Artist of the day: Funky Panda

30

April

Funky.panda

Tampa duo Funky PandaAaron “Kelso” Schwartz, vocals, guitar and, harp, and Mikey “Mexican Air Force Ace” Rosenzweig, drums, percussion and washboard — perform an irreverent mixture of bluegrass, rock and funk. They are not your average musicians, as we found during our interview.

Take, for example, Rosenzweig's description of how the two met: “In 2002 ... Kelso was the next messiah of UT Swimming, who would train early mornings to bone up on his technique and Speedo tan. I was on federal work-study and cleaned the pool early mornings. On a somewhat foggy, wintry morning when I was shocking the pool with chlorine, I dropped my Sony Walkman in to the pool along with my Van Halen 1984 cassette tape. Kelso, who was practicing his butterfly scooped up the alleged Walkman with cassette tape and began to chat with this drunken pool boy about music. I smelled like Keystone Premium and Astroglide, but he was a charmer. Hence we became drinking partners and formed La Banda de Panda!”

Alrighty then. You can check out Funky Panda Saturday night at Yeoman’s Road Pub, 236 E Davis Blvd., Tampa. Cover is $5.

LISTEN - Funky Panda, Black Riders

After the jump, check out Julie Garisto's full interview with these crazy panda bears ...

Bearing it all: Tampa duo Funky Panda — Aaron “Kelso” Schwartz, vocals, guitar, harp and “the Jawbone of a Narwhal,” and Mikey “Mexican Air Force Ace” Rosenzweig, drums, percussion and washboard — perform an irreverent mixture of bluegrass, rock and funk. They are not your average musicians, as we found during our interview.

How their friendship came to be: In an e-mail, Rosenzweig described his version of the band’s formation: “In 2002 ... Kelso was the next messiah of UT Swimming, who would train early mornings to bone up on his technique and Speedo tan. I was on federal work-study and cleaned the pool early mornings. On a somewhat foggy, wintry morning when I was shocking the pool with chlorine, I dropped my Sony Walkman in to the pool along with my Van Halen 1984 cassette tape. Kelso, who was practicing his butterfly scooped up the alleged Walkman with cassette tape and began to chat with this drunken pool boy about music. I smelled like Keystone Premium and Astroglide, but he was a charmer. Hence we became drinking partners and formed La Banda de Panda!”

College mates: Both attended the University of Tampa, described by Schwartz as a “gloriously opulent and overpriced institution.”

Family life: “The Pandas both are part of families, but have not made their own,” Rosenzweig said. “We are nicely educated folk who possess a library card.”

Song spotlight: Black Riders started as a “very soft train ballad on the mandolin,” said Schwartz, but turned into a fast rock song. “Black Riders is based on some rail traveling I did with some peeps last summer, in and all over Europe,” Schwartz said. “When riding a train, bus, tram, or subway without a ticket, it is known as 'black riding.’ My brazen Euro-posse and I became quite adept at this method of travel and employed it virtually everywhere we went.”

What they got going on: “We always have recording in mind and have nine or so songs done,” Rosenzweig said. But recently, they’ve been focusing on live shows. “We enjoy the energy of the crowd, friends and new friends and the life that they bring to our music.”

Tour plans? Said Rosenzweig: “We are building a rocketship so we can get off this rock and take our music to other galaxies. Planet Earth is so 20th century.” Closer to, um, home, Rosenzweig said Funky Panda is tentatively plotting some New England gigs with friends in the Boston and New York areas. “But only if our rocket ship isn’t up and running by then.”

How they complement one another: According to Schwartz, “Our musical mentality and philosophies of how we prepare and perform are polar opposites. I am a rustic, uninhibited, Arkansas troubadour. Mikey is a classically trained percussionist that brings much intensity to the band.”

Hear them: Saturday night at Yeoman’s Road Pub, 236 E Davis Blvd., Davis Islands, Tampa. $5.

-- Julie Garisto, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:19pm]

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...