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January 3, 2012 / soularpowersystem

Guitar-Case Studies: GROOVESESSION

“This is going to change your life!” Lisa insists, eyes as wild as her hair.  I’ve witnessed some enthusiastic references before, but nothing like this.  My friend is practically jumping out of her skin.

“Okay, I’ll go.” I promise, smiling.  Apparently this isn’t enough.

“No, man.  Seriously!  GrooveSession is like, on another dimension.  They’re going to BLOW your MIND!”  Lisa is actually demonstrating this fact; it is clear that her own mind has been thoroughly blown.  Is that foam at the corner of her mouth?  Often when people are this fanatical about a band, or a movie, or a restaurant, I’ll listen without assuming expectations (I like my mind-blowing to be authentic).   But it’s hard to remain neutral in the face of this fervor.  I feel a tingle of excitement under my skin—Lisa’s conviction is so strong that it has leached out of her pores, pranced across the kitchen, and injected itself into my blood.

So I arrive at the concert already tainted.  But, as it turns out, no amount of tainting can withstand the colossal impact of a GrooveSession.  The sheer velocity of their vibration wipes my perception clean as a whistle—and sure enough, blows my mind.  I’ll try to explain it.

The craziest thing about GrooveSession is that, if you didn’t know better, you’d think it’s just three guys on a stage: a drummer-singer, bass player, and guitarist.  Perhaps you’d pick up your beer and saunter over to a table near the front, to make sure you could hear them.  From his seat behind the drums, Manny might wave a stick in salute.  But then they start playing—and suddenly your jaw is on the floor and your beer is boiling.  The music is impossible to resist; toes tapping of their own accord.  “Don’t you threaten me with a good time,” Manny admonishes the crowd, before whacking us all upside the head with the best time ever.   I say “we” with confidence, because as I survey the room, every face I see wears an expression of deep appreciation.  The thrill is palpable.  People are drawn up and over to the stage as if pulled magnetically, and there is a feeling of instant community.  The music has a gravitational pull that unifies the audience.  Quite obviously, I’ve struck Soular Powered gold.

Technically, GrooveSession is a jam band: Manny Sanchez on drums and vocals, Ronnie Sanchez on bass, and Sarven Manguiat on guitar.  Each musician is amazing on his own, but stick them together and they embody a perfect trifecta in which the overall effect is exponentially magnified.  You get a whole new animal—something primal and smiling.  It’s like Carlos Santana and George Clinton had a love child who saved the world, then sent you a postcard.  I feel like my knees are floating away from my ankles.  I can’t even dance—which is unheard of, for me—because my attention is totally engaged in watching hands and fingers and faces and convincing myself that they are real. This is further compounded as I notice Manny on the drums—I am pretty sure he’s in a trance.

GrooveSession has thrown in the towel of traditional subsistence, making music a full-time gig and taking their passion on the road with a goal of 200 live shows a year.  It’s easy to see the appeal; the energy they produce on stage could run a small country.

“Let’s walk and talk,” says Manny.   They have to get their gear to the backstage of House of Blues and the van is parked six blocks away, so we do our interview en route.  I’m holding a recorder up to Manny’s face.  Ronnie is walking backward.  Sarven is making sure he doesn’t fall into a pothole.  Break a leg isn’t supposed to be literal.

Brothers Manny and Ronnie Sanchez started jamming in Ontario, California, with various musicians who would come and go from night to night.  Then along came Sarven Manguiat, who they had known in high school.  “At times it was twelve different musicians on stage creating a groove session, and one of the keys was in the energy—it changed based on whoever was there.  And right away we noticed that when Sarven was in the mix it was just something.  The three of us we just hit it off so well on AND off the stage, it just felt so good so we said, let’s do it…and we decided to lock it down as a trio.” That was four years ago.

This allowed them to start creating original music that they could bring to a live setting. They are always pushing fresh territory—both within themselves as musicians and around themselves with new audiences.  The Warriors for Peace and the Positive Movement began two years ago as an album title and has since evolved into a greater underlying theme that captures the heart of their mission, branding their look and sound.  “I like to go to a show and leave feeling better than when I came,” Manny says simply.  “It’s about peace of mind and this is something we really want to follow through with as a band, as musicians, and as people in the society; we definitely want to spread that message of positivity. So that became the focus, and we noticed that when we did that—you lead the way Sarven! You’re the navigator in this vessel—that’s when we felt best.  We felt the most blessings when we were in that state of mind.”

Raised in a musical family, Manny and Ronnie were encouraged to play music by their aunts and uncles, and they’ve folded Sarven into their sense of family, too.  Now, as budget cuts to education eliminate music programs in schools, and games like Guitar Hero make playing the real guitar way too labor-intensive, the band sees a definite area of need: going back to nature, to family and community connection, and teaching music.  “We want to play for everybody—from kids to grandma.  Music is for everybody.”

With influences ranging across the board, their music provides a universal docking point.  Remembering the incredible impact of their live shows, I ask what it’s like to perform.  “It is the most amazing high—songs take you over.  It just comes out and it’s up to the song and the energy.  It’s euphoric.  The joy and happiness of the audience…you can feel it—it lifts you to another place. The audience is the 4th member of the band.  We’re all one, getting onto the same wavelength, empowering ourselves.”

These peaceful warriors are working on a double album release for spring of 2012, while continuing to build momentum across the West Coast with new markets, festivals, and tours.

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