You could say he is kind of a big deal. The ambassador of fun, the heartbeat of a vibrant scene, and quite possibly one of the more interesting men in the world with or without a Dos Equis. Wearing the title of the busiest musician in Portland year after year, he plays in (as of most recent census data supports) 17 soon to be 18 bands. The most active of these being Máscaras, Orquestra Pacifico Tropical, Dreckig, Sávila, Boink, Wet Fruit, and Friskies – which is to say just about any night of the week you can catch him playing drums somewhere with someone. Through this tireless dedication to breath life into a community he has sewn his way into the very fabric of our city with thundering tom hits, and precise snare rolls. Any clout he has achieved along the way has been projected externally, to elevate others and build the music scene through inclusivity. We are of course talking about the homie himself, Papi Fimbres.
Papi Fimbres photo by Jason Quigley via Vortex Magazine
Papi (born David) grew up in Los Angeles, California before moving to Portland in 1999. The northern migration was fueled with the intent of a new slate, a new canvas. He had grown exasperated by the cut-throat nature of the Los Angeles music scene, coupled with being an underage performer without many venues that were nurturing towards young artists. When he arrived in the Pacific Northwest the Alberta district was an apocalyptic scene with most of the buildings boarded up and lots of vacant space. He went to a venue called The Medicine Hat, where Trade Up Music is now, which in his own words was “punk as fuck”.
The venue and the scene reminded him of Compton, exuding a darker side of Portland than what typically was projected outside the city limits. The desolation, the worn down neighborhood Papi liked and instead of depression saw opportunity to explore without many rules or restrictions. Shortly after arriving Papi put an ad in the Mercury and through it met the band Point Juncture, Wa. and Talkdemonic and soon after started playing music together. Through these early shows they discovered more bands with mutual feelings of respect and adoration. There was no niche, as vibrant as it is now, this was something that would take years to build, and involvement from many, many others.
Portland in 1999 had a traditional Latin-American music scene that Papi also found home in, a safety blanket that reminded him of where he had come from, his heritage. Though he had also grown up on a steady diet of Eno, Sebodoh, and Talking Heads. While Papi wanted to honor his culture, it would certainly bear his unique signature, infusing Latin American music with what he loved – a lot of cumbia with psych, jazz, and a handful of psychedelic drugs. Another wave found it’s legs as more Latin American musicians like Y La Bamba have flourished and extended their reach through a unique fusion that both honors and takes bold steps forward.
Máscaras, with Carlos Segovia on guitar and Theo Craig on Bass
Fast forward to 2018 and it’s hard to keep track of all that has followed in Papi’s wake, even if you’re a member of one of his many groups. Theo Craig who plays alongside Papi in the experimental instrumental trio Máscaras is even a little uncertain how many projects he has participated in, “Man, Papi goes way back in Portland music. From what I know, he showed up in town with a backpack and one of those old binders packed full of his favorite CDs. I would love to see a list of all of his music projects from all time.”
Rare Paper/Upper/Cuts Solo Set
Papi is perpetually in motion fueled by a passion for new music. Whether starting another collaborative project, organizing community events, or championing the up and comers Papi is as the kids say, out there. A hyperbolic example of this is the ongoing free and all ages festival, Homiefest, which began simply as a quest for musical discovery and fun. With no recurring band on the bill except Orquestra Pacifico Tropical, “because we are the house band, nah mean?” Papi quips, each year new Portland bands take the stage for all the homies to check out. His greatest joy of this endeavor comes from the homies themselves. Seeing the reaction from old members of the scene welcoming new bands into the fold, the joy of discovery, the unifying of disconnected parts of a whole. This is after all what it’s all about.
Homiefest – Papi with Shana Lindbeck
When asked about his musical idols there is no one he wants to be, rather he names those whom he aspires to reach the same level of artistic prowess; William Onyeabor, Meridian Brothers, Miles Davis, and Tito Puente. But to some he has already reached those heights of virtuosity. Fabiola Reyna who plays alongside Fimbres in Sávila had the following to say, “Papi is the best, most perfect human drummer of all time. He’s incredibly supportive of the WOC, Womxn, and POC community. Aside from that, Papi is extremely dedicated to his love of drumming. One of the most hardworking people I know!” And Fabiola is not alone in the high regard she holds Fimbres. Amalia Boyles who has known Papi for many years through his involvement in the scene painted the following picture when asked about his role in our community,
“Papi has a way of uniting people, in seemingly effortless and truly genuine ways. In the years I’ve known Papi, I’ve seen him embolden people from all walks of life–he does so without becoming tired or ostentatious. He meets you where you’re at. He energizes you. He’s never been jaded. He sees the beauty in everyone, and in turn, helps them see it in themselves. It’s hard to understand how someone making such a ruckus could be so humble. Through his focus on amplifying POC voices in Portland, his percussive might, and his affinity for the finer, greener things in life, Papi has helped build something really remarkable: a local music culture that is inclusive, hybridized, and sincere. As he always says, this is not a scene–this is a community.”
Sávila alongside guitarist Fabiola Reyna, vocalist Brisa Gonzalez
Yet this community only exists through participation and inclusivity. “To feel rad, to feel that the music is moving me, maybe I don’t get it – but I like it. Mission accomplished! Damn! Music is for everyone. It always has been. It’s the universal language. I’ve always wanted to bridge styles and connect culture, after all we are all under this sun together,” says Fimbres in an excited burst. When asked what’s one thing we could all do to create a more inclusive scene here in Portland Papi wastes no time, “Call out the creeps. In order to build a community people need to feel safe. In order to fully let go and get lost in the music you need to feel comfortable. If everyone looks out for each other and takes care of each other, we can build a healthy community. Be aware, and stand up.”
Photo of Dreckig alongside musical and longtime partner Shana Lindbeck
If he wasn’t already stretched thin Papi is about to start a halloween cover band called Másvana – Máscaras doing Nirvana covers with Jem Murciano (of The Ghost Ease) on second guitar and vocals. Friskies have an album release for 9/20 with a release show at No Fun. This fall Sávilla is setting out on a West Coast tour with Shannon and the Clams, and Boink has an album slated for release December 1st, which will mark the fourth album pressed to wax this year that Papi Fimbres has been a part of. Like the energizer bunny he marches on with a steady beat.
Papi took a moment to let me know he loves XRAY, “so damn much, we’ve been homies since day one, helping each other out, supporting one another.” Which is why we love Papi so damn much. He exemplifies love, hard work, and a kindness that knows no end. He wants nothing more than to lift you up, and his energy is infectious. His example inspires others to do the same, to put in the extra effort, to keep an eye out for one another. In short, to be good homies to one another.