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Gypsies in Mariachi Clothing: Creating geographical confusion with Diego's Umbrella 

click to enlarge Raise your freak flag...
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Raise your freak flag...
"We're huge in Holland," says Tyson Maulhardt, the guitarist for the San Francisco band Diego's Umbrella, adding a quick laugh.

Every internationally touring band has some out-of-the way country where they claim to be "huge," so this isn't necessarily a strange comment...but Holland? Really? We've heard Japan more than enough times and Spain also gets tossed around, but this is a first for Holland. But with a sound that encompasses the music of at least three different continents, why wouldn't Hollanders go crazy when this quirky yet musically solid band lights up their local stages?

The Hollanders go nuts for them, but the Germans? Not so much, says Maulhardt, as he and fiddler Jason Kleinberg discuss the band's third European tour, which kicks off in September.

"The Germans like to sit there and listen with their hand on their chins and then they'll come up to you after the show and share their in-depth observations," says Maulhardt.

Since beginning with Mexicali ambitions in Santa Cruz in 2001, Diego's Umbrella has prided itself on melting together a mish-mash of world influences into a surprisingly modern sound. The band's instrumentation includes a fiddle and accordion and at times their product is that of a wandering Eastern-European band of minstrels who were abducted by flamenco masters, and yeah, it's weird, but incredibly accessible. Call it world music for beginners, if you will. And this is how Maulhardt says the band has always operated.

"Our first album had a little bit of folk in it, blues and Spanish surf. We were open to whatever people wanted to bring to the table," he says.

After a few years of packing as many genres under its collective belt, Diego's Umbrella got a gig playing a Jewish wedding for which they learned a few klezmer tunes. And although the band has gone on to play shows much larger in scope than that particular wedding, it remains a turning point for the band.

"We were already experimenting with those sounds, but that definitely pushed us to do it more," says Kleinburg. Since then, the band has incorporated the klezmer sound, thus creating what many refer to as the band's "gypsy" tone.

The band's quirkiness doesn't end with their actual music. On stage, the men of Diego's Umbrella present themselves in one of three sets of homemade "uniforms." The last time they played in Bend at the Summit Saloon and Stage in February they adorned matching military-type getups (see the photo for their Sound of Music approach to costumes) and when they were recently in Austin for the South by Southwest festival their matching Mariachi get ups gained them some attention for one of the band's several performances.

"We were walking around wearing our mariachi suits and it was like we were celebrities or something. It made for some pretty effortless promotion," says Maulhardt.

Whether or not these curious festivalgoers were surprised when they arrived at the Diego's Umbrella show to discover that this was not, in fact, a mariachi act, is unknown, but the getups definitely help the band stand out. The clothing also adds another delightful layer of confusion to a band that already might be confusing to some - but clearly not those who pack the dance floor at the band's in the States and in Holland.

Diego's Umbrella
8pm Sunday, May 10. Silver Moon Brewing Co. 24 NW Greenwood Ave.

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