It does not take long for San Francisco Gypsy-rock band Diego’s Umbrella to hook an audience. In fact, it took all of two notes for the five-piece outfit to turn HopMonk Tavern’s session room in Novato from a casual crowd into an ecstatic dance party when they headlined the venue last month.
“That really just comes from years and years of touring and playing as many shows as our bodies will allow,” says percussionist Jake Wood.
After more than a decade together and with nearly a thousand shows under their belt, it’s obvious that Diego’s Umbrella have mastered the craft of performing live, and the group has an unspoken connection onstage when they dive into musical medleys that cross genres between heavy metal riffology, Croatian folk and Klezmer music.
“Pretty quickly, people realize that we’re onstage having fun, and it’s just really infectious,” says Wood. “We have sentimental moments and songs that range from different emotions, but overall, if you put a song like ‘Hava Nagila’ into your set, you’re setting a tone that you can’t really deny. The aspect of having fun is very real. It certainly is for me.”
Wood is joined under the umbrella by guitarists and vocalists Vaughn Lindstrom and Kevin Gautschi, violinist Jason Kleinberg and bassist Johann Hill, aka Red Cup.
“It’s a very special group of people,” says Wood. “I think we all really appreciate the camaraderie we have.”
Before joining the band, Wood was a freelance drummer. Last year he took advantage of some Diego’s Umbrella down time to get back into that world. He landed his first professional theater gig as a percussionist with the touring company of Hamilton: An American Musical.
“The level of musicianship in the orchestra blew me away every night,” says Wood. “It was pretty humbling.”
Diego’s Umbrella is back in full force this summer. There’s a new album in the offing and a performance under the afternoon sun at the Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol on Aug. 11. There they will be joined by the likes of Sonoma County folk trio Rainbow Girls and blues powerhouse Wendy DeWitt.
“Our latest touring motto is ‘thrash responsibly,'” jokes Wood. “We want to have a ton of fun, but we’re not 23 years old anymore, so we’re exercising some levels of precaution.”