SXSW Entry #2: Live Nation Latino Showcase

Last night saw your faithful correspondent catching the Live Nation Latino showcase at Antone's. Walking to the venerable venue, located on the western edge of Austin's mega-downtown, was perhaps the night's hardest endeavor. Besides the previously mentioned parking troubles, and the borderline-extortionist tactics taken by virtually every vendor in the city, there were still St. Patrick's Day party-goers more than eager to solicit random high-fives, inadvertent pushing, and enthusiastic cheering for a cover band who I can only describe as "the Killers meet Journey." It was a nightmare far worse than anything I ever read in Scary Short Stories.

Thankfully, what I ended up seeing at the venue was absolutely radiant. At first, it was great to see that this Latin showcase (which also included Bomba Estereo, who I caught a bit of, but will see again at today's FADER Fort, and Maltida Vecindad, who I was sadly unable to see again) was well-attended to say the least, as the line to get in stretched around the corner and down another block. As soon as I walked in, I was then treated to a rousing 40-minute set from Monterrey's funk-alicious 60 Tigres. Coming across as a palatable cross of Los Amigos Invisibles and Austin TV, they worked the ever-growing crowd with a mix of loud, delectable party music with a bourgeois touch (designer jeans!). I was very surprised by this band's technical proficiency, since most bands whose purpose is to give their audience a "good time" mask their lack of prowess with enough shuffle that you don't notice a few missed chords. They also weren't afraid to be irreverent at times, leading the audience into a chant of "Yeah! Guey!" on their closing number. Oh, and their keyboardist looks like Nick Cave...or rather, bearded Nick Cave. I dare you to find a cooler look.

Following that set was a towering prospect, but Columbia's ChocQuibTown totally knocked it out of the park. Their wondrous mixture of hip-hop, reggae, Carribean, cumbia, and baile funk sounds pretty good on record, but in person it was unlike anything that I had ever heard. While they aren't going to be mistaken for Residente or Arcangel in terms of lyrical quality, their flow and energy were beyond reproach. The show's climax was undoubtedly the "Latin empowerment anthem" of "Somos Pacificos," a tribute and call for celebrating Latino pride through artistic empowerment. It's also one hell of a jam, great for thinking and getting a party going. It wasn't all beats and rhymes though. At one point, the band's percussion began to thump with the ferocity of a jackhammer, and a manic saxophone soon engulfed the speakers as the group willed the crowd to chant along. It was a masterclass in audience management and almost-poetically reflected their passionate approach to music-making. By the end of the group's set, I was stuck in my place, and could only write one sentence into my BlackBerry MemoPad: "This band is Important." A day later, I have no reason to dispute that initial assessment.