Similar to the former Soviet Union, post-revolution Cuba was not rocking and rolling. The global teenage bourgeousie’s music of choice failed both class and colonialism taste standards decreed by commie culturecrats. If you wanted to mosh not mambo, you did it by breaking the law.
As ever, the time-tested adage that what is forbidden is all the more desired proved true and underground rock music flourished.
Time passed and it became a bit easier to tune in and turn up if not drop out in Cuban society. The biggest problem was coming into the right gear to bring the noise, so most artists stuck with traditional acoustic brass and percussion combos playing to tourists. Since 2008, Edmonton, Alta.-based grass roots group Solidarity Rock has worked to establish connections between Canadian and Cuban bands in the city of Sancti Spiritus. To date, four tours by Canadian bands from Albterta to Cuba have enriched cross-cultural gigging and also delivered much needed equipement donations to musicians on the island nation. This year, Vancouver motorcycle punks the Vicious Cycles head to a seven-date/10 day-long Cuban tour with metallists Arrabio. The band features Solidarity Rock’s Cuban counterpart William Garcia who is booking the tour through the Hermanos Saiz Association. Most of the dates across the country will include local acts and the Havana date (Jan. 13) is an eight-group tribute to the late William Fabian of Eskoria, a popular punk unit. None of these acts is anywhere in the mainstream.
For the Vicious Cycles, the tour is a dream come true. Bassist Rob Wright is looking forward to the kickoff this weekend with Rich Hope & His Evil Doers and the AK-747s.
“We’ve been together about four years and haven’t toured anywhere but B.C. and Alberta,” says Wright. “Other members were in groups like the Blackjacks and Raised By Wolves, which did tour extensively in the U.S. as well, but this is a big deal.”
“Drew McIntosh, a key organizer from Solidarity Rock, is an old friend of mine from Edmonton and I really wanted to do this and he helped it happen. As far as I know, prior to this organization no Western bands were touring Cuba, they just did one-offs in Havana or Veradero.”
The five-piece combo’s full name is the Vicious Cycles Motorcycle Club. It specializes in high-energy punk that would put a Social Distortion fan in a good mood. The quintet has its riffs in a row. They have an album out titled the Strange and Terrible Saga Of with a cover depicting a bar brawl with colours-sporting bikers. Wright says that there is a subculture of punk rock motorcycle clubs in Vancouver now. And they ride a dizzying array of brands.
“The guys in the cover photo are good friends of ours and followers of the band called the Nightfighters. Then there is the all-female Majestic Unicorns, Filth Mode, the Scorpions — I probably left some out who will be pissed, sorry. It’s just neat that we have this under-the-radar thing happening.”
The Vicious Cycles also has some deep family ties. It’s Theramin and keyboard player Norman Anderson is the father of the drummer, Jared Anderson. Wright says it’s an unusual situation, but one that works just fine.
“The age range in this band is from 22 to 51 and we all get along great. It helps that Norman is kind of like the world’s oldest teenager. But really, we have day jobs and kid realities and the real goal is to just have a good time and make sure everyone else does.”
He expects that thrashing away in Cuba will wind up being one for the storybook to tell the family down the road. To listen to the Vicious Cycles, visit theviciouscycles.bandcamp.com. Solidarity Rock is at solidarityrock.tumblr.com.