Tehranosaurus is on the prowl. Fared Shafinury is hungry. Texas hungry. And he isn’t cutting corners. He’s filling his band with the right people at the right time, not finding Iranians to fill a vision. He’s going with his gut and his gut is old and soulful yet youthful and energetic. Fared has managed to give an American indie voice to an ancient Iranian energy.
On Saturday, September 26th, I wandered into San Francisco’s gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts ten minutes late like any good Iranian. This was one time I regret coming even one minute late. Before my butt hit the red velour seat, my jaw fell down as I finally heard something I’ve been hunting for for years: the Iranian Jeff Buckley and his motley band of strings and drums that spanned the Old and New worlds with creativity, melancholy, and good ‘ol Iranian silliness.
At intermission, while Fared was flocked by newfound fans to sign his CD, I was able to chat with Andy and some of the other non-Iranian band members who create the space for Fared to flaunt and explore his setar and his throat. I thanked Andy and his buddies, who seemed surprised to be there and who, thankfully, don’t fully understand what their music means to us. They are not putting on airs – in fact there is a hint of blissful ignorance in Tehranosaurus’ demeanor. This leaves Fared free to pour it on and leaves us happy to embellish praise upon our discovery of such a wonderful Iranian-American band.
At first glance, it seemed strange to have a band of six where “only” one is full Iranian and one is half. But therein lies Tehranosaurus’ chemistry: space for each member to contribute his own voice through his own instrument, a coming-together of cultures under the leadership of Fared, who has the vision and presence required. It’s beautiful to watch a rock star be a rock star.
After the show, Andy told me they were to play another show before leaving San Francisco.
Andy: “Yeah, we’re playing tomorrow at some place in the Mission.”
Me: “Which place?”
“I don’t know I think it’s called Eight-Blue or Blue-Six or something like that.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“Yeah I think it’s Blue-Six. It’s at 9, you should come.”
“I’ll definitely be there.”
A good sign for a romantic night: I couldn’t find BlueSix (easily) on Google Maps. I showed up Sunday night and wasn’t sure I was in the right place until I saw Andy’s smiling face. I sat on a soft and obstructed love seat and admired the hand-written sign for drinks, letting us know that proceeds go to the venue, which is largely non-profit and meant to support local artists. Quite a contrast from the Palace of Fine Arts, it was a perfect venue to let Fared and his friends get intimate with us.
A United Colors of Benetton crowd of handmade clothes, logo-less shirts, and warm sweaters gathered around the Tehranosaurus campfire. Of the 20 (?) people in the audience, maybe 4 were Iranian. Candles were lit. People sat where there was room and where there wasn’t. Fared asked to leave the door open, to unite his music with the street, where it was born, and to invite people on the street inside the venue to hear what was inside him. When Fared and his band began, we knew it was a special night. Fared knew too, and he let us know.
Fared is a born performer and he enjoys it. He is generous and loud, confident but with humility. He knows he’s good but he sees it as a gift bestowed upon him, a calling. He added band members as it felt right, not to fit an equation. He picked up Richard Bowden basically hitch-hiking. He found an all-American, blonde guy playing tabla (Jason Mackenzie). A half-Iranian on violin (Emmon Hall). A gregarious American on cello (Joey Santori). A Latino on bass and guitar (Chris Ledesma). A half-Korean/half-American on drums (Andy Beaudoin). Fared on setar and radiff vocals. Friends who found chemistry. More like chemistry that found friendship.
A small girl in a dress made by her mother danced freely with her father in the foyer of BlueSix. Americans who were not quite sure how to move to such music couldn’t dance but couldn’t sit still either (and couldn’t sit Indian style for long). I can speak Farsi but cannot understand the majority of what Fared says either because it’s simply sung or because it’s poetry – but I understand what he means and the Western part of my heart understands his message too.
Fared is not trying to be Persian nor is he trying to bring Persian music to America. Fared is allowing the music in his bones to flow out in a language he knows how to communicate in. I surreptitiously recorded these songs on my iPhone as soon as I realized what I was witnessing that night at BlueSix. I had to get the word out, I had to tell people that our guy is finally here. Our Jeff Buckley. Our Elliott Smith. Our Nick Drake. Our Bon Iver. Let’s hope this dinosaur lives on, growing wiser and happier with age.
Photo by Payam M