The Doors’ acclaimed drummer, John Densmore, will play a show with one of Costa Rica’s most popular bands on Saturday night. Densmore is teaming up with Sonámbulo Psicotropical for a 10 p.m. show at Jazz Café Escazú, southwest of the capital. Tickets at the door cost ₡5,000 ($10).
Densmore, 68, also will be a guest speaker at the Planet People Peace (P3) Conference, an environmental tourism conference that runs from Sunday through Nov. 6. The drummer played with The Doors from 1965 until the group disbanded in 1973, a couple years after the death of mythical frontman Jim Morrison. In Costa Rica, Densmore will collaborate with an ensemble that sounds nothing like his former legendary band.
Sonámbulo features a fusion of danceable Afro-Caribbean, Latin and funk rhythms. The group has been playing at a frantic pace recently in an effort to raise money for lead singer Daniel Cuenca, who’s battling a life-threatening illness. This special show isn’t designed as a fundraiser, but the chance to play with Densmore was a chance the group couldn’t pass up.
The band’s manager and trumpet player, Mario Vega, said the event came about rather nonchalantly. Organizers for the P3 event contacted Sonámbulo and asked the group if they wanted play with The Doors drummer. Of course the band members agreed to the show, Vega said. They haven’t spoken with Densmore yet, Vega added, but the plan is to play a mixture of Sonámbulo songs and Doors covers. Densmore even sent the group a list of Sonámbulo songs that he wanted them to play.
In the days following the show, Densmore will move from music to another one of his major passions: protecting the environment.
P3 begins with a Sunday reception at the Museum of Costa Rican Art in western San José’s La Sabana. The National Chamber of Ecotourism & Sustainable Tourism (CANAECO) and the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) are sponsoring the event. They’ve invited experts from around the world to talk about promoting more environmentally friendly experiences for travelers. Participants are paying a couple hundred dollars to attend the event.
The four-day conference takes place in San José, primarily at the Children’s Museum. Presenters hail from all over the world, including U.S. author Elizabeth Becker, Kenyan Land Trust Director Judy Kepher-Gona and Rainforest Alliance Vice President of Sustainable Tourism Ronald Sanabria. This year’s theme is “motivation and innovation,” and panelists will tackle such issues as tourism economics, national policy and environmental responsibility. Densmore also has strong activist cred. In 2001, he and blues artist Bonnie Raitt were arrested in Chicago while leading a Rainforest Action Network sit-in against a major paper products company.
In the early 2000s, he had a falling out with surviving Doors members Ray Manzarek and Robby Kreiger after refusing to let Cadillac use the The Doors’ hit “Break On Through (To the Other Side).” Cadillac had offered $15 million to use the song. In a recent memoir, “The Doors: Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial,” Densmore defended the decision. He also talked about the consequences of the incident. Manzarek and Kreiger sued Densmore for $40 million and lost. Only after Manzarek was diagnosed with cancer in early 2013 did the two parties reconcile and begin speaking again. (Manzarek died of bile duct cancer in May.)
At P3, Densmore will share his years of experience with activism. He’ll also give a lunchtime poetry presentation for guests Monday, and play a drum show Thursday.
“In parallel with his musical and artistic career, John has always been an activist for the environment,” said CANAECO President Glenn Jampol in a statement. “So when we proposed that he appear at P3, he was delighted.”
For more information on P3, visit planetpeoplepeace.com/en.
Tico Times staff photographer Alberto Font and Tico Times correspondent Matt Levin contributed to this report.