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Greg Vaughan’s Cosmic Cabaret descends to earth

“Weird, alternative entertainment isn’t weird and alternative anymore”

Greg Vaughan’s Cosmic Cabaret brings a little punk to the party.
Greg Vaughan’s Cosmic Cabaret brings a little punk to the party.

There was a five-year span in Greg Vaughan’s childhood that was little more than a whirlwind of commitments. He was playing soccer and baseball; pursuing his interests in music via voice, piano, and guitar lessons; taking karate classes,;and acting in theater productions. To his San Carlos classmates, the latter would likely resonate as his most notable pursuit. As Vaughan recalls, “There were four boys that were singers/dancers/actors that were getting all the work. There were a million girls. Today with all the Glees and those silly TV shows, it’s so much more common and accepted for boys and teenagers to be singing and dancing. I remember being at talent competitions, and it would be me and Mario Lopez, and then like seven hundred girls.”

By the time he was sixteen, Vaughan had to focus on one of his three favorite pursuits: acting, martial arts, or music. He chose the latter, in part because it offered him a clear path to performing his own art, as opposed to replicating that of others. “I don’t want to spend another 40 to 50 years of my life doing Music Man, Camelot, or West Side Story for the 27th time. Even Shakespeare. I don’t want to do what everybody has already done, quite literally, a million times over. I saw [music] as much more of a creative outlet.”

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Other than a break from live performance from 1990 to 1993, Vaughan would spend his post-high school days bouncing around musical projects. He played bass in a country outfit, did the solo acoustic thing for a handful of years, and even performed on a cruise ship with a jazz trio. By 2003, he had opened his own guitar school in North Park, The Temple Of the Sacred String, and in 2006, he started perhaps his most successful musical venture: Danyavaad and the Shimmy Sisters, a gypsy Middle Eastern band with belly dancers that offers audiences more to gaze upon than musicians playing their instruments. It’s very much showbiz:

“Some people always think that I can just throw together a Danyavaad and the Shimmy Sisters show,” he says, “[but] you don’t just casually throw one of those together on five days’ notice. Those shows are very structured, in that not only would we have the Shimmy Sisters, who are actual sisters, but we would also usually have guest dancers or acrobats. We’re trying to match the guest performers to the appropriate songs, and we’re trying to structure the shows so they have a good flow, and people feel good about the song that they get. Then at the end, we usually have every performer come back out and get the audience up dancing. That’s a lot of moving parts.”

The new project he’s cooking up, Greg Vaughan’s Cosmic Cabaret, will expand the entire Danyavaad experience into a sort of wild cabaret act that could fit in at Burning Man. A rotating cast of mainly female vocalists will sing raunchy old blues songs or showtunes, complimented by burlesque dancers, contortionists, and magicians. “Some people use the term ‘punk rock cabaret.’ It’s not that it’s really punk rock, it’s more like a philosophy. It’s not your grandma’s cabaret.” The seeds for the show were planted in Vaughan’s mind around a decade ago, but it was the arrival of new neighbor Cassidy Mitchell which would serve as the catalyst. “She was a theater major and a singer, she loves to sing showtunes, jazz standards, and vintage country. The more I got to know her, and then actually got to hear her sing, I was just totally blown away by her voice. I felt like that was the universe going, ‘Okay, you should probably do your idea.’”

Vaughan mentions Whitney Shay, Rebecca Jade, Tori Roze, and Marie Haddad as local singers that he hopes can sit in at Cosmic Cabaret shows. Roger Morrison has been enlisted to play bass, and vocalist Elsa Martinez will also be performing with the band. “Weird, alternative entertainment is not so weird and alternative anymore, it’s as simple as that. The last time I went to Burning Man was in 2011, and I was a little overwhelmed by the number of people that were there. It was the third time I had gone, and it was a little too big and too crazy for me. That might have 46,000 people, and I think the last time they did it a couple years ago, it was up to 70 to 80 thousand. So, that alternative festival scene, alternative entertainment? It’s kind of gone mainstream.”

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Greg Vaughan’s Cosmic Cabaret brings a little punk to the party.
Greg Vaughan’s Cosmic Cabaret brings a little punk to the party.

There was a five-year span in Greg Vaughan’s childhood that was little more than a whirlwind of commitments. He was playing soccer and baseball; pursuing his interests in music via voice, piano, and guitar lessons; taking karate classes,;and acting in theater productions. To his San Carlos classmates, the latter would likely resonate as his most notable pursuit. As Vaughan recalls, “There were four boys that were singers/dancers/actors that were getting all the work. There were a million girls. Today with all the Glees and those silly TV shows, it’s so much more common and accepted for boys and teenagers to be singing and dancing. I remember being at talent competitions, and it would be me and Mario Lopez, and then like seven hundred girls.”

By the time he was sixteen, Vaughan had to focus on one of his three favorite pursuits: acting, martial arts, or music. He chose the latter, in part because it offered him a clear path to performing his own art, as opposed to replicating that of others. “I don’t want to spend another 40 to 50 years of my life doing Music Man, Camelot, or West Side Story for the 27th time. Even Shakespeare. I don’t want to do what everybody has already done, quite literally, a million times over. I saw [music] as much more of a creative outlet.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Other than a break from live performance from 1990 to 1993, Vaughan would spend his post-high school days bouncing around musical projects. He played bass in a country outfit, did the solo acoustic thing for a handful of years, and even performed on a cruise ship with a jazz trio. By 2003, he had opened his own guitar school in North Park, The Temple Of the Sacred String, and in 2006, he started perhaps his most successful musical venture: Danyavaad and the Shimmy Sisters, a gypsy Middle Eastern band with belly dancers that offers audiences more to gaze upon than musicians playing their instruments. It’s very much showbiz:

“Some people always think that I can just throw together a Danyavaad and the Shimmy Sisters show,” he says, “[but] you don’t just casually throw one of those together on five days’ notice. Those shows are very structured, in that not only would we have the Shimmy Sisters, who are actual sisters, but we would also usually have guest dancers or acrobats. We’re trying to match the guest performers to the appropriate songs, and we’re trying to structure the shows so they have a good flow, and people feel good about the song that they get. Then at the end, we usually have every performer come back out and get the audience up dancing. That’s a lot of moving parts.”

The new project he’s cooking up, Greg Vaughan’s Cosmic Cabaret, will expand the entire Danyavaad experience into a sort of wild cabaret act that could fit in at Burning Man. A rotating cast of mainly female vocalists will sing raunchy old blues songs or showtunes, complimented by burlesque dancers, contortionists, and magicians. “Some people use the term ‘punk rock cabaret.’ It’s not that it’s really punk rock, it’s more like a philosophy. It’s not your grandma’s cabaret.” The seeds for the show were planted in Vaughan’s mind around a decade ago, but it was the arrival of new neighbor Cassidy Mitchell which would serve as the catalyst. “She was a theater major and a singer, she loves to sing showtunes, jazz standards, and vintage country. The more I got to know her, and then actually got to hear her sing, I was just totally blown away by her voice. I felt like that was the universe going, ‘Okay, you should probably do your idea.’”

Vaughan mentions Whitney Shay, Rebecca Jade, Tori Roze, and Marie Haddad as local singers that he hopes can sit in at Cosmic Cabaret shows. Roger Morrison has been enlisted to play bass, and vocalist Elsa Martinez will also be performing with the band. “Weird, alternative entertainment is not so weird and alternative anymore, it’s as simple as that. The last time I went to Burning Man was in 2011, and I was a little overwhelmed by the number of people that were there. It was the third time I had gone, and it was a little too big and too crazy for me. That might have 46,000 people, and I think the last time they did it a couple years ago, it was up to 70 to 80 thousand. So, that alternative festival scene, alternative entertainment? It’s kind of gone mainstream.”

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