Saturday, March 31, 2012

SXSW Entry #8: Javiera Mena, LA ENTREVISTA

Photo by Daniela E. Galindo

Two weeks have passed since I left Austin and said goodbye to SXSW. And even though I contracted the flu on the last weekend of the festival (shit was cray) and the memory of it all feels like a weird fading dream, I can vividly recall that Thursday of the Torreblanca y Amigas showcase because It was that magical. Being in the same room with the most powerful female players in Latin music (Andrea Balency, Ximena Sarinana, Natalia Lafourcade AND Javiera Mena) was amazing in itself, but seeing them perform left me in awe.

Following the showcase, Mena and I chatted about her time in Austin, music videos, and pochos. I don't know how, but I also managed to interview her. I would like to thank Mena and her manager for being the nicest and most approachable people in the world. I should also point out that this interview was conducted in Spanish and then later translated into inglés. Translating is hard work, and I'm starting to think it's not really my thing (just ask my Latin professor). But many thanks also to my fellow CF writers Andrew Casillas and Pierre Lestruhaut, my girlfriend Daniela, and my mom for their help when I was stuck.


Giovanni Guillén: Welcome to Austin. How are you enjoying the festival?

Javiera Mena: There are so many people here! Obviously this is my first time in the U.S. and first time participating in a festival of this scale. But it's certainly exciting and it feels great to be here.

GG: You're here promoting Mena, which came out about two years ago, correct?

JM: Year and a half, more or less. This is sort of the last wave of energy left in Mena (laughs).

GG: So, are you already thinking about the future?

JM: Definitely. What I want most right now is to return to Santiago, close myself off in the Cordillera, and just work on my new record.

GG: Any idea which direction you might take for this album?

JM: Not yet, I think when the ideas in my head are realized I'll know. Of course, if I have the lyrics and if I have the music the songs will decide that direction. I do think this next album could go a more psychedelic route.

GG: Psychedelic? Well on that note, do you see yourself once again working with electronic music exclusively or what other styles are you open to?

JM: Electronic music is something I'm drawn to because of the of punch it delivers, you know? Through drum machines, etc. I love that. But I'm very open to anything—even something stripped down to just guitar and voice, we'll see. Another reason why I'm excited about returning to Santiago.

GG: I know that you have very diverse music tasteeverything from Juan Gabriel to My Bloody Valentinewhat are some recent discoveries, bands you’re listening to now that might influence this upcoming record?

JM: Hmm, new things I like...obviously everything I listen to influences me in some way. When I discovered Grimes, for example, I became obsessed. I mean, just the fact that someone younger than me could move my world so much, I loved it.

GG: Wasn't she born in like '89?

JM: '88! But I love that things like that happen. And also, my friends that make music, people like Diego Morales who are always showing me things that inspire me. They don't have to be these huge biblical figures like Michael Jackson...

GG: Or the Beatles?

JM: Exactly. They can be these chiquilines that come out of nowhere. Lately Grimes has definitely moved me.

GG: I read an interview where you stated in a few years you feel as though you will have to emigrate from Chile.

JM: That's right.

GG: Could you explain that a bit more?

JM: Even though Chile is a beautiful country and the people are amazing, it's a place that geographically is just too far. I mean, so many hours just to come to a place like this. It's not like a country like Germany, which is far from here but is still close to everything else in Europe. Chile is a place with so much to offer, but in a way it's still difficult to make a career in music work. Especially in the business side. As much I would like to stay, I know that I'll have to emigrate because when I come to Austin, for example, it feels like there's a real industry here. And there is an industry in Chile, but it still has a long way to go.

GG: It's a little weird to hear that because, as someone who lives in the U.S., it feels like everything in music right now is happening in Chile or Argentina or in Brazil.

JM: There are a things happening- It's just hard to take things as far as I would like. Argentina is amazing, by the way.

GG: Well you've already toured there, and you just played in Mexico at Festival Nrmal and there's a mini-tour, correct?

JM: Yes, the plan is to go back to Mexico and play Vive Latino, that's something we've been wanting to do right.* What else do I have? Well, a few things planned that I can't talk about yet.

GG: No?! Well, I have to askare there any plans to tour the U.S. soon?

JM: No, no. Nothing's been set. I'm returning to do some promotion, but in fact I promised the Consul I wouldn't work because I don't have a work visa.

GG: Last question: did you see Club Fonograma's review of Mena?

JM: Of course! It came out as album of the year!

GG: It received a 100, do you feel Mena was a perfect record?

JM: Yes! (Laughs) No, I mean it's hard to say that about oneself. One keeps these things inside to be humble, but I do like Mena. I see Mena and Esquemas Juveniles, my two albums, and lately I've been feeling more attached to Esquemas. (With Mena) I wanted to make a record out of cohesive pop songs, and I think I achieved that. Of course it must happen in your work, deciding what is perfect must be difficult. It's especially difficult for me to call it perfect. I don't see it as a perfect record because to me, a perfect record is Michael Jackson's Thriller or Aphex Twin's Richard D. James. I see my album as a baby next to those gems.

GG: Well if that's a goal for you, there's still time to make a perfect record.

JM: Yes, but then again, it's like what is perfect? The issue is just far too relative.

*Javiera actually said the word "chingón" which in my head I thought was the coolest thing.

Ernest Gonzales - Natural Traits


Natural Traits, Ernest Gonzales
Friends of Friends, USA
Rating: 76
by Andrew Casillas

In many ways, Ernest Gonzales’ brand of techno is perfect for his hometown of San Antonio. It’s expansive, not very flashy, and infinitely better your second time around. His latest record, Natural Traits, sustains a robust atmosphere of sinewy but nuanced beats but distances itself from the brash, head-spinning swing of his Mexicans with Guns project. Where that project owes much to experimental hip-hop and fat-bass funk, Natural Traits prefers to lie in the weeds, slowly building to almost indeterminable crescendos. But it’s still strangely appealing, and undeniably very good.

It’d be easy to take one listen of this record and instantly deem it something plain and unflattering like a “grower.” Indeed, a passive listen would only do a record like this a disservice. Instead, this is high-level mood music that will hug you closer the more you want it to hug you. Not that there’s nothing you can’t rally behind. Fans of glitch-n-bloop indie rock like the Notwist will find much to savor here. Dig the ethereal guitar line in “When Synchronicity Prevails” or the humming mechanics behind “The Heroic Lives of Particles.” There’s also “The Scattered Thoughts of Raindrops” which brings the dreaminess of the entire affair front-and-center, with its grab-bag of delightful electronic tricks which build into a thoughtful, substantial sound. “The Voice of Fate” may be the secret winner in this collection, though, juxtaposing an Asian melody with a lean 2-step shuffle. Seriously, it sounds like falling into drizzling rain.

There are a few valleys that keep Natural Traits from crossing the goal line unscathed, however. Some of the soundscapes sound dressed in too much sheen, too close to the line where music gets too comfortable dressed in software’s clothes. And the Dntel remix at the end may be a bit of overkill; its addition as the denouement kind of takes the spotlight away from what should be a victory lap.

Regardless, this is still a marvelous record, which is a great summer techno soundtrack after you’ve exhausted your mind and body with tribal or ruidoson. Obviously, the love for this won’t be universal. For those coming for world-thumpin’ electronic music, you’re in the wrong place. But if you’re the type that likes to take things slow and explore at your own pace, Natural Traits is easily worth the investment. Just like San Antonio.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Vive Latino 2012: Day Two

by Claire Frisbie

Saturday was the day to attend Vive Latino 2012—some of the most buzzed about acts of the past year were performing, Café Tacvba was headlining, tickets were sold out, and the sun was shining. We had our day mapped out to the minute.

Columpio Asesino were already on the main stage, and I regret to report they were a bit underwhelming, but to no fault of their own, really. Their set was solid, but their music is too dark for blinding sunlight, methinks. The rather lethargic crowd did rise to the occasion, however, when they played “Toro,” cheering raucously when guitarist Cristina shouted—riffing on the song’s lyrics—, “Para que ir a Berlin si podemos estar aqui con ustedes en el Vive Latino?” (“Why go to Berlin if we can be here with you at Vive Latino?”). Seriously.

Next we dashed over to the Carpa Intolerante for Perrosky, who were the revelation of the day for me. It’s incredible the layers of garage rock, blues, and rockabilly the brothers Gomez are able to generate between just the two (2!) of them—it was as if Elvis had been somehow reincarnated in these two skinny Chilean dudes. Raw and refreshingly devoid of synthesizers and other gadgets, Perrosky rocked my world with a drum set, guitar, harmonica, and maraca.

Keeping things retro, we returned to Escenario Indio Verde for Vive veterans and música surf faves Lost Acapulco. The crowd had at least doubled if not tripled in size, and everyone was bopping, moshing, and doing the twist to hits like “Olvidemos El Romance” and “Frenesick.” I genuinely appreciate their whole shtick: the luchador masks, vintage visuals of shimmying vedettes, and misogynistic-but-we’ll-let-it-slide-this-time rapport between songs, but it kind of got redundant. We were just about ready to move on when the band started in on a cover of Los Saicos’ “Demolición,” which was easily the highlight of their set for me, even if no one else seemed to know the song.

Photo by Marlon Bishop

Then it was Astro time. We power walked over to the palm tree-flanked Carpa DanUp aka la Carpa del Yogurt aka la Carpa Tropical. I couldn’t have imagined a better setting to see Astro for the first time. The four guys burst onto the stage making monkey noises and launched into “Mono Tropical,” looking like hipster Trader Joe’s employees/Miami Vice extras in loud patterned shirts, skinny jeans, and sunglasses. There were some sound issues, but their energy was totally infectious, and man, what a show! Singer Andrés’s voice is absolutely incredible (and really is that high!), and keyboard player Nicolás had the lanky dude hip shake down. To the delight of the audience, they proclaimed DF their favorite place to play, and added, “En Chile nos quieren, pero acá mucho más!” (“In Chile they love us, but here [they love us] much more!”) And how. Astro was one of the bands I was most pumped to see at Vive, but part of me had been worried that their music might not translate to the outdoor stage. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Can someone please book a Panda Bear/Tanlines/Astro U.S. tour ASAP? Thanks.

Next up was one of my main motivations for coming to Vive this year: Juan Cirerol. Chicali’s bad boy troubadour has me completely enthralled, but I can conclude with absolute objectivity that he kicked some serious ass. I mean, he was trending on Twitter during the show and, if that doesn’t justify one’s badassness, I don’t know what does. Cirerol is a beast on the guitar, his singing style is so raw and earnest. He powered through “El Perro” and “La Banqueta,” and it was hard to believe that all this ruckus was coming from just one man. His stage presence is phenomenal, doused with booze and burps, his signature scrunched brow, the occasional air-split (that would be a jump and attempted split in the air—yep, he did that!), and norteño swagger for days. The overflowing Carpa Intolerante yelped and sang along with genuine fervor and joined in for a massive sing-along to “Se Vale Soñar” (extra cheers when he wailed “todos borrachos y locos”) and “La Chola,” which closed out his set. Todo más que fine, Juanito.



Cirerol’s set left me craving a stiff drink, so we breezed past the main stage (Camilo Lara aka Instituto Mexicano del Sonido in a kilt and colorful man-tights mashing up “Alocatel” and “Hey Mickey” with the guys from Calexico as his backup band), to re-fuel with sandwiches and dranks. Then it was back to the yogurt tent.


Carla Morrison. Oh my GAWD, Carla Morrison. It was truly an impressive thing to see the thousands and thousands of fans who came to see her at Vive: teenage girls with tears streaming down their faces, families with young children, embracing couples. By the time she cooed “tu me enchinas la piel” my entire body had been covered in goosebumps for, like, ever. It was refreshing to see her with a full band—her usually sparse accompaniment translates beautifully to more complex instrumentation. In the days leading up to Vive, she’d reached out to fans via social media to bring handkerchiefs to her show, and perhaps the most powerful moment of her set came when everyone waved them in the air and danced along to her latest single, “Hasta La Piel.” Next year, to the main stage!



Then there was an audience switch-up: out with the angsty teenagers, in with the fashiony hipsters. The screen to the right of the stage glowed “MENA” and chants of “Javiera, Javiera” began. I wasn’t sure what to expect given the conflicting Festival Nrmal and SXSW reviews on this blog, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I should also let it be known that I am not a diehard Javiera Mena fan (gasp!), and while I thought she sounded better than on her albums, my friends actually thought otherwise. Javiera: so polarizing! As in the case of Carla, the support of a full band (Jose and Rai from Dapuntobeat, plus a female keytarist/backup singer) worked to her benefit. Real drums added a lot to tracks like “Primera Estrella” and “Hasta La Verdad,” and the keytarist helped pick up some slack on Javiera’s sometimes weak vocals. What do you think?:


Meanwhile, la Carpa Intolerante was channeling Colombia as Monareta powered an electro-cumbia dance party. I’d like to point out that there was a dude on stage who played the cowbell with sincere concentration for the duration of their set. I can respect that. We joined the dancers and cheered in agreement as frontman Andrés shouted “Que viva la Carpa Intolerante!” Amen!

Then it was Tacvba time. I think the official headcount for Saturday was 70,000, and pretty much everyone who wasn’t moshing to Hocico over at Indio Blanco was figuring out the best spot to see Mexico’s most important band from. As we all waited for them to come on stage, anticipation growing, spotlights shot straight up from the center of the stadium, and out came a stage from behind the soundboard, Tacvbos on top.

Photo by Natalie Espinosa

As Ruben, Meme, Quique, and Joselo rose from the crowds, chants of “papa-ra-papa eo eo,” queued them up for their first song. They'd been on hiatus for the past few years, and they really brought out all the hits at this show. There was no waiting around through mediocre Sino tracks for your favorites tonight. After “El Baile y el Salón” came “Eres,” followed by a reggae/dub version of “Como te extraño.” The sound was horrible, but we didn’t care! Then came one of the coolest moments of the night. Instead of singing hits by Maldita Vecindad, Aterciopelados, and Caifanes in their standard “Popurock” medley, Café Tacvba proceeded to cover Nortec Collective, Hello Seahorse!, IMS, Porter, Carla Morrison, Quiero Club, Plastilina Mosh, Kinky, Dapuntobeat, Enjambre, and Zoé. I don’t know what was more moving: the fact that these giants of Mexican music were paying tribute to the next generation that they helped establish, or the fact that everyone in the audience seemed to know the words to the songs by these comparably smaller artists.

Post-popurock, the band ran (and Rubén, still on his cane, hobbled) through the audience to the stage. Unfortunately I can’t really tell you how the rest of their performance was because, with almost 70K people singing along at the top of their lungs, I could barely hear a thing actually coming from the stage, and honestly I didn’t mind. My inner repressed sociologist couldn’t help but stop and think how bizarre and cultish this all was, and wonder why we found it so enjoyable. But I quickly snapped out of it and joined all my new friends in screaming the lyrics to “Las Flores.” Better than therapy, I’m telling you!

Photo by Natalie Espinosa

Photo by Natalie Espinosa

You can peep the full setlist here, but it is worth noting that despite his injury, Rubén pulled through and joined the rest of the guys in the “Dejate Caer” dance (easily one of their best songs live). Oh, and they did perform one new song, “Charro Negro,” which honestly sounded pretty dull to me.

After wishing us, our parents, our uncles, grandparents, friends, etc. peace and water (seriously!), Café Tacvba bid us adieu with “El Puñal y el Corazón.” “Ya no puedo más…..” Oh what a day!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Piyama Party - Culipandeo EP


Culipandeo EP, Piyama Party
Rating: 84
Independiente, México
by Enrique Coyotzi

Oh, Piyama Party, how you crack me up. Sometimes, you bring about nasty, kinky feelings. Other times, you make me want to take loads of drugs (any kind accepted) and stay at home contemplating nothingness. Occasionally, it's simply the impulse to listen to some Dinosaur Jr. or Pixies and devour all kinds of junk food. Or my favorite: the image of a crusty lover, a disorganized bed, and being hella high in a favorite songs marathon til dawn. Whatever mundane thoughts they bring to mind, point is, the Coahuila idols, led by witty lyricist and singer Luis Ángel Martínez, shouldn’t be taken that seriously—at least not lyrically, even though it’s crucial to their cleverness. Piyama Party already has obtained a legendary mipster status thanks to landmark indie classics such as “Nosotros los rockers” or “Fan de Carcass.
” At this stage, I’d dare to declare them the equivalent of Pavement in Mexican indie rock and, under that comparison, their so-fucking-good, constantly diverse Culipandeo EP would be the equivalent to the California heroes' magnanimously well-thought Wowee Zowee.

Upgrading the mostly unpolished, rocking spirit of Más Mejor, as well as Michael Está Vivo’s upbeat approach and appreciation of rhythm boxes and synths, Culipandeo focuses on several diverse styles that go from abrasive garage punk (“Siéntate en mi cara”), reminiscent western-like tunes (“Abridor”), insane keyboard-flavored curious mixtures (“Culipandeo”), acoustic guitar-based marvels (“Sexo, drogas y comida chatarra”), and pretty much kick ass, careless, filthy indie rock, which this time results in a softer yet frantic collection of eight essential songs that could each stand on their own, since they are stylistically all over the place. As a whole, they serve as your perfect 18-minute, strongly tied, fleeting soundtrack of what we in Mexico commonly refer to as “echar la hueva.” Hilarious opener “Elton” is a perfect example of why Piyama Party’s lyrics shouldn’t be overanalyzed, but simply enjoyed. “A ti te encanta Elton John/con sus lentes y su piano/pero yo no estoy celoso/porque es un maricón,” Martínez laughably tells his girl, who's a hardcore Elton John fan. Seriously, I could imagine a member of the "gay community" (hate that term) offended by it, or a casual listener believing it's a homophobic gesture, but it ain't. Martínez’s wordplay is ingenious, looking forward to just having some fun being irreverent. The situations he portrays are silly yet so familiar. He’s a comical, carefree, clever guy whose voice speaks through many others.

Extending on pop culture references, “Las chicas de Bret” is an exhilarating tribute to Bret Michaels’ entourage of generally wasted suitors during his VH1 reality show, Rock of Love. “Sexo, drogas y comida chatarra” is easily one of the best tunes the band has crafted throughout their abundant career. Funky guitar playing, fresh percussion, and sexy electric distortion are all present in this ardently, stimulating highlight about how to spend time with a companion in a bedroom (“vamos a ver porno, a jugar videojuegos toda la noche"). Later on, the vocalist soothingly narrates how his mind goes out of this world while driving and getting distracted with those hot girls on the street in the stupefying “Podría provocar un accidente.” Title track “Culipandeo” is a rendition of a sexually-fueled dance that basically consists of rubbing ass against pelvis (a sort of not so over the top daggering, more like perreo; check that cover!) is hugely rhythmic, richly frenetic, and ventures into uncharted eclectic territory for the group. “Abridor” commences with some latent heat, momentarily transporting to some Ennio Morricone landscape, and “Si yo fuera presidente,” an uplifting take on Argentina’s Ignacio Copani’s original piece, works as a subtle take on the country’s shitty current political panorama. At this point, no doubt Piyama Party would do better than any of the unconvincing candidates. Tumultuous, senses-hammering closer “Siéntate en mi cara” kicks everyone’s asses, evoking some of Dávila 666/Las Ardillas best moments and serving as another gold-star-on-the-forehead moment for these earnest badasses.

As I’ve read on other reliable blogs, the band supposedly/hopefully will release their third full-length this year. While it isn't official, let’s just say that Culipandeo has set the anticipation bar quite high and, temporarily, but satisfyingly, quenched our thirst. This is such a tremendous, compelling EP which I already anticipate referring to as a must in the future. Reaffirming themselves as one of Mexico’s quintessential underground bands, Piyama Party has demonstrated a jaw dropping trail, and the sparse, high-grade Culipandeo simply shines as their best release so far.




Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vive Latino 2012: Day One


by Claire Frisbie

Hello there. I went down to Mexico City last week and this blog's lovely editors were kind/foolish enough to let me share my first Vive Latino experience with you all. I'm not one for official bios, but here are some things about me: full-time melómana, part-time "foodie," aspiring accordion player (in theory, not in practice), and bike enthusiast. Co-founder and former editor of Remezcla.com. Proud Brooklynite by way of Costa Rica, Mexico, Germany, and Chile. Long-time reader of Club Fonograma, thrilled to contribute for the first time, and tickled to bear the same initials. Hello.

Mexico had a busy week last week. The biggest earthquake since ’85 shook things up for a couple days, Pope Benedict XVI made his controversial visit to León, and then, of course, there was Vive Latino, which was why yours truly was there.

As hundreds of thousands made the pilgrimage to Guanajuato to see El Papa, tens of thousands of us crammed into metro cars and inched along in endless DF traffic towards Ciudad Deportiva for a weekend of worship of a very different variety.

We arrived just after Vetusta Morla had finished their set on the main stage and proceeded to roam around aimlessly and feel generally overwhelmed. I knew Vive was going to be big, but Foro Sol is massive—and without a map or functioning smart phone, I felt more than a tad lost.

by Marlon Bishop

First up (for us): Chilean darlings Dënver, who helped appease the initial confusion/vastness of the fest with their easy breezy pop. The crowd sang along to “Olas Gigantes” as singer Mariana pouted and posed and pranced around the stage. Nothing mind-blowing, but that was fine; it was nice. We bought some beer and danced a bit before wandering off to catch the end of Antoine Reverb’s set. Which we missed.

There’s a rhythm to Vive, and any mega-festival I suppose, that is key to a good time and has absolutely nothing to do with music and everything to do with planning. Four stages is a lot to juggle and with infinite distractions in between—merch! mohawks! mezcal! movies (courtesy of Ambulante)! piercings! pashminas! parkour! a mobile library (why not?)! some dude jumping into a trash can! wait, another dude jumping into a trash can…?—trips between stages easily took 15-20 minutes. (Almost) all the sets started right on time, if not a few minutes early, so I was forced to go against my nature and attempt to be punctual. It wasn’t until day two that I really got the hang of it.

We made our way to the Carpa Intolerante (the smallest stage at Vive, curated by Discos Intolerancia) to see Ruben from Café Tacvba’s side project HopPo! Hair long and messy, skirt long and hippy, Ruben was as beautiful and charming as ever, but forced to hobble around with a cane as he’d injured himself the night before (while performing at some concert protesting violence against animals, bless his heart). Made up of Los Fancy Free drummer Carlos Icaza, several Chilean musicians, someone on a sitar, and at this performance, the bassist from Santa Sabina, HopPo! performed experimental Eastern-tinged covers of Latin American folk classics by the likes of Victor Jara and Violeta Parra, along with some originals off their upcoming album.



Next was Vicente Gayo, who put on a super-energetic show to an overflowing and enthusiastic crowd, giving me my first real taste of rrrrock at this festival, replete with obligatory crowd surfing and chants of “oé oé oé oé, Gayo, Gayo” under the glow of a huge rooster.

Then I made my first bad decision of Vive Latino. According to the schedule, there was a big break at the Carpa Intolerante. ("Why would there be an hour and a half break?" I should have asked myself. Oh, hindsight.) I suggested we grab some food and check out Los Ezquisitos because I liked their name. Halfway through my first moist taco de canasta, I knew we’d made a mistake, one of the generic hard rock variety. Whoops. By that point Rubén Albarrán had somehow made it over to the Escenario Indio Blanco to join the band for a painful (heavy metal-ish) rendition of “Esa Noche.” But what I’m mad about is that back at Intolerante, none other than Torreblanca was performing a surprise show. The one artist not on the Vive lineup who I really hoped to catch while in Mexico City.

Luckily, we have YouTube for situations like this. Check out that fox around his neck!


The big draw of Friday night was Enrique Bunbury, an artist whose appeal I cannot wrap my head around for the life of me. But there were thousands of leather cowboy hats and Heroes del Silencio t-shirts crowding the Escenario Indio Verde from early on in the day, reminding me that I was very much in the minority. About ten minutes before 9, we squeezed and “permiso”-ed our way into the crowd to catch our first main stage show of the festival: Zoé.


Every time I see Zoé live I’m reminded of what quintessential rock stars they are, and I mean that as a compliment of the highest order. Say what you will about their Unplugged album (I say good things!), their talent is undeniable and man, do they put on a good show. They had so many musicians on stage (around 10, I believe)—including Chetes in what looked like a bedazzled dashiki, Pipe of L.A. band The May Fire, and, of course, Denise, aka Lo Blondo, of Hello Seahorse!


León and orchestra made their way through the Unplugged repertoire, which worked surprisingly well in the stadium setting, thanks to really incredible sound. That is, when it wasn’t drowned out by the chorus of the audience singing along to every word. The din surged to a massive roar/squeal when León invited Señor Bunbury out to reprise their duet of “Nada,” which made for the perfect transition into the plugged-in, full-on rock half of Zoé’s set: “Polar,” “Memo Rex,” “Últimos Días,” “Vía Láctea,” “Miel,” “Labios Rotos,” and the descent of León into the crowd as he walked amongst and sang to the fans, flanked by security guards.


With the final applause and a splash of some unidentifiable warm liquid from above (that was totally beer, right?), we called it a night, eager to get some rest before the most anticipated day of #VL12.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Festival Imperial 2012

by Pierre Lestruhaut

Being one of the two CF writers who lives somewhere south of Mexico, and the only one living in Central America, I can imagine that most of our readers who know what it’s like to yearly attend a festival of the SXSW or Nrmal caliber, will have a huge WTF reaction when they read the line-up of this festival held last week in Costa Rica, and that I’ve just decided to write about. What most mipsters probably don’t realize, though, is just how much being an indie kid in this part of the world, where buzzbands become buzzworthy with a usual delay of about five to ten years (just try to figure out why they’re bringing The Flaming Lips and TV on the Radio all of the sudden) means you’re just not gonna see the bands you like playing live. Point being: it’s hard out here for a hipster.

Most (loud) discussions that took place after this year’s line-up was announced weren’t precisely centered around the matter at hand (i.e. the artists that were playing the festival and their musical and cultural impact), but rather the audience that the organizers were trying to bring for the weekend to pay for over-priced food and beer. Going back precisely to what appeared to be like the festival’s mission statement, which was something about “reaching out to a new audience.” I’m actually still trying to figure out what audience that really is. I’ll try to explain that in the following Venn diagram.

Though maybe, and just maybe, we’d like to think that this might be a statement of negation, perhaps the refusal of perpetuating the idea that a festival has to consist strictly of crowd-pleasing acts and white...dudes...holding...guitars. Which is kind of another way to say let’s forget about Enrique Iglesias and Zoé, and instead bring Ximena Sariñana and Bomba Estéreo. Which for me, you know, pretty much does it. We weren’t expecting Dënver and Rita Indiana, anyway.

So onto the actual performances, Ximena Sariñana’s was the first one I saw, beginning early on Saturday afternoon, and I’ll admit that even though I pretty much slept on everything she had done before 2011, I would still have the spirit to shallowly classify her music as something only the Blanca Méndezes of the world would truly and genuinely like. But after getting into her earlier work in Spanish, I started abandoning that original idea I had and began to appreciate some of her older songs, precisely those from Mediocre (“Mediocre,” “Normal,” “La tina”), which were by far the absolute highlights of her performance. Most of the songs from the self-titled album are way too flat and shallow to light up a festival crowd, and I think even Blanca was sort of lukewarm about that album anyway.

Sariñana's guitarist has a "drone" moment

Bomba Estéreo were scheduled to play the next day and were the only early afternoon band that actually used the irresistible heat in their favor, and (annoying wordplay coming) set the whole shit on fire for the entire hour of their set, even more so when they closed out with “Fuego.” While something like The Flaming Lips on Saturday night (which I’ll get to later on) used all kinds of props and projections to intensify, or even produce, the feeling of energy and liberation in their performance, Bomba Estéreo were actually their own ineffable flow of energy, emanating from singer/rapper Li Saumet bouncing around the stage and a rhythm section that went on a ruthless pursuit for beatific repetition. This was not just electrocumbia, it was the onward congregation of rhythm, noise, flow and rhyming, pumped at a volume that caused your every muscle to forget the heat and not stand right there. Plus the kids look irresistibly cool on stage and Li Saumet should totally be a fashion icon.

A couple of hours later, La Mala Rodríguez also hit the festival and, even though I consider her to have pretty much developed (or at least brought to the big stage) an absolutely unique flow style that has endured the test of time and several records with different producers and types of beats, her more rock-oriented sound supported by a guitar player and an actual drummer had her sounding decidedly not like her. Seeing La Mala getting closer to the stretches of rock music, and stepping even further away from the boom bap of Lujo Ibérico, is the kind of move I wouldn’t exactly want to see her doing.

In regards to the other hip hop act in the fest, I’m not sure if the discussion of whether Cypress Hill should be covered by us has ever taken place (what’s there to cover about them in this day and age anyway) but I assume that a band that released an album called Los grandes éxitos en español, interacts with their audience in Spanish, and has a Cuban member that coincidentally asks his DJ to “bring that Latino shit,” should be enough to be considered “ours.” I was never really much of a fan of either of their two MCs, but I reckon that Julio G was doing a fine job of channelling DJ Muggs, who was really capable of laying a pretty decent beat any day (DJ Muggs vs. GZA, anyone?). Besides, fifty year old dudes rapping while smoking pot on an outdoor stage really look like absolute pirates next to the kind of show dudes like Curren$y or Main Attrakionz could pull out at a club.

Blurry Bomba Estéreo is blurry

I wasn’t particularly lit up on the selection of local acts for this festival (even if there was a pretty decent crop of emerging independent rock musicians), mainly because our two favorite ones, Las Robertas and Monte, were not part of it. Although their bass player and drummer were featured with their other bands, The Great Wilderness and Zopilot, I failed to see them on account of checking out something more interesting happening on the main stages. There's also the fact that I can catch these bands every month in San José for the price of one beer inside the festival. I wandered around through most of the local acts that I had the opportunity to see, and Sonámbulo were pretty much the only ones that did it for me. Like always, they managed to pull out a very enthralling trance-inducing show, and eventually got a deserving Tunde Adebimpe seal of approval, plus an Austin City Limits call-up on the same day. Still, I do kinda feel like I need to consume some sort of drug to really appreciate this band’s music after 15 minutes of it.

A quick note on a few outsider acts, which were the ones that people were naturally most eager to see in this fest: I really fucking hate Gogol Bordello; TV on the Radio put out a great set and was the best noisy guitar show of the weekend not featuring Steven Drozd; and Björk can be summed up by what the drunk-yet-very-wise dude in the audience yelled at the end of the show: “that crazy bitch came to kick some serious ass.” The only full set I got to see at the predominantly electronic stage was DJ Shadow’s, who, after the crowd went on a small display of Costa Rican idiosyncrasy as they got impatient at how long installing the whole gear was taking, walks in looking like your high school soccer coach, has a small diplomatic word about how he “likes all types of music,” and then proceeds to immerse the crowd in the biggest collective head nod I’d ever seen (at some point even the guys from security were into it). And throughout the whole duration of the set, dude’s just too fuckin' busy to notice anything going on around him because of how he’s single-handedly kicking the shit out of his turntables, samplers, pad, and laptop, surfing through 30 years of electronic music in one single table.

And finally getting onto The Flaming Lips, as a longtime enthusiast and follower of indie music and culture in general, there’s always a part of you that starts rejecting the more conspicuous elements of it. Which is why most indie kids have seen the term indie, fall under negative connotations about glasses and hats and movies with songs by The Shins. The thing with the Flaming Lips’ show is that it’s precisely conceived around forcibly stilted weird and quirky elements of indie (or “weird music” as the term is starting to be coined around the internet), like their coming out of a giant vagina, the inedibly obsolete bubble walk, or the ridiculous costumes of the on-stage dancers. But in spite of the show’s own blatant weirdness, when I heard the first few notes of “Worm Mountain,” and even more so when they played “What Is the Light?” (my favorite song from The Soft Bulletin), I simply couldn’t help myself from crying. I, owner of an original copy of Zaireeka, devoted fan of The Soft Bulletin, hater of “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” and only dude in my section of the crowd who did the Yoshimi karate chop, wept like a goddamn baby. Because after years of living in this isolated and indie-forgotten part of the continent, after having to travel hundreds of miles away from home just to get a small taste of weird music somewhere in the world, it was at that point that I realized weird music had finally come to our home.

MP3: Tony Gallardo II feat. Matilda Manzana – “Vuela Vuela” (Magneto cover)


It’s been almost three months since Tony Gallardo II released his ultra-addictive Líder Juvenil EP, and it already feels as if this project has already acquired more buzz, or at least made more impact within most audiences than what he’s done under his María y José pseudonym. He’s already shared the stage with the likes of Adrianigual and Rebolledo and given a tremendously distinguished performance at this year’s Festival Nrmal.

Gallardo is unstoppable and, this time around, has paired up with Grabaciones Amor labelmate, tropigazer Matilda Manzana, for a hyper-amusing cover of Magneto’s 1991 rendition of Desireless’ “Voyage Voyage,” “Vuela Vuela.” Shooting stars, green laser beams, and traveling technicolor shades of diamonds all take place in this bombastic, heart-on-the-dance floor take of the super cheesy, yet staggering '90s classic. Amplifying on his tech-pop universe, Gallardo takes his natural pop sensibility present all the way with first-class glam production, surprisingly drawing emotiveness and rubbing deep fibers, while substantially inducing motion, conquering both heart and body. On the other hand, Matilda Manzana’s high-pitched, colorful voice and sorrowful singing bring the ideal bittersweet balance to the track. “Vuela, vuela, no te hace falta equipaje,” he affectively chants as his vocals exultantly float in the mix. “Vuela Vuela” is a hit that perhaps many thought we didn’t need to remember, but this pair has made it an essential one, and a pretty nostalgic one as well.


♫♫♫ "Vuela Vuela"

Monday, March 26, 2012

MP3: Coyoli - "Jofredesa"


A relatively new act within our circuit, Mexican musician Oscar Coyoli has been composing engaging folk music for a couple of years already. Listening to his 2007 release under the unpronounceable and ungoogleable artistic name ((( ))), Una tarde de domingo en la isla de la Grande Jatte (named after Georges Seurat’s iconic painting), the first comparison that came to mind was Phil Elvrum’s work (particularly because their voices sound very similar), mixed with a splash of Beirut’s
Gulag Orkestar. It's a heartwarming effort that remains an underground gem.

Almost five years later, with the help of skillful producer Juan Manuel Torreblanca, Coyoli presents “Jofredesa,” the captivating first cut off his group's second EP (and first simply as Coyoli), Bémot. A breathtaking work of pastoral folk, “Jofredesa” is a piece that beautifully relies on silences and their contemplativeness, which transmits a domestic feeling of somehow, somewhere, having already heard it, as if it had been integrated to your memories for ages and you didn’t even think you'd remember. With the addition of singer Pilar Hernández's significantly moving leading vocals and Andrea Balency’s serene assistance on accordion, “Jofredesa” stands out as a radiant new beginning to a candle-lit path to greatness.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Blanca Méndez Live!: EMP Pop Music Conference this Friday


If there's anything you can say about the Club Fonograma writing staff, it's that we all love each other and support each other in our real lives. On that note, I'd like to plug our own Blanca Mendez, who will be presenting at the EMP Pop Music Conference at New York University's Kimmel Center this Friday from 4-6 pm.

As you may have recently seen on the Colbert Report (embedded below), the EMP Conference is known for its hilariously esoteric presentation titles. And Blanca’s is no different! Entitled "Tijuana Makes Some Noise: Ruidoson as a Response and Resistance to Violence in Baja California's Largest City,” the paper will explore the ruidoson sound, including the cultural and political climate out of which ruidoson was born, and the importance of the genre in moving Tijuana forward musically. It will also include the musings of Tony Gallardo, aka María y José, who of course is a crazy person and should provide the GREATEST INSIGHT EVER.

Anyway, if you live in New York, or will be within a feasible distance of NYU this weekend, try to make it out. There’s nothing Blanca loves more than strangers listen to her talk. And make sure to charge your first post-panel drink on my tab.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Video: Francisca Valenzuela - "Esta Soy Yo"


Count me in the camp that considers Francisca Valenzuela’s second album, Buen Soldado, to be one of the most underrated records of the past few years. The record’s dedication to the whimsical and carefree are couched in playful melodies that would border on cheese if Valenzuela wasn’t so damn confident singing them.

Her latest video, for “Esta Soy Yo,” continues to illustrate her freewheeling spirit, literally finding Valenzuela showcasing six facets of her personality. And it’s a great allegory for its parent record, actually. It’s a celebration of the kooky and buoyant and isn’t afraid to pour sugar on your head. So go ahead, throw paint or blast her into space if you will—Valenzuela is gonna follow that yellow brick road to wherever she damn well pleases.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hit the Lights...Club Fonograma's 4th Anniversary

The other day at dinner (a delicious vegan “chicken” sandwich and edamame at Native Foods, since I know how y’all love when we talk about food), I was bonding with a new co-worker over Chilean pop music. After gushing over Javiera Mena and Alex Anwandter, inevitably, Club Fonograma came up. When it did, she had a minor flip-out and had to text her friend in D.C., who, like her, is a big fan of the site. “You totally have a fan club in D.C.,” she said.

Even though I have been able to see the impact of the site online and have had the chance to meet the occasional fan, this was the first time that it really hit me. Perhaps because it was so immediate. I came to Club Fonograma as a fan of the site and, though it was intimidating at first to write for a blog I had so long admired, the warm staff and (mostly) friendly readers quickly made me feel welcome. I’ve now been a part of the staff for almost two years and have loved every minute of it.

Today we celebrate the blog’s fourth birthday and, looking back on the past year, it has truly been a year of growth. (And not just because Carlos finally let me run with my podcast idea.) We now have a writing staff of ten superb contributors hand-picked by Carlos Reyes himself. So, thanks to the entire staff: Carlos Reyes, Jean-Stephane Beriot, Andrew Casillas, Pierre Lestruhaut, Enrique Coyotzi, Conejito Colvin, Adrian Mata Anaya, Giovanni Guillén, and Souad Martin-Saoudi. Y’all are the best.

Of course, we want to give a huge thanks to our readers. We are grateful to each and every one of you who has perused our site despite the frequent food descriptions and increasing Selena Gomez coverage. We’re even thankful for those of you who only come by to troll and maybe post a comment about how we suck/should write in Spanish.

We also want to thank all the artists and their management for the great music that keeps this blog alive and for taking the time to sit down and chat with us for interviews during things like Festival Nrmal and SXSW.

And thanks to the one and only Carlos Reyes, who started this little site four years ago and who has developed it into what it is today with sheer love for music. The question that Fonograma readers ask me most often is: What’s Carlos like? Everyone seems to have a theory about the ever-elusive Mr. Reyes. I’ve heard that he’s an industry insider (LOL), a middle-aged woman blogging from her dungeon of a basement, and (my favorite) that he’s Javiera Mena. Even though I’ve never met the dude and even though Andrew Casillas pretty accurately describes him as "a mystery wrapped inside of a corn tortilla and covered with aluminum foil of secrecy," I can say with certainty that he’s a poetic and prolific writer, a tastemaker in every sense of the word (even the really pretentious sense, which is maybe the only real sense), and a true pleasure to work with.

Thanks, again, y'all. And, like Selena Gomez says, let the music move you.

P.S. Since Carlos is under the weather and could not write this post himself, please direct all of your Selena G-related hate toward me.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

SXSW Entry #7: White Ninja, Bigott, 3Ball MTY

SWAGtentalo

I lost my voice Thursday night, which also inhibited my ability to swallow. The next morning, my ears were still ringing and my legs were tired as all hell. But, dammit, this was the penultimate day of SXSW, and there was NO CHANCE anyone was fucking stopping me from going all out. So I scarfed down three slices of Hoboken pizza (yeah, dammit, we’re talking about food again!), and walked my ass clear across downtown to catch me some White Ninja.I think what most surprised me about White Ninja’s set was how true-to-record these guys, sounded, which is impressive, considering how hazy their recordings can be at times. But, just like the recordings, the show would have probably sounded better accompanied by…um, “mood enhancers.” So, not a bad show or anything. I mean, any time you get to hear “PCU” while drinking watered down Glenlivet, that’s one for the win column, really.

After enco
untering the most dick-headed SXSW volunteer (“the line’s over here, brah”), I entered the Sounds from Spain showcase, which featured the largest assortment of La Liga jerseys this side of Madrid (go Real!). The whole time I was thinking, “if Gio and I are the visual equivalent of the mipster, who the fuck are these guys?! Spipsters? And is that said with or without the lisp?”

Anyway, I was there to see Bigott. He was really good! He was in high spirits throughout, barely pausing in between songs. And, for once, I saw a SXSW crowd engage in ACTUAL dancing (to a song called “Cannibal Dinner,” no less!). There was also some ace guitar playing to “Dead Mum Walking” and some colorful band interplay to “Sparkle Motion,” not to mention that this guy is just as funny and charismatic live as on record. If anything, I’m bummed that this was his only SXSW showcase—I’d definitely see him again if I had the chance.

(I also caught Nite Jewel last night. All I’ll say is, it took her 30 minutes to soundcheck and the synths were STILL way too compressed in the mix. Oh, and also La Vida Boheme, which is apparently Spanish for “tries too hard.”)

Last up for the night was the unstoppable short bus that is 3Ball MTY. The energy inside the venue was palpable. No one was wearing pointy boots (BOO!) though Gio made an excellent point that 3Ball’s staff was “very chuntaro looking,” which is a half-win. As for the show itself? TOTAL. FUCKING. FRENZY. 3Ball’s 45-minute MegaMix was a bevy of crowdsurfing, obstructive camera phones, and, oh yeah, I had to break up a fight. Regardless, the set was more than impressive, and its abrupt end due to a 2 a.m. curfew nearly set off a small skirmish from overhyped fans.

Leaving the show, I realized I still hadn’t gotten a sense whether 3Ball MTY is an actual project, or merely short-term (particularly for Erick Rincon, who dictated virtually everything onstage as if going through the motions). As “Inténtalo” remains #1 on the Billboard charts, the opportunity was theirs to take this festival by the balls. Yet here we were, with only one show aimed at the long ago-converted. Who knows, maybe there was a good reason. But we’ve known for months that “Inténtalo” is a game changer of a song—now should have been the time for 3Ball MTY to become a game changer of a band.

Festival Nrmal 2012, Part Three

by Conejito Colvin

Technically, the party started on Friday at San Pedro Garza's characteristic Gomez Bar, long known as being the unofficial headquarters for the Nrmal crew, and the de facto spot for countless after parties. After creating a prequel of our own with D.D.A (that's ADD for all you English speaking folk) at the Novotel, the peeps and I followed the caravan to the pre(pre?)-party. Sometime after the second red light we lost sight of the van we were following. With limited credit in our pre-paid Mexican cellphones, we attempted to call a friend for directions. Forty-minutes and several flimsy indications later, we finally came upon the elusive house. The party was already bumping by the time we arrived, as Lao (of 401.mx fame) presided over the dance floor with a selection of the bassiest of the bass—reppin’ for Finesse records, no less. Supermad, the boy-girl ACIEEED FUNK duo, followed suit with a performance that defied all expectations and subsequent categorizations. Pictureplane busted out a retromanic fest of '90s rave hits, which brought back more than one awkward flashback of neon clothing and glow sticks. *shudders* Milkman followed up with a number of bewildering stage antics, but was swiftly ushered down to make way for the true star of the night, none other than Erick Rincón of do-I-even-need-to-remind-you fame. Three cocktails and one limbo pole later, and we were battered beyond repair.

But on to the actual festival...

We arrived somewhat late to the proceedings, sadly, missing out on performances by DDA and Araabmuzik. The latter’s unfortunate schedule must’ve been a blundering oversight, since I doubt anyone can stomach that kind of bass just after noon. Alas, we carried on to the Panamerika stage where the spaced-out garage noise of San Pedro El Cortez effectively gave way to the festival proper. Go Tijuana! But seriously, regional biases aside, San Pedro’s out-of-left-field stage antics shocked most of us at the tiny tent, whose audience included the likes of Davila 666 and the aforementioned DDA. It took a while before we found anything we liked on the program, so we made our way to the Novotel once again to seek out one Raka Rich (interview coming soon!). After a lengthy exchange, we made our way back to Diego Rivera park, where the distant chants of Prince Rama could be heard in the distance. Shortly thereafter, the motley throng of mipsters (yeah, I used that word again) gradually made its way to the main stage as an ostensibly awkward Canadian by the name of Grimes was setting up for her performance. She alerted us that due to half her equipment being lost at the airport, her set would be a—and I’m quoting here—“shitfest.” Damn those Mexican airlines! But yeah, we were warned, and the ensuing sounds were underwhelming, to say the least. The crowd cheered her on regardless.

We then made our way to the tiniest stage, yet again, where the schedule had been considerably set back. I guess 25-minute sets sound better on paper. After lurking around while waiting for Sonido San Francisco to emerge, our appetites got the better of us and we made our way back to the food courts. I suffered a minor stroke after ingesting some regio spicy wings (seriously, it was like being stabbed in the tounge!) and took a moment to recover. We rushed back to the Panamerika stage where Sonido had already concluded their set. Thank God for the audience’s insistence on an encore, which spurred the neo-cumbia outfit to finish off their performance with their floor-breaking number, “Sonidero Total!!!”

Photos by Luisa Luisa Martinez

So, the next lines will come as no surprise to any Club Fonograma reader. Alex Anwandter kicked the shit out of every other performance at the festival. (Well, okay, a certain TJ duo gave the Chilean a run for his money, but we’ll get to it soon enough). Where to begin? Was it the awe-inspiring fervor of Anwandter performing “Tatuaje” live? The uncanny storm that unfurled just moments after “Tormenta”? Perhaps it was the cadré of admirers that showered him with embraces as he descended upon the crowd? Or maybe the...okay, you get it. Too many moments. (I didn’t even mention his glimmering silver shirt.)

And, yeah, the mandatory mention of that other Chilean artist, whose name I dare not speak, especially after Andrew Casillas’ zealous rebuttal of Enrique Coyotzi’s lukewarm assessment. What can I say? It was just SOO big, so important. Almost in diametrical opposition to the immediacy of Anwandter’s performance—not to mention intimacy—Javiera Mena’s performance just felt too removed from the audience. And just what was that dude from She’s a Tease doing up there, exactly? (I didn’t manage to hear a peep coming out of him.)

After those moments, everything went by in a(n energy) flash. Ñaka Ñaka tripped us out, Maloso made us shout, and P18 Live Machine made our posterior muscles ache. Booty shaking aside, the crowd singing along to “Hijos de José” was among the highlights of the festival’s rave-ier moments. Meanwhile, in a moment of not-so-quiet introspection, Mock The Zuma and his newly found MC, Josué Josué, gave much to talk about, as the budding rapper floored us with his rendition of the new Mexican vernacular.


Now, on to the other highlight of the night. Tony Gallardo II can indisputably be called the best showman of the festival. In his typically charismatic fashion, he made the crowd laugh and dance, all the while opening up the stage to groupies and Chilean pop stars alike. Oh, and the dude from Sonido San Francisco was also there. With DJ Nombre Apellido (of Los Macuanos pseudo-fame) as his interim sidekick, Tony had the entire audience eating out of his swa(n)g-laden hand. Just as his set came to a draw, the audience clamored for more party, and he made sure not to disappoint his ardent cult following, by treating us to a hit from that other project of his. “Rey de Reyes,” though strictly “playback” as he called it, was but the cherry on top of an epochal performance.

Had the day's events not been replete with talent, I may have taken in much more. Alas, quantity and quality were not mutually exclusive at the festival. Such was the intensity, that I couldn’t even make my way to the after-party where I was set to perform. But be warned Monterrey, I will be back.

SXSW Entry #6: Andrea Balency, LA ENTREVISTA


Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with the fast-rising Andrea Balency. And all it took was me buying her one beer, along with my awesome charm, of course.

Andrew Casillas: So…how does it feel to be “hot shit” right now?*

Andrea Balency: It’s kind of surprising because when I started writing music I never thought I would be where I’m at only two-three years later. Before that, I played classical music at home with my piano and I wanted to be a classical musician. But then I started writing music, saw how fun it was, and felt the need to continue doing it. My first songs didn’t sound very commercial, and I thought, “Oh, I’ll never been famous or popular.” But suddenly everything started happening, and people started coming out to concerts, and suddenly I had 300 people coming out to see me. And I’m thinking, “Who am I?” I’m just a regular person, so it’s been very surprising, but exciting, because I feel like I can make a living doing this forever.

AC: Speaking of playing with Natalia Lafourcade, Javiera Mena, and Ximena Sariñana (at the awesome Torreblanca + Amigas show earlier that day), each of them had a very different career path. Natalia started out very quirky and has progressed further into idiosyncrasy. Javiera began with a defined sound and has continued developing it to where she is THE BEST at what she does. Ximena started out as a huge pop star, and is leveraging that early success in a very ambitious attempt at English language superstardom. Of these three, which would you find most appealing as a career path?

AB: I feel like my music has to follow its own path and, thus, I don’t think about it so much. I don’t want to force things and take my music somewhere it probably shouldn’t be. Right now what I think is that I have a pretty singular sound which will continue to change. I’ve gotten into a lot of electronic music lately…

AC: Even Skrillex? (jokingly)

AB: Yes! (haha) I just love the whole universe of electronica, and I’m trying to incorporate some of these elements into my sound. I don’t know where I’m going to evolve; I’ll just let it go where it needs to be.


AC: Do you have any idea where you’re going to be in a few years? Do you think you could be like Skrillex tomorrow?

AB: I’d love to think I could. Part of what I love about music is that it’s spontaneous.

AC: Well answer this: do you want to be a pop star?

AB: Hahaha, well…

AC: I’m serious: I don’t mean pop star in the “selling out” sense. Do you want to be a star? An easy comparison would be, say, Julieta Venegas. Someone who can command his or her own career with a mass following?

AB: Credibility is important to me, so as long as I have that, I wouldn’t mind being a “star.” I wouldn’t mind not being a star so long as I’m credible. It’s the most important thing to me.

*I clarified that I meant to say “one of the biggest buzzes at SXSW,” but hot shit still sounds cooler.

Friday, March 16, 2012

CF Point/Counterpoint: Javiera Mena live (SXSW Entry #5)


With respect to my colleague, Enrique Coyotzi, and his excellent Festival Nrmal coverage, how the hell is Javiera Mena’s live show “underwhelming”?!

To be fair, comparing a large outdoor festival in Mexico to an intimate bar in downtown Austin isn’t exactly like comparing apples to apples. And the NRMAL crowd’s apparent lack of background info on Mena’s music would certainly explain any disconnect affecting the performance on a whole. But last night? Let’s just say it’s going to take a couple of days to wash all the sweat out of my clothes.

Hanging out anonymous amongst the crowd prior to show time, it was unclear whether Mena was nervous or apprehensive prior to her first official U.S. show. As her soundcheck unfolded, Mena would look out into the small mass of festivalgoers as if she were about to BASE jump into the Amazon. The hypnotic synth line from “Perlas” marched as the lights and sound came into form and then…Mena Time.


After feeling out the crowd for the first few numbers (though “Primera Estrella” is admittedly an odd opener), it was “Hasta la Verdad” that made people take notice. Lest the newcomers think of her as some icy disco queen, she instantly upped the electro with “El Amanecer” and “Luz de Piedra de Luna.” By this point, the crowd was entirely at her command, clapping and jumping when told. Even the pedestrians from the connecting showcases began to filter in, seeing how there appeared to be a small party on hand.

By this point, there were well over 100 people in this tiny hall, and Mena went for the kill, shedding her jacket and keyboard and serenading the audience through “Sufrir.” I mean, really, if you thought Bérénice Bejo was great at playing pantomime in The Artist, she doesn’t have SHIT compared to Javiera Mena, at least for this one night. She then closed out the set with a fiery rendition of “Al Siguiente Nivel,” high-fiving everyone in sight like a much hotter (and, let’s face it, probably funnier), Jay Leno. It was a resilient, confident, and downright amazing debut.

I know there may be some in our readership who take everything Club Fonograma writes about Javiera Mena with a huge grain of salt. Sure, parts of what we do can come off like a personal PR service, but I’m not bullshitting when I say this was one of the greatest live performances I’ve seen in all my years at SXSW. That doesn’t mean everything she does is amazing, and maybe the NRMAL crowd didn’t get the same sort of energy as the one at Maggie Mae’s, but there’s something about genius that’s impossible to contain once it gains momentum, and yesterday, genius and momentum came dressed in a black and white polka dotted skirt. Of course, the moral of the story is: ALWAYS LISTEN TO #PINCHEANDREW.

SXSW Entry #4: Kali Mutsa, Alex Anwandter, Astro, Natalia Lafourcade

Thursday night’s array of SXSW showcases felt like being transplanted into a real-life Fonogramaticos. And that’s not even including shows from Il Abanico, Juan Cirerol, Bam Bam, and Neon Indian, which we were unable to catch due to conflicts. But what we did see…oh man.

Kicking off the night at the bottle service maven Buca Lounge was Kali Mutsa. After fervently applying her makeup in the ladies restroom (according to Gio’s girlfriend), she and her band came out like bohemian gypsies who were really trying to get picked for Let’s Make a Deal. The show was a bit subdued at first, which is weird considering the band was clad with just a mic, accordion, clarinet, and fiddle (and barefoot, nonetheless!). But Mutsa made the best of the small crowd, crouching every verse with dead-eyed stares and flippant histrionics. In between songs, she pleaded with the crowd to dance while taking swigs of beer as if it were contraband. Despite all this, and the fact she spoke 4-5 languages during the entire set, the crowd was pleasantly surprised. I’m now convinced that Kali Mutsa is alien genius like Abed from Community.

After a brief Jimmy Johns break (free smells!), we made our way to Alex Anwandter’s set at the “Latino hotspot” Maggie Mae’s. Anwandter was in peak form, with his mid-'90s Morrissey close-cut and satin jacket. But he also knew what his people wanted to hear. Pick your favorite song from Rebeldes. He played it. Anwandter milked the favorable crowd for everything it was worth, as he even went into the crowd to dance with the audience at various points. For the Anwandter-worshipping fans in attendance, it was a gig from heaven, and for everyone else, a rocking set.

After these two barn-burning shows, it was inevitable that Astro would disappoint for the mere fact that it was…a rock concert. Dudes with guitars on stage playing their hits. Not that people weren’t feeling “Manglares” and “Ciervos,” but it just didn’t hit over the head like Mutsa and Anwandter did. There was a bit of catharsis with “Maestro Distorsion” as the closing number, but overall it was merely solid. I did appreciate how everyone in Astro has the exact same haircut, though.

Closing the night back at Buca Lounge was Natalia Lafourcade. Ditching the (literal) bells and whistles, Lafourcade played an acoustic set armed with a piano, guitar, and vocal loops. Her charisma was in full force, connecting with her legion of devotees by playfully asking for free drinks and taking song requests even as the show crept into the 2 am hour. The setlist itself was a mix of her favorite Hu Hu Hu tracks (“Azul” will NEVER get old) and random oldies, such as “En El 2000” and “O Pato” (!), and the crowd hung on her every word. It appears that Lafourcade seems fairly comfortable in her role as a sort of torchbearer for Mexican indie, and one can hope that her upcoming covers album will reflect this. In a sense, this kind of set was the perfect palette cleanser for an epic (and very loud) night of music.