The closest Jherek Bischoff says he's ever come to "feeling like a Beatle" was on a remote island off the Panama coast inhabited by a pre-Columbian people called the Kuna. Bischoff was a teenager at the time and in the middle of a three-year round-the-world sailing trip with his family. (Bischoff grew up on a boat.) He, his dad, and his brother had brought musical instruments for the voyage, but the boat was too small for them to set up and practice together. So whenever the family made landfall, they would ask around for local musicians they could play with.
When the Bischoff boys showed up on one of the San Blas islands and inquired about playing, they were taken to the local Kuna chief. He told them they could play in the town square that evening. The San Blas islands—an archipelago that includes some islands so small they have a single palm tree—were a striking place, Bischoff said last week while we sat in his instrument-packed apartment. "Huts with dirt floors, no running water, people wearing bones through their noses."
That night, they brought their gear ashore and set up in the dark. Someone wandered off to turn on a generator. A light came on, and the Americans heard a sudden roar—an army of clamoring children swarmed right up in their faces and were so jammed against their instruments that it was tricky just to play. The island had been equipped with a hospital a few years back, Bischoff explained, so the infant mortality rate took a nosedive and there was a baby boom. The kids had never heard rock 'n' roll before, Bischoff said, and flipped out when they started playing. They didn't know how to dance to rock music exactly (most of the music in the San Blas islands was reserved for religious occasions), but they loved it, and the Bischoffs became instant celebrities.
Jherek Bischoff plays the Moore Theater Sat, Dec 1, with Nika Rosa Danilova (Zola Jesus), Mirah Zeitlyn, Zac Pennington (Parenthetical Girls), Soko, Jason Webley, and Tomo Nakayama (Grand Hallway). He also has two open rehearsals at the Frye Art Museum Thursday, Nov 29 from 3-7 pm and Friday, Nov 30, from 1-5 pm.