Of course this list is limited to the shows I've been to, which unfortunately, for lack of budget, haven't been as many as I would've liked to. Also because, as you probably already read me complain, there are not that many Latin (but cool) music shows in the Bay Area to go to.
1) Bajofondo @ Bimbos: For the second continuous time, Bajofondo takes the best live show of the year! And honestly, sometimes I seriously think that they are so far ahead of everybody else that they should like retire or something for a couple of years, to let the others catch up. Nobody, and I mean, NOBODY in any kind of music from any other country in the Spanish-speaking half of the world, can put such an impressive show. They have it all, their amazing virtuoso skills, their experienced musician professionalism, the sophistication to please the snobs, the catchy melodies to please the rest, the electronic dance beats to make even your grandmother in a wheelchair dance and the rock attitude and incomparable energy that differentiate them from any other electronic-whatever fusion bands. If they come to your town, do not under any circumstance miss the opportunity to see them.
PS: I should also include in the top-11 the semi-private after show where Bajofondo, myself and a bunch of friends ended up cumbia jamming, but I'll skip because it's not fair to the rest to have them twice on the top-11.
2) Mexican Institute of Sound @ Red Devil Lounge: Yes, what you see in this picture actually happened! M.I.S.'s Camilo Lara falling down with his keyboard while DJ Juan Data in full costume plays the güiro and reveals his underwear... oh man, what a crazy night! Thank god I gave my camera to a friend because I was so fucking drunk that I barely remember some of that shit. All I know was that at some point I was almost naked on stage and the security brought me down and then I somehow woke up with a really bad hangover in my bed. Priceless.
3) Buraka Som Sistema @ Rickshaw Stop: You know how I was getting naked at the end of the M.I.S. show? Well, I so wished I could've done the same at this one! I was right in front of the stage and I spent almost the whole concert jumping like a crazy ecstasy kid covered in sweat and with a huge hard-on under my pants. Yup. And I wasn't drunk or on drugs. I was just extremely turned on by the music and that impossibly hotter woman they incorporated as a singer. I said it before and I say it again, Buraka Som Sistema is the coolest thing to ever come out from Portugal since... Brazil.
4) Bomba Estéreo @ La Peña: Talk about cool bands that became even cooler by adding a super hot girl to their line-up. These Colombians are the closest thing to a mainstream-crossover that came out of this whole neo-cumbia international movement and they so deserve to be where they're at. Li Saumet is an unbelievable performer, she can rap, and sing, and moan, and scream, and dance and do it with so much energy, and be so pretty at the same time... I know everybody, male and female, at some point during the show that night at La Peña tried to picture themselves having sex with her.
5) Boom Boom Kid @ SubMission: I might be all about cumbia and hip-hop, but when it comes to live shows, nothing compares to the raw energy of punk rock. And when it comes to punk rock, nobody gives such a show as this bilingual Argentine miniature Tazmanian devil called Boom Boom Kid. Every year he comes touring to the States during the otherwise depressing days between Halloween and Thanksgiving and his visit, with the promise of a great show that will make me feel 18 years old all over again, is the only reason I have to look forward to this season at the end of the summer.
6) Limp Wrist @ SubMission: Uruguayan hardcore living legend Martín Sorrondeguy was the singer of Los Crudos, the biggest Spanish-speaking band of the genre to come out of the US. Then he came out of the closet and formed Limp Wrist in San Francisco singing mainly in English. Now he's saying Limp Wrist have broken up and he has some new band that recently released a 7''... I don't remember their name. All I remember is that I saw them for the first time at their last show in SubMission and it was really good and it made me wish I went to see them live all the other times before that, but when a band is from your own town, you take them for granted and you say, oh well, there will be other chances to see them, next time...
7) Eric Bobo & Rhettmatic @ Element Lounge: Nacional Records artist Eric Bobo is not very well known amongst the Latin Alternative and that's a shame. The Cypress Hill and Beastie Boys percussionist is also the son of legendary Latin Funk percussionist Willie Bobo and in 2009 he released his first solo album that includes collaborations with big names like Toy Selectah and DJ Rhettmatic from the World Famous Beatjunkies DJ crew. On 4/20 after a Cypress Hill stoner show he and Rhettmatic gave an amazing show at Element Lounge where DJ and percussionist would battle in back-to-back routines, something I've never seen before and I wish I could see more often at hip-hop shows.
8) Sargento García & Curumin @ Sterngrove: What a great summer day! Riding bikes all accross the city with a group of good friends. Having a pick-nick at the park. Running into millions of friends. Meeting with a hot girl whom I ended up dating. Listening to modern Brazilian music and cumbias. If it wasn't for the foggy weather and the annoying Sterngrove Park security it would've been perfect.
9) Mextape, Reporte Ilegal, Nes and many others @ Dermafilia: I was involved in the Argentine underground hip-hop scene when it started emerging in 1996 and I'm very fond of those memories even though at that point most of the artists in the scene sucked, big time. In the past seven years I've been getting progressively further away from my underground hip-hop roots, while becoming more and more cynical about it and finding my new interest in cumbia music. Then my friend from Reporte Ilegal invited me to be guest DJ at a couple of his shows and all of a sudden I got sucked in an emerging underground hip-hop scene of Spanish-speaking immigrants coming out of the Bay Area very similar to the one I escaped from. I guess it was the familiarity between this scene and my nostalgic memories of '96 what got my interest first, but then I realized that I wasn't as far away as I thought from these guys, they all had something in common: they all wanna rhyme over cumbia beats, many of them are trying, none of them have recorded anything decent yet. So that night at Dermafilia after they all did their rap sets, I got on the turntables and I started spinning some neo-cumbia instrumental tracks and they all went nuts freestyling over those beats. Most of them are still in a beginners stage, but I can tell there will be some dope artists coming out from this new scene and I'm proud to be part of it.
10) Babasónicos @ The Independent: For the third time in my life I DJ'd as opening act for Babasónicos and this was the first time my name was in the flyer, yay! That was a huge deal for me because I was their biggest fan back in '94/'95, during their weirdo ultra-kitsch experimental period. Now they are massive in Latin America but here in the US they come and nobody really knows them, so they play in smaller venues for much smaller audiences and they get wacky beginners like myself as opening acts, something that would never ever in a million years happen back home. Anyway, I was so happy after my set that I didn't pay any attention to their show, and that's why they didn't leave a big impression in me this time around and they only made it to the tenth position.
11) Kinky @ Outside Lands: I've seen Kinky live more than any other band in this decade, and not because they force me to (like it usually happens with Los Amigos Invisibles) but because I used to really like them, live. From 2002 to 2006 they always came up first in my Top-11 live shows of the year (in my previous, now defunct, Spanish-written blog). The last few albums... I didn't feel them that much, in fact, you know what? I didn't really like any album after their first one because they became too pop-song-oriented, while their debut was more tracks-for-DJs-based and that's why I fell in love with them in the first place (and at that point in my life it was a big deal to fall in love like that with a Mexican band because for years I said that all Mexican music was wack). Anyway, regardless of their formulaic latest outputs, they always managed to provide an amazing live show, the type of show that when you are watching you are actually wishing you were part of the band because they seem to have so much fun on stage! Well, the last couple of times I've seen them, they appeared to be playing in automatic pilot, not so fun anymore after these many years, but still, compared to the lame-ass Latin acts they competed with at Outside Lands (Nortec was so weak!), they managed to be one of the highlights of the festival and made it -barely- to the Top-11.