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Hip-hop from a Mile High

Listed on the highly regarded "Next 100" list by the music magazine Urb, Denver's Yo, Flaco! has been building some serious buzz. With six formally trained jazzheads and two lyricists who "rock the mike right," this hip-hop band has been blazing through small clubs across the nation for a year in support of its phat release, The Skinny. Next week's stop at the intimate Five Spot might be the last chance Philly audiences will have to get so close to a band bound to blow the rap game wide open. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets: $8. Information: 215-574-0070.
- Philadelphia Inquirer - 11/4/05

Yo, Flaco!, The Skinny (Self-released). Steeped in groove-laden neo-jazz, even without the trio of MCs who make it bounce -- Neil McIntyre, Nate Graham and Derris Miles, among the best in the game -- The Skinny is the smoothest production of the year. -- Herrera

- Westword

The band that left a resonating effect was the un-expected Yo Flaco, an eight-piece hip-hop/jazz/pop group armed with bass, drums, keyboards, a full horn section and dueling vocals. Yo Flaco brought back to life the meaning of live dance rock with the kind of performance that has previously landed them in the finals at the American Music Awards. As talented as they are enigmatic, one could walk past them and assume they are the latest boy band based on looks alone. Yet once they hit the stage, Yo Flaco delivered in a way that only kept me questioning how they remain an unsigned band.
With endless unworthy pop stars flooding the airwaves, Don Hill’s along with Alpha Music Group and Well Connected Management are proving that there is a place for originality and integrity in the music industry. This showcase was proof positive and November 15th was a night I was proud to say I was a New Yorker. - New York Cool, 11/15/05

How long has your act been together?
Around seven years (one year with this current lineup).

What are some of your noteworthy recent feats?
Yo, Flaco! was named one of the "Bands to Watch in 2004" by JamBase.com and was recently chosen by Budweiser for sponsorship as a part of its national "True Music" campaign.

Recent recordings of note?
We are actually going into the studio to record our next album in mid-July; it should be released this fall! We're really excited to head into the studio to record!

How do you pay the bills? What is your day job?
I'll do most anything to get the bills paid, but playing side gigs and painting houses is mostly what I do at this point.

What's the biggest crowd you've ever played for?
Hmm, probably the grand opening of Invesco Field. And we've had some really big crowds at a couple of the LoDo Fests. The gig at the Jim Beam Distillery in Kentucky was great, as well. The thing is, as long as you're having a great time on stage, it truly does not matter if there are fifty people in the crowd or 5,000. You've just gotta play your best at each gig.

Favorite places to play?
Elbo Room in San Francisco; Herman's Hideaway, Soiled Dove and Round Midnight in Colorado! Oh, and the Lion's Den in NYC was really dope!

Why music?
Because it is universal and expressive. It's a fun, positive way to express yourself to others. Music is freedom!

If not music, what else?
Geez, I have no idea... Maybe teaching kids. The transference of knowledge is so important, and if I could not do it through music, teaching would be another option. But it would need to be some sort of artistic endeavor -- maybe art, creative writing, something along those lines.

What band names were left on the cutting-room floor in favor of your current one?
The Lusty Janitor and Backstage Suasion, to name a couple.

Funniest/strangest gig story -- local?
There was a crazy transient wielding a spoon at us while we were on stage at the Boulder Creek Fest a couple of years ago. He acted like he wanted to kill us, but then he started dancing and enjoying himself. It was bizarre!

Funniest/weirdest gig story -- on tour?
Um, let's not go there. Suffice it to say, what happens in Austin stays in Austin! Enough said.

Worst gig?
The dreaded Zodiac Club! (I think it's closed now): minimal audience, no pay, and fists were flying. It was awful -- and yet a strange bonding experience for us all.

What do you love about the local scene?
The support and incredible interest from music lovers in town, especially since we are so far away from the coasts. It's like we're our own self-supported "music entity" out here in Colorado.

What bugs you about the local scene?
The "outside opinion" from those on the coasts is that Denver is simply a cowtown, when in reality, it is a very learned, cultured, artistic community that is gaining notoriety.

What's the biggest misconception about your band/act?
Because of some of the successes -- minimal or otherwise -- we've had, many have this "ill vision" that we are like rock stars, have a huge record deal, are bored in Denver, etc., and that's not true at all. As with most bands, we play music because we love it. We love the expression; we love connecting with the audience. We adore all the amazing people in Colorado and around the country who have shown all their support over the years. If it was not for the folks coming out to our shows, there would be no Yo, Flaco! We know this. We appreciate all the support and every opportunity that comes our way.

Any random facts we should know?
Our van smells really bad!

Avalanche or Broncos?
Oh, man, don't make us choose! We're Colorado fans, whatever the team!

Parting shot/final comments?
On behalf of the band, we'd just like to thank everyone on the nominating committee for including Yo, Flaco! in the Funk/Soul category this year. And a huge thank-you to everyone who takes the time to vote for your favorite bands. And most of all, for everyone involved in the local scene: Your support makes all of this possible -- not only for us, but for all the bands in Colorado! You are why we play!

- Westword

Good Time Gang
Yo, Flaco! was recently named the best unsigned band in America. They couldn't be happier.

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2000

Somewhere up around 40,000 feet, while Neil McIntyre was flying over the desolate, expansive state of New Mexico on his way to Phoenix, the woman in the next row let him know that she had seen his band, Yo, Flaco!, play months before at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver. She was an older woman -- grandma-age, maybe -- and not normally a fan of hip-hop music. But McIntyre's band was different, she said, from the image that she held of rap music. The players were talented. Positive. They made her want to shake her aging bones. She wondered, would the boys in the band -- all nine of them -- mind signing a copy of their CD for her daughter?
McIntyre and his mates complied. They passed around a copy of their new full-length CD, Skeptamistic, just released in March, and signed their names: McIntyre (MC), Ben Hadwen (flute/tenor saxophone), Brandon Martin (guitar), Doug Lipford (MC), Ethan Raczka (tenor saxophone), Loren Comfort (drums/percussion), Matt Piazza (keyboards), Steve Mercer (trombone) and Wes Coplen (bass). The woman thanked them. Such nice boys.
"People are always coming up to me and saying things like that," McIntyre says. "They're like, 'I don't like hip-hop, but I like you guys.' Or, 'I don't like jazz, but I like you.' I think what they're picking up on is just a vibe. One guy told me he had never danced in public before in his life, but he danced to us."
Approximately 36 hours later, Yo, Flaco! was on a plane again, heading back to Denver. The visit to Arizona had been a quick but important one. The band had landed, checked into a hotel, headed to a crowded club near Arizona State University in nearby Tempe and proceeded to smoke the final round of the nationwide Jim Beam Rock Band Search, a competition judged by Smithereens leader Pat DiNizio and a panel of music-industry bigwigs. When Yo, Flaco! returned to its practice space on the eastern fringe of Capitol Hill, it was the Best Unsigned Modern Rock Act in the United States.
Things have been going well for Yo, Flaco! this past year. In late 1999, the band was awarded its first Beam-related honor when it grabbed one of 27 monetary grants the Kentucky company awarded to emerging artists across the country. The cash helped finance and promote Skeptamistic, an equally funky, melodic smooth- and urban-sounding release that was primarily recorded live at the Boulder Theater in September of that year; the recording also includes guest stints from DJ Timbuk of United Dope Front and vocalist Yvonne Brown. Officially, Yo, Flaco!'s second album (a self-titled disc released in July of 1998 that features a very different lineup and includes now-departed vocalist Venus Cruz), Skeptamistic sold more than one hundred copies at the band's CD release party back in March. Constant gigging helped increase the number of Flaco fans -- people whose votes in the 2000 Westword Music Showcase helped the band win the Best of Showcase award, as well as one for best eclectic band, in May. (Yo, Flaco! also took home the Latin/World award in 1998.) Now this title.
Yet the bandmembers insist the year's biggest victory was nailing down a lineup that works, something they accomplished by adding Mercer on trombone just over a year ago.
"I almost didn't show up to the audition after I heard that first CD," Mercer says with a laugh.
"Not that it was bad," clarifies Comfort. "A lot of people love that CD. But what Yo, Flaco! is doing now is just so much more interesting."
"We've been through so many people in this band," says Martin, who, with Piazza, founded the first Yo, Flaco! about four years ago after moving to Denver from Atlanta. At its biggest, there were eleven players in the band. "In a way, it's like Darwin. It's like survival of the fittest, where only the strong have survived. We need people who understand that no one person can get in the way of the music. The people who came and left didn't like the evolution of where the music was taking them."
"I think the tension that sometimes existed came from people looking to establish the band in a particular genre," says Mercer. "And, really, the pureness of Yo, Flaco! is that we don't really know what it is we're making."
Some thoughts on what it is that Yo, Flaco! is making:
The band might be the curious but inevitable result of combining studied musicians (Raczka, for example, is currently wrapping up a music-studies degree at the University of Denver; Coplen graduated from the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston) with reformed jazz snobs (Martin is a devotee of artists like Grant Green and Wes Montgomery, and it wasn't until his exposure to the infamous Jazzmatazz release in 1994 -- in which Guru of Gang Starr paired bebop with emceeing -- that Mercer considered "hip-hop" on a le - Westword, Denver, CO

Best Band: Yo Flaco!

This band had an extraordinary year. Yo, Flaco! is tighter, tougher, and funkier than ever before. "All that we've accomplished this year has just made us one big family," Neil McIntyre said. "We're so motivated and inspired right now. It's a good time for us."

One Big Family is eight members strong. A long line of talented musicians creates Yo, Flaco!'s sound, often described as hip-hop or rap or acid jazz. A more apt description might be "one big family of genre fusion." Live shows are packed houses, and the most recent record, Goin' At It, is selling well.

Along with McIntyre on the mic at the front of the stage is co-rapper Doug Lipford. Matt Piazza (key-boards), Brandon Martin (guitar), Wes Coplen (bass), Loren Comfort (drums), Ethan Raczka (tenor sax) and Adam Bartczak (trombone) round out the lineup and account for the rich and textured style of the band's music. After winning the 2000-2001 Jim Beam Best Unsigned Band contest, doors started opening. A tour, funded by Jim Beam and including a suh-weet tour bus, followed. People from all corners of the country noticed the band's unique songwriting style and instrumental arrangements. The duo of rappers enticing the crowd, the intricate and juicy rhythm section grooves, and the band's explosive persona on stage pushed the envelope even further.

Last month, as millions watched the American Music Awards, Yo, Flaco! got a full and personal dose. In the first-ever Best Band Search contest devised by the AMA committees, Yo, Flaco! surpassed over 1, 000 contestants to stand among the top three. Out in Los Angeles, the band saw big business and big money, the behind-the-scenes stuff that drives the label trends and talent pool. "That was a complete learning experience," Bartczak said. "I think we realized that it may not be our path."

"We like to take risks in this band," Martin said. "The L. A. thing didn't seem to be about that. We don't write songs based on the market demand or whether some label is going to like them. We approach it all from within ourselves." McIntyre added, "We never began this to be Pop Stars, and at the AMAs, we saw what can happen. I think we're more committed, now, to doing it our own way."

Going their own way means a lot to these guys. During this interview, all agreed that the success from this year hasn't changed the band's day-to-day operation, but the overall outlook seems different. "We don't feel like we're just a Denver band anymore," McIntyre said. "We love being from here and we're showing all these other people what we represent. So we feel more responsibility to keep ourselves at a professional level and to show audiences and club owners all over the country that we are serious with what we do."

The more the band tours, the more exposure for Yo, Flaco! and for Denver. We can't predict what Yo, Flaco! will encounter in the future, but the band already has a plan in mind that takes care of its soul. "We know that we just gotta keep doing what we love," Lipford said. "We've just got to keep our hearts and our minds on the right track. What ever happens, we can handle it." --Judy B
- Go-Go Magazine (2001)

Yo, Flaco!

You'd swear Yo, Flaco! were straight outta' The Mission, or at least the East Bay. They're well-funked, "hotter than Chalula" fusion of rhyme and rhythm, jam jazz, Afro-Latin and old school hip-hop is literally dripping with the Bay Area's eclectic world flavor yet these boys are actually from, get this, Denver. They've been keeping it real Rockies-style for a few years now, steadily building a loyal following of funksters, and now they're ready to share they're growing repertoire of infectious ass-shakers with Bay Area heads. Beatsauce FM's DJ Raw B will also be on hand, spinning hip-hop joints before and after the show. Yo, Flaco! is online at www.yoflaco.com
- San Francisco Independent

When six classically trained jazz musicians (including two who graduated from CU Boulder) and two Denver emcees get together, no one quite knows what to expect. But when it comes to Yo Flaco!, you can expect a night of music you've never heard and you'll never forget. The blend of The Roots and Tribe - influenced hip-hop with a rocking rhythm section fully equipped with the Flaco horns rings in your head for days. The band of eight has shared the stage with G. Love, KRS-1, Ozomatli, and Galactic and is selling out shows at every venue they hit. Yo Flaco! is easy to love, impossible to shake, and are undoubtedly the best hip-hoppers in the front range. - The Marquee

2000 Rock Band Search Winner - Yo Flaco!

By mixing hip-hop, acid jazz, funk, and R&B grooves into their eclectic sound, Yo Flaco! has earned the buzz of being Colorado's next big thing. - Rolling Stone

Yo Flaco! is a nine-piece amalgation of jazz meets-hip-hop with a musical vision so forceful it may induce whiplash. This Colorado collective pushes its musical envelope with an unbelieveable line-up of musicians' musicians including a monster horn section that whips out tasty jazz and funk with precision and style. A trio of MC's rounds out the sound of their standout third album, "The Skinny. The Roots may soon have company.

MW - URB Magazine


LP - Skeptamistic
LP - Goin' at It
LP - The Skinny


Feeling a bit camera shy


Accomplishments of note:

2000: Jim Beam "Best Unsigned Band in America"
2002: American Music Award Nomination
2004: Jambase: Top 10 Bands To Watch of 2004
2005: URB magazine "Next 100 Bands to Watch"
2005: Recorded single "Nice Guys" with Thom
Russo (Audioslave, Jay-Z, Macy Gray...etc.)
2005: Received 6th consecutive Westword
Magazine Reader's Poll Award for "Best Hip
Hop Artist."
2005: Charted #37 on the CMJ charts
2005: Played at the finishline for the New York City
Marathon in NYC's Central Park
2006: Voted "Best Hip-Hop Artist" in Denver, CO for
the 6th consecutive year by Westword
2006: Independent Music Award Finalist
2007: working on second collaboration with Thom Russo (Audioslave, Jay-Z, Macy Gray...etc.)
2007: Music used in several episodes of the A&E reality show "Sons of Hollywood"

Cutting their teeth in Baltimore with Mars Volta’s, Jon Theodore, founding Flaco members Brandon Martin and Seth Murphy moved first to Colorado and then to California with visions of thunderous drums & bass, futuristic keys, and conscious emcees. It was there that they met the Piazza brothers, and the Flaco sound was born. Soon after, local hip-hop guru and producer, Derrick “SolPowa” Rice and Casey Sidwell (formerly of Epic Recording Artists “The Fray”) joined up and the lineup was complete.

Once the group was formed, the reaction from fans was instantaneous. With the release of their first CD “Skeptamistic,” Yo, Flaco! was named “The Best Unsigned Band in America ” by Jim Beam, and upon release of their second album, “Goin’ At It,” an American Music Award nomination followed. With their last release entitled, “The Skinny” (featuring Ron Miles on trumpet and production by Alan Evans of Soulive), Yo, Flaco! was featured in URB Magazine’s prestigious “Next 100” and also reached the finals in the “Hip-Hop” category of the Independent Music Awards. Currently, Flaco has been collaborating with producer/engineer, Thom Russo (Jay-Z, Audioslave, Macy Gray, Michael Jackson) and the new EP is only months away from completion.

Yo, Flaco! has shared the stage with many national hip-hop and non-hip-hop genre Artists, including: Blackalicious, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Galactic, Soulive, Ozomatli, Pete Rock, Tonic, G. Love and Special Sauce, KRS-ONE, Tower of Power, Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, Sage Francis, Maktub, and Groove Collective, just to name a few.

Following in the footsteps of such innovators as Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, and Outkast, Yo, Flaco! is simultaneously unique and unforgettable; a forward-thinking group that moves hip-hop ahead while still remaining accessible. With both studio chops and an amazing live energy, Yo Flaco! is making serious moves!