cowboy,” a spaghetti western-themed album, was made in 2012. Lindstrom has made numerous, and usually humorous, videos to accompany the most popular songs.
While the band mulls ideas for a fifth all-original album, it has already laid down tracks for an EP filled with cover songs, including the Hebrew standard “Hava Nagila,” which is played at most live shows.
“People,” Leon said, “always request at the merch tables, ‘Which one (CD) has ‘Hava Naila?’ and we always have to say, ‘I’m sorry it’s not on any of them,’ and of course they storm away with their money in their pocket. And then we are really upset. What we want to do is to take that money from people, and so we decided to record ‘Hava Nagila.’ ”
Leon is tight-lipped about what else will be on the record.
“There are a few surprises, a few left turns” he said. “We don’t want to reveal it just yet. A few of them are songs we’ve been playing for a while and people will be glad to finally have them, and there will be a few surprises as well.”
Notes: The “Moneymaker” video in which Lindstrom is portrayed as a candidate for San Francisco’s comptroller includes footage of Diego’s Umbrella’s penultimate show at the Crystal Bay Casino in 2012. … The bearded would-be assassin who gets poisoned in the video is band member Red Cup. “Among the many amazing things that will be happening at this (March 1) show is a dead man playing the bass,” Leon said. … Each of our previous interviews was conducted with both Leon and Maulhardt, a self-described “nonstop jabberbox” who was unavailable this time. Why? “He had a child,” Leon lamented, “that fucking traitor.” … The first concert covered by Tahoe Onstage was Diego’s Umbrella in April 2013. … By Jan. 1, 2014, Tahoe Onstage had received more than 28,000 online visits. … During a European tour Leon performed wearing a “Get Some Lake Tahoe Action” visor he was gifted. … Leon offered to return the favor by letting the Tahoe Onstage editor make a cameo in an upcoming production. “We need a new guy to kill in the next video,” he said.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, March 1
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room
Red Room after-party: La Misa Negra
Tickets: $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Booth: $32.