It’s not often the three best things in life come together seamlessly under the same roof, but when music, sizzling tacos and camaraderie meet, an unforgettable night is born. PALMAS, a five-man band hailing from the musically booming Philadelphia, brought all this to life in the bustling kitchen of a third floor walk-up in Brooklyn, New York.
It is the kind of Monday that feels more like a Friday, and the summer heat leaks through the kitchen windows and crashes full-throttle into the stovetop steam. Adam Cantiello, the band’s guitarist and chef of the evening, stands over the front burner flipping chicken breasts while Pat Degan, PALMAS drummer, slices limes. Eric Camarota, bassist, grabs a Modelo from the fridge full of Mexican beers, and Kurt Cain, singer, follows suit. Matt Young, guitarist, keen to create an authentic atmosphere while feasting on homemade guacamole and tacos, makes quick use of Pat’s limes and pours out tequila shots. And so, dinner with PALMAS begins.
“Just so you know, I blindly poured five of them, so you can just pick which one…” Matt warns the group gathering around the tequila and limes.
A quick cheers and universal grimace later, all is down the hatch, and tales of band origin and college parties past are flowing.
“I mean, they’re all awesome,” says Pat of his bandmates. “[Adam] asked me like, ‘hey, I’m jamming with these guys, and they’re all very talented players; you should come out and jam with us,’ and I was like, ‘yeah, cool, sure!’”
Adam pours the taco sauce into the skillet full of chicken. A few minutes later, the chicken is finished, and a hearty helping of tofu takes its place. What’s a PALMAS taco night without a vegan option?
Ten minutes later – who knew tofu was a slow-cooker – dinner – or, la cena – is served, and it’s every man for himself in the taco assembly line. The band grabs plates, and the taco assembly begins. Tortillas, chicken (or tofu), toppings goes the order. A side of homemade guac is mandatory.
One by one, they fill their plates and make their way into the living room. Personal photographs hang on the wall above a couch and coffee table. A tall shelf full of records stands in the corner, and a record player spinning Elvis holds the throne on top. Adam plops himself at the end of the couch with Matt to his left. Pat takes a seat on a stool to the right, and Kurt sits to the right of him. Eric makes himself comfortable toward the doorway, and just as if they were on stage, PALMAS takes their shape.
The tacos are devoured within minutes – our compliments to the chef – and conversation morphs into the serious kind that only happens when you get musicians talking about their music.
“We started this band for fun, not to make money,” says Adam.
“Basically, we all knew each other through the Philly music scene; we all played in bands in the Philly music scene,” said Kurt.
Philadelphia is a true hot bed for music and musicians, breeding artists and groups such as Joan Jett, Dead Milkmen, mewithoutYou, and Dr. Dog…not bad company to be in.
“I don’t know if I can speak for the other guys, but I think this is truly the very first time in my life that I started music for fun,” Matt says. “This was the first time that it was like, purely for fun, and I think that ended up being the best thing ever.”
“Eric, Adam, and I started jamming, and we went through a couple singers and a couple drummers,” continues Matt. Kurt chimes in right on cue.
“Really? A couple singers? I didn’t know there were others… Two singers? I didn’t know that,” he says, poking fun.
“And then I knew Kurt and Adam had known Pat, and we were like, ‘let’s do this,’ and in the first practice we wrote three songs. We wrote ‘Without You,’ ‘Stay Away,’ and ‘You Were My Girl.'”
One year later, and here they are.
“At first when we started playing – all of us together, as it is right now, this band – we didn’t make anything of it besides, ‘lets do this every Sunday if we’re all free, and that’s what we’ll do, just for fun.’” says Eric. “And then we just started going and decided, ‘hey this is fun, let’s keep doing it every Sunday,’ and then we decided still, ‘hey why not do a show? What have we got to lose?’ First show we played sold out.”
By 10 p.m., plates have been swapped for after-dinner beers, and Elvis has been traded for the surf-side rock, nostalgic sound of PALMAS. Their newest tracks circulate the sound waves of the room, and each band member is set into motion, each their own, fully present and alive. They sit in silence, but not a body is still as the rhythm moves through them like a heartbeat moves through a newborn child, inhaling for the first time. They’ve heard it a million times before, it’s played in their minds and through their fingertips, but each time it rings in their ears, it’s like the first time all over again.
The sound is familiar, echoing that of a 1960s rock hall filled with swinging guys and gals. It’s a sound that feels warm and steady in the bones, speckled with an electric edge. It’s crooning meets quickness, mellow meets passion in an era where repetitive pop beats and Auto-Tune have drowned out what it really means to sing, play guitar, or keep a beat on drums. PALMAS is a rocker’s past meets California future.
Their wish for this sound the world so desperately needs?
“I would like for us to write an album that is actually timeless,” says Kurt.
Matt, on the other hand, wants to be featured in a Quentin Tarantino movie soundtrack. Judging from the sound coming from the speakers, neither of them are far off.
To keep up with PALMAS and experience their tacos first hand, check out the recipe below (written by Chef Adam himself), and follow them on Facebook for updates.
Palmas Taco Recipe:
1. Modelos, tequila, and limes. Lots of ’em. Now start drinking.
2. Grab a bunch of chicken breast. Trim the fat.
3. Heat up a pan with oil, let it get real hot, then add in chopped onion and garlic.
4. Add in full chicken breast until it’s no longer pink.
5. Heat up a pot with water and a pack of taco seasoning and bring to a simmer. Add in some beer, limes, garlic, hot pepper, and a shot of tequila.
6. Shred the chicken breast with two forks and add the shredded chicken into the simmering sauce.
7. Let the chicken soak in all those juices.
8. Preheat the oven and warm up flour tortillas.
Serve with sour cream, chopped tomatoes, radish, onion, and fresh salsa.
Get drunk, eat tacos.
Matt working the stovetop like a pro.