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"Pedal Power - Los Altos native plans music-filled bike trip to Mexico"

Pedal Power

Los Altos native plans music-filled bike trip to Mexico

By Melanie Carroll / Daily News Staff Writer
Los Altos native Joey Chang, the self-described "wildest beatboxin' cellist in the world," is gearing up for an ambitious journey to Mexico with a band and his instrument. On his bike.

The classically trained musician plans to ride about 35 miles a day touring with Shake Your Peace, a band that uses a pedal-powered PA system. The group intends to perform dozens of concerts as it travels south.

Shake Your Peace frontman Gabe Dominguez, a San Francisco resident, was one of the creators of the bike-powered PA system, which harnesses the momentum of a bicycle's back wheel as it rotates while elevated off the ground. Audience members are expected to help pedal the 800-watt system during concerts at farmers markets and other venues.

Chang, Dominguez and about a dozen others are planning to travel from North San Juan, Calif., (near Grass Valley) to Chiapas, in southern Mexico, Dominguez said. Random people will likely join the ride at various points, including a caravan of about 30 bikers that is expected to make the ride from San Francisco to Palo Alto, Dominguez said.

The band uses Xtracycles - heavy duty attachments that extend a bicycle frame, significantly increasing the weight it can carry - which allow them to bring along large items such as surfboards and cellos. The PA system is light enough to be pulled by one bicyclist, Chang said.

The goal of the trip, which is expected to take about four months, is to celebrate "sustainable rock 'n' roll," as well as demonstrate that bikes are fun and show that the journey is more important than the destination, Chang said. The ride begins Oct. 18.

"The primary goal is the same as it is off-tour, which is to live in such a way that we relish the experience and gift of being alive, one another, and are thankful for both," Dominguez wrote in an e-mail.

Shake Your Peace will be joined by another band, the Ginger Ninjas, a member of which, Kipchoge Spencer, co-founded the company that makes the Xtracycles, Dominguez said.

The musicians want to spread the philosophy of the "pleasant revolution," which Spencer describes as the sense of joy that people find when they adapt a more sustainable lifestyle.

The traveling musicians hope to get offers from audience members to sleep on a couch or floor, or maybe even a spare bed, along the way, Dominguez said. Other nights they will likely spend in tents.

Since cycling involves physical exertion, the musicians are going to make sure they eat well, Chang said.

"Food is very important for a bicyclist," Chang said. "We've got to make sure we have good food."

The cellist and vocalist said he's not trying to make a political statement, but quoted Ghandi in an effort to explain his intentions. "Be the change that you want to see in the world," Chang said.

The musician, who graduated from Mountain View High School and was trained at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, said he's always wanted to do something like this.

"It's rocking, it's totally awesome," Chang said.

Chang lives on an organic vegetable farm near Pescadero where he volunteers. He supports himself playing gigs, odd jobs and baby-sitting, the cellist said. It takes him about six hours to bike from Los Altos to the organic farm.

"I'm a musician and a street poet and bucket drummer," Chang said.

Some of the songs featured on his MySpace page include: "Earth is a Garden" and "Fancy Cars."

Chang said we live in a "toxic society" in the sense that the messages from television urge people to buy things, and people depend on pills to feel happy.

He says what people really need are friends, community and organic living.

"Everywhere I drive I see cars. Infinite lines of cars creeping like ants upon the landscape. I want to learn how to live without cars. Just bikes," Chang wrote in his blog.

E-mail Melanie Carroll at

mcarroll@dailynewsgroup.com. - palo alto daily news


grow wild - cellojoe - 2006
let's be happy! - cellojoe - 2007



cellojoe: a biography

There aren’t very many singing, rapping, beatboxing, cello players in the world. You could probably count them on your fingers, if you knew any of them. But there’s a particularly funny and funky curious one you should remember and he goes by the name of cellojoe.

Like most cello players, Joseph Abraham Tal Tien-Ru Chang Jr. Senior III esquire (or just Joey for short) started out as a classical cellist. A mild-mannered suburbanite kid from Los Altos, California, Joey began studying the cello at age ten. His first instrument was actually piano which he started at age nine. For the first eight years, there were weekly private lessons and many music summer camps. There were also weekly youth orchestra rehearsals. And from this fertile classical ground sprang forth a very unusual weed from a crack in the suburbial sidewalk.

Joey discovered playing on the street after eight years of classical training. First, he played his classical repertoire over and over. This practice got old pretty quick. He realized that playing on the street was a great opportunity to begin improvising. After a fair amount of purely instrumental improvisation, he thought that being able to sing and play the cello would be infinitely cool and different and would thus attract more attention and hopefully fill the case with money. Slowly and surely this talent developed. Hip hop had always been part of Joey’s listening diet and because of this habit, beatboxing naturally began to work its way into his improvisations on the street.

University Avenue in Palo Alto California is a pretty ritzy strip. It’s full of yuppie shopping zombies. There’s also a sizeable homeless population. A homeless man named Carl would listen to Joey playing often. It was he who coined the moniker “cellojoe.” Joey sang impromptu songs about the glaring disparities right before his eyes in the yuppies and the homeless. Socially conscious and politically active, Joey naturally wove concepts of social and earth justice into his lyrics.

Joey auditioned in Berklee College of Music’s World Scholarship Tour in 2000. He was awarded a scholarship and attended Berklee from 2002-2006. He has played with Rushad Eggleston, the cellist in Fiddler’s Four and Crooked Still, Edan, an internationally acclaimed MC and producer, Roxanne Young, a member of Cirque du Soleil and Barrage, Greg Liszt , Bruce Springstein’s banjo player and member of Crooked Still, as well as many other notable musicians. As cellist with the band Incus, he toured nationally and played at over forty venues and festivals all over the country. He went on tour with the El Camino Youth Symphony in Europe twice: once to Italy and Austria and once to England and Scotland. He has recorded on many artist’s CDs including Andi Star, Concept 6, Rebecca Loebe, Pablo Picker and others.

In addition to being a veritable cello monster, Joey is also very interested in organic farming and has traveled to and worked at organic farms in Canada, the west coast of the U.S. and the island of Maui in Hawaii through the organization WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms or Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms.)

He is currently working on a puppet show and a west coast U.S. tour on a bicycle with a bike trailer for the cello. If you know any great places to play, be sure to contact him! e-mail cellojoe@cellojoe.com. Additionally, he is developing percussion classes for kids, and weekend workshops on shamanic journeying, getting silly and embracing creativity.