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Vancouver band Vicious Cycles rips it up in Cuba

Vancouver band Vicious Cycles rips it up in Cuba

If you’re reading this then you probably know what Solidarity Rock is all about, in a nutshell it’s about reaching across borders, physical and mental, to create something special in the hearts and minds of everyone who comes into contact with the cause. Benefit shows are held in various cities and towns across western Canada, music equipment is donated, and eventually makes its way down to Cuba, into the hands of hard working, dedicated and loving musicians and artists.

It’s a lot more than that too, but it’s not something that is so easily written down, but much like at a great live show, when people are on the same page, everyone feels that energy coursing through their veins, breathing it in, making it their own. It is something to be felt. Here is a visual record of the tour…
This was my third time in Cuba in just under one year, I feel like it’s a part of me, and that the relationships and connections I have made there are life lasting and forever important, it’s such a beautiful place, a country so diverse and so intriguing. My first time there, once we had returned, I was asked “So, what did you think, you know… what do you think about it all?” my answer was simply “I have no idea”. And that’s just how it is, Cuba has had such an interesting history, culturally and politically, it’s been through a lot, and not just in some distant past that is hard to imagine, but here and now. Making it somewhat difficult to put a finger on and say “this is how it is”, at least for us, visitors from far off places.

This time we were going with a Vancouver band called Vicious Cycles, a major theme in their music is motorcycles, a theme that really carried a lot of focus throughout the trip. Sure I’d always noticed all the old cars and motorbikes down there in Cuba, but never before had I really paid this kind of attention to them. The history, the names, the way they ride, and what makes them unique, a culture that I’ve never really experienced first hand before.

Vicious Cycles played a total of seven shows, all of which were infused with a passion for bikes, and the culture that goes with it, which has been thoroughly soaked in music and brought so wonderfully on stage.
Drew (good friend, fellow Edmontonian, and the guy who really started off Solidarity Rock along with William Garcia) has been working on this project for over four years, a feature length documentary film is in the works, and the plan is that within the next year, it will be complete and ready for the world. It may seem obvious with a name like Solidarity Rock that it’s all about rock and roll and punk rock… you know, music of youth, change and a “do it yourself” attitude, and while that’s absolutely true, it’s also about a lot more.

Drew is a film maker, I’m a photographer, and there are two other photographers that have been a large part of this as well, one of those being from Cuba. We have been putting on a few photography shows in Edmonton, Vancouver and Cuba. With plans to put them up in more western Canadian cities and towns, as well as doing a whole photo-show tour of five or so Cuban cities later in 2012. We know a few artists, not only photographers, but painters and sculptors, that are all putting forward an effort to come together and do some art shows in Canada, Cuba, and (if we have anything to say about it) other places in the world.

I know I’ve always spoken about how visually wonderful Cuba is, as a photographer it’s like everything around you screams “look at me!”, this being my third trip, I’ve come accustomed to that urge to shoot. I think that I’ve grown so much by working down there, I know what to shoot, and how to shoot it, to better visually tell the story. It really is hard to put the camera down and enjoy it, I suppose for me, using the camera so much is part of enjoying it, but there are definitely those times when you just need to put it away, knowing that no camera or lens in the world can properly capture just what I’m experiencing.

Driving through Cuba, the sun exploding through the trees, it’s so beautiful, and to think that a lot of this part of the country is what people pass over when they visit on vacation. When you go to Cuba, whether it’s your first time, or third time, take a chance and get away from the heavy tourist zones. You’ll then get to see Cuba the way it was meant to be seen, and trust me, you’ll love it there.

Solidarity Rock has truly touched the lives of so many people, I think there is a great interest in this from anyone who hears about it. Things have changed a lot in Cuba, in so many ways, and sure, Solidarity Rock and the people who make it possible (you know who you are), have a role in that, but beyond that, I believe Cuba is in a big time of change. It’s a very interesting time to be young and have open eyes in Cuba, I know that some people who come into contact with the live shows and ideas behind what is going on with Solidarity Rock, see that there are more ways to make some of your dreams a reality. For a foreign band to come and actually tour Cuba, It was completely unheard of. Solidarity Rock changed that. It was also unheard of for a Cuban band to really tour across Cuba, until now. Solidarity Rock is universal in it’s language and in it’s mission, it crosses any and all borders. It isn’t political, and it isn’t a platform for one, but what it does stand for is art for art’s sake, rock and roll, and the love of human expression and community.

We all play a part, I believe in what Drew and William (and everyone else!) have put into motion, but I’m the photographer, I really go and see things with my camera and try to document them that way. William is the man in Cuba when it comes to Solidarity Rock, William is so instrumental to the success of these tours, without him I highly doubt any of these would ever go nearly as smooth, or happen at all. William, Sam, and Fendu, our Cuban brothers, without you guys I’d still remain lost, and still have no clue… you are all the best! There are many more of you there, too many to list, who make us feel like family, who support and carry us through. Solidarity Rock belongs to everyone involved, it’s not a trophy to be held up high for one person, it’s for all of us, and that’s why it works so wonderfully.

It’s always so interesting to talk to the people who are new to these tours, I spoke earlier about not knowing how to answer the question “So, what did you think?”, and the more time I spend there, the closer I get to maybe one day being able to fully answer that. When we sit on the tour bus, sometimes for many hours at a time, we often talk about how we feel about the experience. To some, it’s a cool way to spend two weeks, a time that rivals any other tour or party, and that’s great! But to some it’s sort of like a spiritual push, being on a trip like this, it has the power to change lives.

Speaking with Rob, the bass player (he does back up vocals too) in the Vicious Cycles recently back in Canada, I realized just how much it can weigh on people, sure every day life is still every day life, but I think that it has really inspired him, and most likely the whole band, I heard the sincerity in his words when he spoke to me about what the trip meant to him personally.
Februaary 2012

About Solidarity Rock
Solidarity Rock is an artist run organization working to partner musicians, artists and creative people in Cuba, Canada and beyond.  It was started by Drew in 2007. The core of the movement is to help rock and roll thrive in Cuba.   Sure, rock and roll has been there.  But not too long ago, being a punk rocker, a metal head, a rocker, was discouraged.  Solidarity Rock, with the support of Canadian musicians, hold benefit shows, raise awareness and funds, and collect gear they might not need anymore.  A patch cord, guitar strings, an old amp, a bass, drum pieces, no donation is too great or small! The equipment is taken down to Cuba and distributed to the people who need it the most. In the past, something as simple as a guitar string could put an entire band on hold for a few weeks, while phone calls were made across the province(s) in Cuba looking for someone who might have a solution. While that is still the case in some parts of Cuba, things are changing, a lot. There is now equipment for bands to share, and people have access to music and expression like never before.  The initiative has been a huge success.
For more information please go to http://www.sandyphimester.com

February 2012

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