by Noe Gutierrez
“We’re the Pedestrians!” is the declaration of this band, based out of Indio, in one of their more popular songs. It’s this self-confidence in the group that has allowed them to maintain their relevance for some 20 years now. For the sake of their numerous titles, including, Pedestrians VS War Party and Pedestrians VS, they shall be referred to as PED for the remainder of this article.
At their most populous, PED had a total of thirteen members. PED has had at least 30 members fluctuate in and out of the band since its inception. They are currently a six-piece band and according to members, this will likely be its final incarnation. Originally conceived as an 11 piece party band, PED has been on an extended hiatus since their last live show earlier this year at The Date Shed in Indio, opening for Fishbone. Current members include, Mike “Screwie Louie Hong Kong Phooey” Lewis on vocals, Rob Peterson on percussion & vocals, Cesar Hernandez Jr. on trumpet & vocals, Tim McMullen on drums, Armando “Mondo” Flores on bass, and Brandon Ray Henderson on guitar.
I caught up with PED at a recent rehearsal where they prepared for their show at The Hood Bar & Pizza on 12/28/12. I was also in attendance at that show and was astounded by their musicality and energy after all this time. I was witness to their ‘early days’ and am now proud to see them unabashedly still “tearing it up”.
To go forward, we must go back a bit. PED was formed in the early 90’s from a band called Groovalopacus. Mike, Rob & the late Darol Mata initiated this formation. They had few options of transportation and found themselves walking a lot, hence the title ‘The Pedestrians’. As Rob plainly puts it, “Everyone’s a pedestrian, this is the band. We’re the Pedestrians. We’ve been the Pedestrians since we started. Everyone’s on their feet. Everyone’s a pedestrian at one time”.
THE Party Band
“I’ve always thought of us as the best party band. We bring the party. So we would be happy. Everyone thought it was freak show time, for us, we enjoyed it,” lead vocalist Lewis explains. Watching them in rehearsal at Tim’s Silica Studios and at a live show at The Hood Bar & Pizza provides the perspective that they are ‘on’ all the time.
PED is also well known for their antics and thematic stage presence. Peterson justifies this. “I dress up in the funkiest costume so no one feels uncomfortable or out of place. This allows them to be free and have a good time. They can get down free ‘cause I’m runnin’ around lookin’ like a total freak. I want people to know that it’s OK to freak the fuck out. If I have to freak out first and show them that I’m the freakiest dude in the room and if someone is gonna get pointed out as being the fool, then here I am and everyone else can just party their assess off.”
Lyrically, PED is substantial. Lewis’ lyrics are full of encouragement and empowerment. “We’re not a highly politically driven band. We’re trying to activate the people. Get the people to charge. We want the people to come alive. With our lyrics we’re trying to let the inhibitions go so they can realize their own consciousness,” states Lewis.
The “D” question.
Founding member Darol Mata passed away in ’06. It is apparent that his memory is kept alive by their continued musical journey and perpetual honoring of his contributions to the desert music scene. As Peterson states, “Darol’s creativity permeates all of our music. D had this vision and it was way beyond anything I had ever heard of.” Lewis goes on to say, “We came back because we love it. Let’s think about having fun and how we started in the original with Darol.” Newest member Henderson arrived in the desert about ten years ago. One of the first people he met was the approachable Darol Mata. Henderson asserted, “He was so genuine and so awesome. I never got to jam with him and I am honored to be part of a band that he started so long ago.” In tribute to Mata, Henderson suggested to the others in a somewhat facetious manner that they change the band name to “Whole Mata Love,” as laughter ensued from the band members.
Newest member, Henderson, also the “Live Entertainment Manager/Booking Agent” at The Hood Bar & Pizza”, replaces Marc Gentry, who chose to take a break from performing in PED. Gentry was gracious enough to sit with Henderson and advise him of the guitar parts. “Marc approached me about playing guitar so he could take a break. That was early in the year. I was contacted again by PED members and here we are. In PED the songs are very involved, there’s so much happening, so many changes. What I also love about this band is that the guitar’s not meant to stand out. It’s textured; it’s kind of in the background. It’s nice to add colorful highlights, little trippy things, and not have to be up front so much. This music is difficult. It has many time changes and is labor intensive.” In watching and listening to Henderson step into the shoes of Gentry, it was evident that he kept to the truth while adding his own flair. We look forward to Gentry’s return and in the meantime, Henderson will hold the fort quite nicely.
In attempting to describe the type of music PED orchestrates, this is the best we’ve come up with: dance funk, inflected punk rock with a reggae twist.
I think Peterson sums it up by contending, “Everyone here is as solid as a muthafucker as I could ever ask for. We’re some of the most fucked up music in the valley and I mean that in a good way.”
No matter what the setting, you are guaranteed a funktafied time!
To contact the band: RSP Productions @ 760-497-8900.
Check them out on Facebook/Pedestrians VS