Thursday, March 21

Gypsy Cafe home to own music community


Monday, June 3, 1996

Recent UCLA grads stick to musical basicsBy Vanessa
VanderZanden

Daily Bruin Contributor

Given their musical ethic, it makes sense that Puddle Wonderful
band members Jeremy Lee and Keith Ogden perform at a place called
the Gypsy Cafe.

Lee and Ogden, who have been playing together for two years,
feel it’s necessary to bring their music along, no matter where
they go.

"Wherever I travel I like to take music because I think music is
one of those things that you can share, no matter what," says
Lee.

And, as recent UCLA graduates, the two will have time to lead
Gypsy-like lives themselves this summer. In July, Ogden will hit
the road for Central America and India for five months while Lee
spends time at home in Walnut Creek. But for now, the two wander in
and out of The Gypsy Cafe in Westwood, playing every other Saturday
at 9:30 p.m.

Much of the band’s music works off of their travels and
interaction with people. For instance, this year’s Spring Break
provided a strong influence on Puddle Wonderful’s musical
technique. Driving 24 hours to Mazatlan, Mexico, staying for two
days, and then driving 24 hours back, Ogden and Lee tapped into
what lies at the heart of Puddle Wonderful.

"We’re not a band, we’re just a music making situation. That
manifested itself in the trip down to Mazatlan," says Ogden. "We
met a guy from Mexico who taught us a song called ‘Página
Blanca.’ We also met a guy from New York and he actually wound up
coming the whole way back with us, and basically for 10 hours
straight we were playing songs."

Out of this excursion came the creation of their most often
requested tune, "The Indifferent Cows of Somorra Mexico (Driving
Down to Mazatlan)." However, having written 10 to 12 songs
themselves, they rely on covers to fill up the remaining space of
their two hour set. Believing that "you can learn from every
artist," Lee says the requests take them through songs by everyone
"from Madonna to Bob Dylan." Of course, they always put their own
spin on the music.

"Well, it’s two guitars and two voices," says Lee. "And anybody
else that wants to join in."

"Exactly, it’s our sound," adds Ogden.

This sound makes itself apparent in the attitudes of the two
band members. Even their clothes reflect their willingness to
embrace the musician’s life. Ogden dons a ‘The Jenny Thing’
T-shirt, a local band from Berkeley, while Lee’s black vest and
outfit gives him away as a stage performer.

"We’re mellow sometimes and we’re crazy sometimes (on stage),"
says Ogden. "If we’re playing the ‘Song of Wandering Angus,’ which
is actually a Yeats poem, we’ll dance around. We’ll boogie."

Clearly, the two artists try to create an atmosphere where
audience members feel a part of the experience. In a small cafe
environment, this goal may not seem difficult to achieve. However,
it is an effect which both Ogden and Lee consciously work to
maintain.

"I think right now, people go to rock concerts and it’s about
the performers and the audience itself only has to listen," says
Lee. "I think what we’re about is giving the audience the
opportunity to talk, to have requests, to hang out. If they want to
sing, they can sing, and if anyone plays percussion, they can play
percussion."

This sort of community approach to music stems from a tradition
in Lee’s family. Twice a year, they would hold a concert in their
backyard where all of their neighbors would join them in song.
Clearly, this celebration of music has affected the workings of
Puddle Wonderful.

"I always thought my father was annoying for making us sing
Kenny Rogers and stuff, which any normal kid would have second
thoughts about doing," reflects Lee. "But I think in a way I’ve
been inspired by that because when I say I think Puddle Wonderful
is more than a band, I think it’s what my father was passing
on."

Even Ogden recalls a magical time when he and three other of
Lee’s friends jammed with Lee’s brother and father. With seven
voices, four guitars, a piano and a keyboard, the song "Let it Be"
by the Beatles never had "so much spirit." For Ogden, it clarified
what music should be.

"Sometimes, you get clouded by other desires ­ desires to
record a CD or desires to get a full large band and play at the
Whisky," explains Ogden in one of his few serious moments. "All
those things are fine and have their place, but so far, Puddle
Wonderful has been just about that basic sense of playing music and
sharing music with people. Which, ultimately, is what all musicians
desire to do."

Both sharing this desire, it’s odd that the two musicians never
met each other back home, where they lived a mere 20 minutes apart.
They had to wait until their paths met at UCLA for the Puddle
Wonderful creation to be born.

"I saw him (Ogden) in a band called Wheat, Oats, and Barley when
I was 16," remembers Lee. "He came and played at a district wide
talent show. I didn’t know it, but six years later I would meet up
with this man on the back porches of Roebling Avenue and we’d be
singing Stone Temple Pilots in mock voices to annoy the
neighbors."

This chance meeting occurred due to Lee’s friendship with
Ogden’s roommates at the time. Now, just two years later, the duo
have managed to play consistently in Westwood. Though paid only
through tips and free meals, Ogden and Lee are happy with their gig
at The Gypsy Cafe.

"This young man (Lee) right here was always romantic and writing
poetry," remembers manager Kay Shayan of the day he hired Puddle
Wonderful. "I met him and I said ‘You want to play?’ he said ‘Sure!
Let me talk to my partner’ and they came! And stars are born!"
boisterously laughs Shayan with Ogden and Lee.

Much like their random indoctrination into their first regular
music job, their name sprung up rather spontaneously as well. The
title of an e.e. cummings poem that neither member had read, the
words just seemed to fit. And, as Lee notes, "There’s just
something wonderful about a puddle."

This attitude reflects the carefree nature of the musical
twosome. Filled with hyper animation, they appear ready to grace
the stage of The Gypsy Cafe at any moment. And, they’re always
willing to have a good chuckle.

"We should take (a picture) where we’re smiling with a really
silly grin on my face saying ‘We’re the next Oasis’," says
Ogden.

"Do you notice? Rock stars don’t smile. What is that?" says
Lee.

"We should smile," replies Ogden with a silly grin.

CONCERT: Puddle Wonderful plays at The Gypsy Cafe in Westwood
every other Saturday evening. Their next performance is on June 15
at 9:30 p.m.

PATRICK LAM/Daily Bruin

Puddle Wonderful members Jeremy Lee and Keith Ogden.

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