I Went To See A Band...

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It being Saturday Night, at 2:15 AM, we slide out of the Cigarra set, to take a taxi to the next show.
La Yegros is in town, back from Paris where she lives, to record an album and visit friends and relatives for the holidays.
So, we head over to Beatflow, a club on Cordoba that always reminds me of a cross between the old punk clubs of the 70s in the USA, and the approach ramp to the upper level of a futbol stadium. Its a slanted narrow concrete hallway, the floor is sticky, the air is smoky and hot, and the bridge and tunnel kids from the suburbs are getting drunk and yelling "CUMBIA" at the top of their lungs. But somehow, a lot of great bands play there, especially loud and funky cumbia bands.
I dunno if I can take the smog again, though.
Luckily we get to sneak back into the backroom, where the door is open to the rainy evening, and you can breathe, until the band comes on. And talk to various interesting friends about many things.
Finally, at maybe quarter to 3, La Yegros comes on.
She brings the core of her band with her from Europe- the 9 foot tall guitar player, David Martinez is dressed Aztek Warrior style, and starts ripping it up on the Strat, mixing up rock and roll, peruvian Chica, garage rock, and lots and lots of cumbia. The percussionist, Gabriel Ostertag, is playing six drums at once, shaking the walls. Local friend and session player extraordinaire Alejandor Franov is filling in on accordian and flutes. The Smoke Machine cranks up, mixing with the cold mist from the overworked airconditioners, the cloud of illicit cigarette smoke, pot fumes, and whatever that stuff is that comes out of vapes, and a floating cloud of vaporized sweat.
Heaven or Hell- You decide.

Then La Yegros enters.
She has grown into the regal queen in Europe, still rocking her Mesopotamia roots, but also channelling all the South American Divas of the last 100 years. She is mysterious and elegant in a green cocktail dress, impossibly tall shiny black heels, and towering hair. She rocks the worlds largest scrunchy, furry or feathery, wrapped around her hair so it is a tall column, sort of like a high fashion version of Kid's do from Kid and Play in the 80s.
Across her shoulders, she is wearing a feathered boa/wings/epaulette decoration that makes her ready to fly away at any moment.

And she begins to sing.
The sound isnt great, but her voice and charisma transcends it anyway, and the crowd begins to bounce like a huge wave crossing the ocean, and the wild cumbia begins.

The music flows across genres, sometimes falling back on classic crowdpleasing cumbia beats, other times getting wild and wooly, and La Yegros is serene and in control above it all.

I can only take so much sweat and vaporized beer, I slink out the slippery concrete ramp around 4:20 in the morning, missing the Gaby Kerpel Queen Cholas set, which, I have heard, would also feature more La Yegros as well, but I am merely human, and no longer a chico.

here is somebody's phone video- a snippet of the intensity.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BcOynsElKwH/
 

Ries

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It was tuesday. That means La grande.
Unbelievable, as usual.
There is no jam session like this anywhere in the world.

The scene is friendly, the food and drinks are simple, not expensive, and good.
The music is world class.

First the core band, the octet, begins to play- super precise bop meets brazilian beats, but pure Vazquez. Wisps of the precision of Zappa live, but without the dictatorial air of Frank, who rehearsed his bands with James Brown style rules- I saw Zappa play live a few times in the early 70s, and the bands were super tight professionals, but no variation from the plan was allowed. Santiago Vazquez, on the other hand, has an easy give and take with the band, based on years of familiarity, and, while there is no question he is running things, directing the songs to a single beat, there is also improv, unexpected twists and turns. He trusts the musicians, and they, in turn, let him drive.

Then two young women who are evidently indie folk stars- I listened to them before we went, and thought them a somewhat unlikely choice- folk pop, basically, with lovely voices- who had a smash hit in 2011. Perota Chingo. The band created a space for them to sing, not playing backing band, but, instead, giving them some room to vamp and create a common ground. This happens often at La Grande- they dont exactly cater to the visitors, no matter how famous or important- instead, Vazquez and company demand respect, and grant it in turn, offering up the opportunity to meet in the middle, and do it funky.
It worked quite well. There were a lot of Perota Chingo fans in the audience, filming on their phones, and the two singers were obviously pretty happy, if challenged, by playing with the pros in the deep end. The did a great 30 minute set, before stepping down off the stage, turning around, and dancing to the band along with everybody else. No picking out the brown M&M's here.

The band took a break after the first hour or so, Villa Diamante proceeded to mix it up and keep the dance floor full, and we had some papas rosti and craft beer.
Always, at these shows, the median age is maybe 28- so we are noticeable due to our advanced age- but also, always, in the crowd, there are a few other older people- and, usually, its because they will be sitting in as guests during the second set. We spotted a few of these ringers in the audience that night- they usually have that rock star aura, but humble, too- they realize this is an extraordinary experience, and that they are not the stars.

The core octet takes the stage again at 9:30 or so, and rockets its way through a couple of songs, before Santi pulls the crumpled piece of paper from his back pocket and starts calling up guests, two or three for each song. Several guest drummers, usually one on the standard drum kit, and various percussionists sitting in on smaller drums. Some famous guy, a TV star I guess, who adapts the least of anyone that evening, basically singing like he always does, but the band magnanimously keeps it simple for him. Guillermo Piccolini, who was pretty well known in Spain for fifteen years or more in a series of rock bands, but now is back living in his hometown, sits in on keyboards. Guest bassists come and go. Axel Krygier comes on and plays sax for a song, grinning and bouncing, loving it. Fernando Samlea, who, as a drummer, has played with EVERYBODY, sits in for a song, and we realize he has been serving drinks all evening behind the bar. This is a guy who played with Charly Garcia, Gustavo Cerrati, and dozens of musicians of every genre and degree of fame- and he is happy as a clam to just play a song with the gang.
Finally, for the finale, the two chicas come back on stage, the band swells to 16 people, including Pato Smink and Gaby Kerpel, and they begin a long, rocking, piece that starts and stops, slows and speeds up, makes everybody dance and sweat and scream and wave, for a good half hour, til it finally reaches a crescendo and stops, sometime after 11, with a stunned crowd all standing there with a "what just happened" look on their faces, before drifting outside to smoke a butt, or getting in the cerveza line, to come down from the high.

amazing, as always.

duo cosmica- https://youtu.be/_aIuna5a8Dc
 

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For many years, we have heard that Charly Garcia has an apartment in our barrio- one block away, on the corner of Coronel Diaz and Santa Fe, in a really stunning art deco building.
We have always joked that, when we stood waiting for the collectivo in front of Alto Palermo, that it was "pareda de Charly", and my wife would wave up at her imagined Charly, and call to him.
But last night, on the way to La Grande, we actually SAW Charly. Right there on the corner, a few of his chicos were helping him into a car, because his ability to walk is not great right now. We are looking ten feet away, saying- It Charly! and everybody else on Santa Fe is looking at their phones, waiting for the light to change, or chatting- nobody seems to notice.
He looks snappy, though- big black hat, dark glasses, a striped shirt- he is the man.
I think he rarely hangs in our barrio- he has multiple homes, I am sure.

https://youtu.be/Wev4A4J7u-M
 
I had a Charly siting on Corrientes once. I also saw Maradona with his arm hanging out of a black SUV while talking to the press. My wife knows the faces of many famous people and is always pointing out somebody to me. I'm mostly oblivious to the faradula, fortunately. :p
 

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I have been going to a club called Matienzo here in Buenos Aires for many years. It started out in an old house, with a bar tucked under the stairs, and the bands standing on the living room floor in front of the old fireplace, with art shows in the bedrooms upstairs, and a crowd on the rooftop terrace, smoking and talking and sipping beer and fernet. But they aroused too much ire from the neighbors, and outgrew the place, so, 3 or 4 years ago, moved to a bigger place in a more tolerant neighborhood. Its three stories tall, with exhibition spaces, a film series, drawing nights, performances, 3 bars, a basic menu of bar food, and amazing concerts. Although they get some city money, its basically a self sufficient co-op of a group of young people who work there. A dozen or two jobs. Its non-profit, and funky, but they do shows at least five days a week, poetry, theater, and crazy music.


Last night we went to see Morbo y Mambo- a group that crosses a lot of borders- inspired by Miles Davis and Fela Kuti, Dub and Brazilian percussion. One of my favorites, especially live. You can watch a video, and they are good, but live the physicality of the music is indescribable.

The show opened with a Chilean band, Sistemas Inestables- Unstable Systems. They were kind of a nerds in the basement type of band, sitting in a circle facing each other, switching back and forth between drums,keyboards, guitars, synths, and cowbell. With a bass player in back, where a drummer would usually be. The music was loud but soothing, at least to me, kind of less manic Lightning Bolt, a bit of Mahavishnu, heavy metal crescendos of noise ebbing and flowing. I guess I find different things soothing than most people. Loud music, with a constant beat, calms me into a trance state...
Anyway, I liked em.
I relate to the can in this video.
https://www.facebook.com/sistemasinestables/videos/1821143064864969/
 

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[background=rgb(246, 247, 249)]After a pretty brief equipment change, at the unseemly early hour of 10:30, which, for Buenos Aires is basically 7am, the headliners came on. [/background]
[background=rgb(246, 247, 249)]Morbo live is something to see, but, mostly, something to feel. The bass begins- a Bill Laswell-esque Dub Rumble that shakes the building in slow waves. Nacho even put on a real shirt for the gig. Then, the drums kick in- the drummer is sort of heroic too- relentless waves of beat. And tonight, a second drummer, on congas and bongos, who has not been playing with them for several years. Layered on is a thick fuzz of keyboards- sometimes one, sometimes two, often Ray Manzarek like organ riffs. And a Stratocaster, playing the sort of rythym that you find in Reggae or in some 70s english post punk- trebley scratches that hang in the air. Over this extremely thick foundation layer, the three horn players kick in- trumpet, trombone, and fluegelhorn. You realize that, aside from the drums, every instrument on stage is echoed, wah-wahed, and thickened electronically. The drums are on the one, but the rest of the instruments take a second or two to fill time- which means time is being stretched, and every second is really one and a half seconds long. [/background]
[background=rgb(246, 247, 249)]And the low bass notes of all of them combined finds the resonant frequency of the human skeleton- which means your bones are all vibrating in time with the music. [/background]
[background=rgb(246, 247, 249)]Of course, all the lights in the room are strobe lights. [/background]
[background=rgb(246, 247, 249)]A curious smell of burning rope fills the air.[/background]
[background=rgb(246, 247, 249)]The horns are processed, to the point where you can feel the blaat of the trombone cross the room 50 feet or so, and bounce off the far wall, before the note ends. [/background]
[background=rgb(246, 247, 249)]It is addictingly, infectiously, danceable. 300 or so people all begin bouncing and swaying at once, and it doesnt stop for an hour and a half. [/background]
[background=rgb(246, 247, 249)]They dont really stop between songs- it just flows, and, even if they stop playing, the beat and fuzz and funk hangs in the air for a minute or two anyway. They play, in order, all the songs off their older album, Boa, and then, for an encore, play another 20 minutes of newer stuff. We are dazed, floating, and shellshocked as we wander out at 12:30 to catch a cab home.[/background]

[background=rgb(246, 247, 249)]The band, however, just retreats back to the Green Room, to smoke a spliff, and chill a bit, before starting the second set around 1:30, which, rumor has it, lasted until around 5am.[/background]

[background=rgb(246, 247, 249)]This is a video of them playing one of those songs, live- but it doesnt really give you the full effect. To really get it right, you need to play this while crouching on top of a cement truck that is rotating, and driving down the road, in a cloud of pot smoke, surrounded by sweaty, dancing, young argentines. YouTube, even if it was VR, fails.[/background]
https://youtu.be/D-zBN58x2G4
 

Ries

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We had a nice saturday, we went to the once a month big farmers market at the campus of the agronimia department of the university, came home, made dinner, and went to bed at a reasonable 10pm.

Then-
we woke up again at 12:30, got decent and presentable, and went out to catch the bus. At ten to one in the morning, the 39 bus was completely full, standing room only, in fact the driver would not let on any additional passengers for the first 5 or 6 stops. Saturday night in Buenos Aires, the 39 is the party bus, on its way to Palermo.
When we got off, the streets were full- there are probably 50 bars and clubs in a 4x4 block area, and every one had people spilling out on the streets, drinking, talking, having fun.


We knew of course, that we were early- after all, we are extranjeros, and extranjeros are notorious for being early.

so, a bit after 1, we enter the club, and there are only a handful of people there. La Tangente, where we went, is an elegant, dark room, lit by perforated panels on the walls and ceiling, like millions of stars. 20 or so people were sitting and chatting, and a DJ was on stage, playing a set of electronic dubwave that was mellow yet danceable.

The people watching was great, we watched as the beats picked up, a few people started dancing, and the club slowly filled up.

By a sprightly 2:15, the dance floor was full, and by 20 to 3, the first band actually came on- Ani Castoldi and one of her many bands, Ibiza Pareo. We have seen her in several of her different manifestations, all are great. She is a born drummer, and plays electronic drums live over layers of bass and percussion tracks, while her bandmate Marina La Grasta plays keyboards, occasional guitar, and sings. At various times, they both sing. The drumming reminds me a bit of Stephen Morris from Joy Division- sharp and crisp, but much more electro than rock.
The songs build, ebb and flow, and everybody in the club dance dance dances. But its beautiful at the same time.
At one point, Carolina Stegmayer comes on and raps and sings a song with them, layering in a bit of her band, Carisma.

My wife, of course, gets up front and center and dances the night away.

Us old farts only last thru the first set, which ends around 3:30.
The DJ starts spinning discs, the drink line grows by about a hundred people, and we are the only ones who leave- everybody else will hang in there another half hour or so until the second set begins.
We were home in bed just a hair after 4 am- real stick in the muds by BA standards.

Here is a live set they did at a somewhat more sedate and prestigious location, so they made it a bit less echoed and delayed and loud and bass filled. What we saw was more dance oriented, but similar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1JJnvHbCdE
 

Ries

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Tuesday I did make it to LaGrande again. Not much to say I havent said already- it was great. 10 or 12 guest musicians at various points, another half dozen guest vocalists.
 

Ries

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Saturday night we went to Teatro Xirgu, in the Casal de Catalunya in Buenos Aires- the Catalan Club, because, of course there is a Catalan Club, built about 100 years ago, in art noveau style. The theater is a wonderful jewel box, with frescos of putti on the ceiling, 2 horseshoe shaped balconies, cast iron columns, red velvet seats, and a gigantic chandelier.

This year, I am mostly interested in listening to women, for obvious reasons.

So, this show was two amazing women.

First, Kaleema , who, like many of the musicians I like here in Argentina, defies categorization. She was trained as a classical musician on violin and piano, as well as composition, but she is also experienced in producing, and fluent in electronic software and hardware, and she sings, as well. And when she plays, it may range from a straight DJ set, mixing a variety of other peoples songs over electronic beats, to creating music solo using samples, loops, beats, live vocals, recorder, and other instruments, to playing with a band, as she did tonight.

I have seen her several times, and have a lot of her music as well.

Tonight, she was playing with the percussionist Federico Estevez, who plays a small conventional drum kit, augmented by a lot of percussion instruments and electronic drums. I have seen him play before as well, and he is great, very wide ranging and dynamic, rock and roll one minute, folkloric the next, cumbiatronic after that. She also had a guitar player for some songs, and a cellist sit in for one song as well.
She laid down basic beats from her computer, and mostly sang, along with the live musicians, although she also played recorder on several songs.

It was enchanting- she can mesmerize the audience, mixing genres and beats into something new, and, while it was pretty rocking, it was very soothing as well.

Here she is, along with Estevez, from a small show earlier in the year.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z08Rj039Us0
 

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Part 2 of my Saturday night at Xirgu-

The headliner was Palermo del Cerro, who is uniquely argentine- she has so many influences, ranging over many types of music, but has created a unique hybrid sound that is her own. She has an amazing voice, wears over the top costumes, and has a killer band.
She is a jewish gurani new age hippie, via Meredith Monk, Lilliana Herrera, Yma Sumac, and Tina Turner, with a bit of Lady Gaga thrown in.


She was wearing a new headdress, sort of Snake Goddess meets Las Vegas, with metallic pom poms and memories of Crete intertwined, along with blue concentric circles painted on her body, and tango shoes with 4" heels. Lots of bells, tinsel, and sequins, too.

The band included Grod Morel on keyboards, synths, and computers, laying down a wall of sound, along with her guitarist these days, session man and side man to many- Muhammad Habbibi- who was playing a telecaster in a very old school rockabilly fashion, thowing in some slide guitar that would get him hired by any Allman Bros cover band in the USA, but mixing in wisps of King Tubby, Cumbia, and North Africa. But, unlike your average sufi Nashville session guy, he also doubles on charengo. And she had a new drummer who I dont know, but is also very good.
Over it all, she soars and screams and sings and floats in the air.
Ritual magic, she is totally a bruja, in the best possible way.
At one point, the lights all go out, and in near darkness, she, and habbibi, each gently strumming a charengo, walk around the audience, in the darkened gallery seating under the balcony, then each enter the center of the crowd, where she begins singing unmiked to us, slowly building in volume, to the slow drumbeat of a single handdrum, leading the whole audience in song. Levitation, too.


Wish I could have seen her at the Cupola, which is a magic place to see music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1blO6TR0P04