Shiprock punk rock band tours East Coast, Midwest

By Terry Bowman
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, August 8, 2013

Text size: A A A

W ith many miles of open road ahead and opportunities springing out of nowhere, a local Shiprock, N.M. punk rock/ska band has hit the open road across America on a tour of the East Coast and Midwest to promote their music and to do something different for the summer.

Quitting his job at Burger King in Chinle, Ariz. and taking a break from his fall semester from Diné College to tour this summer, Lo Cash Ninjas' singer Jordan Steele has high hopes of reaching many places across the country and meeting fans in places they didn't know they had fans - places like San Diego, Calif. and Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Lo Cash Ninjas (Jordan Steele, vocals, guitar; Darrin Jim, bass; Codi Jackson, drums) will travel thousands of miles on their 2013 Summer East Coast/Midwest Tour that will take them to major cities such as New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago, playing alongside up-and-coming acts including the Night Gaunts from Auckland, New Zealand and Days N' Daze from Houston, Texas.

Beginning on July 21 in Albuquerque, N.M. with the Night Gaunts and making stops in Phoenix, Joplin, Mo., and Indiana, Pa. the band is traveling in a 1992 Dodge Ram van with seven other people, including the band members of Shiprock pop rock band "End This Year." (The vehicle is owned by End This Year's singer Anthony Lee. The band is co-headlining the tour.)

While performing in Phoenix on July 28, the Lo Cash Ninjas had bad luck as their show at the Funky Food Shack in western Phoenix was shut down when police officers came and closed the doors because of the loud noise from the building.

As they made their way to another location at a residential house to resume their show, it was again shut down, but this time by different police officers, proving to the band that sometimes you have to improvise with all the luck you have.

"I was bummed, but we still had a lot of fun," said Steele.

Starting off as an original four-piece punk rock band from the town of Shiprock, the Lo Cash Ninjas have been playing music together since they were all students attending Shiprock High.

Beginning in the middle of 2009, the band began with original members Jordan Steele (vocals/guitar), Keanu Lee (guitar), Martin Johnson (bass) and Andre Alva (drums). Starting out playing covers of songs from their favorite bands, the Ninjas took a bigger step when they felt confident enough to begin writing their own original songs.

"Keanu (Lee) and I grew up playing music, he taught me how to play the guitar," said Steele, "and eventually we all got together as friends and began making music."

As time continued, members of the band began to live different lives away from the music, with some members leaving for college and starting families, the future of the band was in doubt.

"I didn't know what was going to happen, it was all ending," said Steele, who continued the band by former members and with the request of their fans, not just on the reservation, but from around the country; recruiting former Child Left Behind bassist Darrin Jim and friend from The Blissings on drums.

With a growing fan base over the last four years the band has seen a rise in fans, not just on and around the Navajo Nation, but nationally in places.

"That's really the main reason to do this tour, to meet some of our fans out there," said Steele, adding that a large part had to do with spreading their music through the internet to reach out to their fans all over the country.

Gaining a fair amount of popularity around the Shiprock and Chinle communities, Steele said it wasn't easy for them in their early days in 2009 and 2010, as many local heavy metal bands dominated the music scene of their hometown area of Shiprock..

Steele said in their early days that it was hard enough to even get a local show together but one venue they could call their community venue, The MOD, next door to the 7/11 gas station and Laundromat on New Mexico Highway 64 East in Shiprock.

"I was bummed for a while in Shiprock, the music scene was pretty much metal and too trendy," said Steele.

Last summer in 2012, the Lo Cash Ninjas toured, hitting the West Coast and parts of the northwest. Earning the experience and effort, the band was able to get enough courage to try another tour again, but this time in different parts of the country. With the help of donations from demos and the shows they've played and the money saved by bassist Darrin Jim, the band was again determined and happy to hit the road this summer, leaving behind their normal summer lives back on the reservation.

Jim is also attending Diné College, majoring and taking courses in Social Behavior Sciences; he too is taking a break from college this fall. Jackson, not enrolled in Diné College, is currently unemployed.

As they make their way east across the country, the band has made appearances at the Cesspool Castle in Joplin, Mo. and at the 2013 Bubble Fest in Peoria, Ill.,

With a show tomorrow night in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Lo Cash Ninjas will perform at The Place Lounge alongside Anticitizen from New Jersey.

"It's awesome to play in places you'd never thought you would," said Steele.

With their tour concluding next Sunday, August 18, in their hometown of Shiprock, the band is excited to come back and play with all their fans back home. With hopes of maybe doing another tour in the winter before their spring semesters at Dine College begin in January, the band is in the talks of another tour in places in the south as well as places they missed during this leg of the tour on the east coast.

"A show is the best way to see Lo Cash Ninjas," said Steele.