It was during the last gasp of the hard-copy DIY movement when the Chinese Love Beads’ original lineup last played together. In late-1996, the Beads (save drummer Tony Leal) moved from El Paso to Burque. Myspace would launch in four years and become popular in 2003. In the meantime, ephemera was booming. Flyers were everywhere. Leal has since relocated to Los Angeles, where he plays bass in Mexican Summer-signed bedroom pop project Part Time. He recalls the Beads’ marketing and booking during their time in El Paso. “There were a lot of phone calls. A lot of physical mail,” he says. Nowadays, Leal rarely employs snail mail in booking: “Venues just want a link to your music. And they can hear it instantly.”
Technology cuts both ways. While there are a wealth of band promotion sites—Myspace, ReverbNation, SoundCloud and Facebook—some of the human connection can get lost in the digital world. Bassist Ernesto Ybarra still lives in Burque and spends more of his time deejaying than making music these days. Ybarra, aka DJ Rootzrocka, and his girlfriend and fellow DJ, Erica Ortegon, aka La Ruda, purveyed ’60s Chicano R&B at Captain America's fourth Garage and Wax Night. In 1997, Ybarra booked a gig for a Ciudad Juárez band, 72 Hours, and he and America met at that show. He speaks fondly of America and that time period, when living room shows and hanging out listening to records were de rigueur. “There were a lot of great bands here during that time. Scared of Chaka. The Drags. Big Damn Crazy Weight,” he says.
Better known for his work in The Dirty Novels and Elevator Boys, original Beads guitarist Pablo Novelas has been traveling. After moving to Portland, Ore., he began seriously paring down his possessions and using the profits to travel. Along the way, he got married. He returned to El Paso to spend some quality time with his family, but he’s still looking for his new home. In the Beads, Novelas was known as Pauli B. It was a scene nickname, bestowed by a clique of punk rockers. As a native Paseño, he still wonders why the connection between Burque and Chuco isn’t as strong as it once was. After all, it’s only a four-hour drive.
After a 17-year hiatus, it was surprisingly easy to reconnect as a band. Ybarra compared the process to riding a bicycle and was reminded that the trio were friends first: “We’ve all changed, but we’re the same dudes who spent years listening to records together.” Novelas feels good about the sound, too. He notes that—while they’re performing their original material—they’ve all matured as musicians and the sound is a lot tighter. Leal is now a bassist, but he says his drumming muscle memory kicked right back in. In addition to the Beads’ catalog, expect punk covers from acts like Teengenerate.
Chinese Love Beads reunite in Burque at Low Spirits (2823 Second Street NW) on Saturday, Jan. 5, at Captain America's fifth Garage & Wax night. Novelas will pull double duty, as he reunites with drummer Nate Daly (Fort Hobo, ex-The Scrams) in rock and roll duo Elevator Boys. Re-formed cowpunk quintet Jonny Cats will also perform. DJs are Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Keen & Mysterious, Kevan and The Huron Valley Listening Club. Redlight Tattoo will offer $20.13 tattoos to attendees.