Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Obviously this selection is extremely restricted due to the fact that 1) I can only review shows that I attended, 2) since I haven't traveled much lately, most of the shows that I attended were around the Bay Area and 3) since I pretty much don't have any disposable income to be able to afford show tickets, I mostly just went to shows where I got free access because I was listed as opening act. Fortunately there were quite many of those.

1.- ANA TIJOUX @ La Peña, Berkeley, CA: Maybe it wasn't the best show of the year (she wasn't satisfied with the limited sound capabilities of the venue), but at least for me it was the most significant. I had been dreaming about this particular show for almost a decade. I remember chatting with Ana, back then, plotting her US invasion, and I remember telling her, "you should come and play at La Peña, they're gonna love you there." It just seemed appropriate. La Peña started over 30 years ago as a cultural center of sorts for the Chilean political exiles living in the Bay Area, and Ana was a Chilean born during her parents' exile in France. When I was first contacted by the tour manager asking me for venues where I would have her perform in the Bay, La Peña was obviously the first one that came to mind. Being able to open for her, an artists that I truly admire and a beautiful human being that I'm lucky to count among my close friends, was a dream come true, even if I played for less than 20 minutes and nobody was actually paying attention to my set. Plus, the impromptu jam with Funky C (from Los Tetas, the Chilean funk group with whom Anita debuted as a recording artist doing her first guest appearance) was really dope.

2.- BOOM BOOM KID @ Gilman, Berkeley, CA: Every year, right after Halloween, I suffer a regression to my hardcore punk age and go see Boom Boom Kid. The  ultimate Argentine punk rocker comes every year and usually forms a temporary band with local musicians and goes on tour for a month or so. This time however, there was no band and no tour. He only came to take care of some business (new release coming up soon, in vinyl!) and, since he was in town, he did a surprise acoustic show, with just his guitar and a notebook full of handwritten lyrics. Only about 15 people showed up, nothing compared to previous years and considering his loyal following, but it was perfect just like that. There  was no moshpit, no stage-diving, none of his usual crowd surfing acrobatics, just him and his songs, and it felt really intimate, especially after he invited all the guests to come up on stage with him. The best part, however, was not the show itself, but the nighttime bicycle trip to and back from the venue with my friend Pablo, riding by the Bay's shore on the last beautiful warm night of the year. Great memories.

3.- BOMBA  ESTEREO @ Sterngrove, San Francisco, CA: In 2009 Bomba Estéreo had their Bay Area debut at La Peña in Berkeley and I was pissed off that they were not able to find a promoter who'd have them play in San Francisco for a larger audience. It finally happened this past summer when the Colombian neo-cumbia outfit got to perform at a massive free concert at the park and the mainstream Latino crowd that never goes to small venues and underground shows got to experience them live.

4.- CHICO TRUJILLO @ La Peña, Berkeley, CA: Another Chilean playing at La Peña. Chico Trujillo gave the best cumbia show of the year, hands down. With the energy, attitude and urgency of a punk rock performance they lay the bridge between the mestizo rock of Mano Negra and the party band craziness and kitsch of Los Auténticos Decadentes. For a while, they almost make you forget that they're actually doing mostly covers of old cumbias and boleros from like four decades ago. I got to DJ as an opening act on this one too, but the most fun I had it when jumping in the moshpit while sweating my ass off to the rhythm of "La Escoba."

5.- CELSO PIÑA @ Mezzanine, San Francisco, CA: The unquestionable king of Mexican cumbia and the good father of the neo-cumbia movement. In 2001 he changed cumbia once and for all with that milestone collaboration with Toy Selectah and his Sonidero Nacional, introducing for the first time cumbia as a cool new thing for the alterlatino audience of the post-MTV era. In 2010 I was finally able to see him live and I also had the honor of opening for him, alongside fellow DJ friends Santero and EKG. We've got ripped off by the promoters and never got payed, but it was ok because we've got to meet "el jinete del acordeón" after the show and he was mad cool.  

6.- FRIKSTAILERS @ Red Devil Lounge, San Francisco, CA:  I've been wanting to open for a Zizek show since they first came and I finally got my chance in 2010 when Frikstailers and El-G came back to the Bay. Unfortunately only half of the Frikstailers duo made it but he still gave a mind-blowing performance with all that Bambaatesque paraphernalia and futuristic gimmicks. Unfortunately too, very few people turned up (it was a Monday night) so I pretty much played a whole set for the bartender and the sound guy. 

7.- CHICANO BATMAN @ The Layover, Oakland, CA: Memorable Bay Area debut for the LA oldies band signed to Unicornio Records. They came for the release of their great album and they amazed everybody in the house that night with some trippy psychedelic shit, some cumbias and those shirts that made it all seem like if we had collectively been transported to our parent's prom night.

8.- R.A.P. SQUAD & STRONGHOLD SOUND @ The Layover, Oakland, CA: So I invited Nes to perform our song, "Cumbia Nena" at the Stronghold Sound record release party and without letting me know in advance, he showed up at the venue with his whole crew, R.A.P. Squad. For a second I honestly thought the night was gonna go to hell because their thugged-out aesthetics were going to scare the shit outta the dominant white-hispter crowd of the bar. But then they got on the mic and it was amazing! With the help of Dub Snakkr on the turntables they became most talked-about performers of the night. People were asking me, "where did you find them? They're like the Mexican Wu-Tang Clan!"  

9.- ELY GUERRA @ The Independent, San Francisco, CA: Back in 2001 I saw this girl live in Los Angeles for the first time and I instantly fell in love with her and her music. Her album Lotofire has been in my Top-10 favorite Spanish-language albums ever since. In 2010 and I was invited to open for her and it was great. I'm not much into her music style nowadays, but she's still an incredible performer and she's definitely more talented than the other contemporary Mexi-rock-diva, Julieta Venegas, who unfairly gets all the media hoopla because she makes silly songs for teenagers. 

 10.- LOS AUTENTICOS DECADENTES @ Illusions, Palo Alto, CA: I love Los Decadentes. I've said it many times, they are the best party band in Latin America. I've seen them live innumerable times since 1991 and they never disappoint me. One of their main advantage, comparing them to other super-energetic party bands, is that they have 12 members and they rotate a lot. At least four of them become lead singer at a certain point and the other ones can rest for a while or take over some instrument, so the band never loses any momentum and they can keep up their crazy exuberant on-stage chaos for like three hours, non stop. The only reason why this is not higher in the top-11 is that the shady promoters who hired me as an opening act ruined the night for me with their mobster antics.  

11.- ENRIQUE BUNBURY @ The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA: I never gave a rat's ass about this Spanish clown and I find the fetishistic fascination that Mexican orthodox rockers have for him to be completely absurd. But man, was it fun to go that that concert! Even if it's just to make fun of the abundant Mexifan impersonators and all those black-leather-jacket alpha-machos who go to worship this homoerotic show by an ambiguous male diva who aims to be the Spanish Jim Morrison but ends up being more like Raphael. Cynicism aside, his whole performance was clockwork perfect.



wack ass post!!!!!! tasteless 80's argentinian rock!

Juan Data said...

Really? Where exactly do you see that? Because I see Chilean hip-hop, I see Spanish rock, I see Argentine punk rock, I see Mexican pop, I see Colombian new cumbia, I see Chicano retro-rock, but no, I don't see any 80's Argentinian rock on this wack ass post.