I Went To See A Band...


Usually when I am in Buenos Aires, I try to see Argentine bands. Every once in a while, though, there is something so interesting I break that rule and go. We went to see Ibeyi a week or so ago, and it is still reverberating in my head. We went to a club we often go to, Niceto, which is perhaps 500 to 1000 person capacity, with good sound and lights, and, in the argentine style, 3 bars. It was full.
There obviously are a lot of fans, and this was the first argentine show ever of these twin sisters, who are venezuelean/cuban women born in paris. They are based in france, and big in europe. Their father was a famous percussionist, who played with everybody, and one of them, Naomi, learned from him, while her sister Lisa plays keyboards.
Their stage presence is carefully thought out, with matching red jumpsuits and white sneakers, 2 keyboard stations and 2 percussion stations, so they can roam and sing and play all over the stage.
They are very contemporary, and yet very aware of history- there is some gospel, soul, african music, hip hop, and jazz in what they do, but its all them.
They sing in english, french, spanish, and yoruba.
They play an audience effortlessly, having been touring and recording pretty much nonstop for the last 3 years or so.

And boy, do they bring it, live.
If you look on line, you can see videos of them playing tiny clubs, tv shows, and big stadiums, and they shine equally in all.

Here is a clip of them on an Italian variety show- the music doesnt really start until a minute in- doing a song based on a Michelle Obama quote.

Without all the production values of Italian TV, they are more raw and rocking, upclose and personal.
And, of course, they have been singing together all their lives. The vocal harmonies are intuitive.


I, sadly, am not in Buenos Aires, but I sure wish I was. This sunday, the 16th, and 4:20, according to the program, will be a reunion of one of my favorite Rock Nacional Bands,
La Portuaria.
Outside, Free, in the plaza of Usina Del Arte.

These guys got together in the late 80s, and are kind of the A Team of argentine musicians. Between them, they have played with everybody, on dozens of records- Soda Stereo, Charly Garcia, and many many more. Amongst them, I am sure they have composed more than a dozen film soundtracks, played with everybody, guested on many many albums.
They are all superlative musicians, with nothing to prove. I have seen, I think, all but one of them play live in the last few years, in various combinations and with other bands. They are always having fun, relaxed, and supremely competent, and can, between them, play just about any kind of music- classical, jazz, tango, folk, and, of course, Rock. Two of them just got honored with nomination for Hugo's (the argentine equivalent of a Tonys) for the musical The Man Who Lost His Shadow, at teatro Cervantes.
Since this is a reunion of a specific band, they will play some of the hits. Everyone will know the words, but I am sure it wont be a wooden attempt at duplicating the album versions- these guys will all have a great time getting funky on the old stuff.

For instance, I am sure they will play a version of this- El Bar en El Calle Rodney.

they all look about ten years old in this video- they are now distinguished gray haired national treasures.
If you are in BA, and at all interested in Rock Nacional- Go. It will be great.


I am back in Buenos Aires, briefly.
Normally, for me, its 24 hours door to door- this time, I flew from Vancouver, and, then, due to a pilot strike, construction, and mucho transito, it took me almost 2 hours from Ezieza to Capital- so it was closer to 36 hours in transit. So I had to take a nap when I arrived, but, then, I woke up in time to go see a band.
I must try to regain my status as the oldest man in the club. I went to see a Brazilian band, Francisco El Hombre, which is the perfect band to see to balance the bullshit happening in the USA. The band is queer, female, leftist, and great to dance to. On their records, they are more Brazilian and mellow, but live, its Pogo Time- the entire audience is in the air most of the show. Incredible power trio of bass/guitar/drums, along with two vocalists, some keyboards and digital electronics, in a small, crowded club full of strobe lights (Matienzo) and a very mixed crowd, in every sense of the word.
And, yes, I was the oldest, by a good 20 years.
Here they are live, in Brazil. They did this song.
It was the "early" show, (9:30 to 11:0), so then, I tried to go see a second band at a second club, but, finding out they wouldnt go on until 1:30 or 2:00, I had to bow out and go sleep, finally. I was just running on fumes at that point.
The second band was my friend Paco and his band, Carnivale de Vendetta.
This is their latest song.

there are so many great bands playing in the next two weeks, while I am here. Several nights I have 3 different places I would like to be at the same time.


Saturday Night, Niceto.
Niceto is a big club, high ceilinged former warehouse with three bars, and its packed. Juana has been touring the US, and Europe, all year. Her band is tired, but triumphant, to be playing 2 final shows of the tour at home in Buenos Aires- tonight, and next week. They are completely at home with the material, relaxed and able to improvise, joke, dance, and mug, comfortable and professional at the same time.
The hometown crowd is excited, most know all the words to every song.
There are various minor technical glitches, which Juana glosses over, falling back on her years of sketch comedy on TV to make faces, inhabit characters, joke and talk to the audience, but, in general, they rock.

The first time I was ever in Buenos Aires, in 2007, I walked into a small record store and asked them what I should buy, and they handed me a Juana Molina album. Since then I have seen her live many times. In the beginning, she was doing a lot herself, playing keyboards, singing and looping multiple vocals, composing beats in advance, almost a one woman show. She would often have a drummer and bass player, but be carrying most of the sound herself.
Lately, she has returned to the guitar, and although she still does a lot of vocals, layering background loops and harmony, singing over the top, she is able to rely more on her band- the incredible drumming, both electronic and acoustic of Pablo Gonzalez, and the multi-instrumental Odin Schwarz, who plays keyboards, synths, bass and guitar, and adds background vocals as well. This lets her play guitar, and sing more. Her recent music has more song-like lyrics, whereas, in the early 2000's, it was often more conceptual, with phrases and snippets looped and repeated. It reminded me somewhat of the rounds that Moondog, the NYC street composer, used to perform in the sixties.

She was really great on Saturday. The band ranged from the proverbial Whisper to a Scream, slowing down for breathy quiet songs, but raging full on is a power trio style of rock that is uniquely Juana. She is an adult- professional and assured, in control even when there are problems, but always having fun and especially so at home, with a crowd that understands all her Portena jokes and asides.

Here is an early date on the tour, with the current band- way back in March, they were aiming more for tight perfection, rather than the slightly sloppy ecstatic raving we saw. But you get the idea.

Any Juana is good Juana. All of her albums are magical.



Tuesday means La Grande.
And a continuation of my being the oldest man in the room.
We have been attending La Grande for at least 4 years or so- we are some of the regulars, and everybody knows us, which is nice, we get treated well by our friends there.
Great guest artists tonight- Perota Chingo, and Nacion Ekeko, each given a mini-set.

The second set had the usual changing selection of amazing drummers, rappers, old rock stars, and interesting musicians and singers from all across the spectrum of Argentine music.

I have said it before, I will say it again- musically, there is nothing like La Grande.
Excellent musicians, playing across genres, an ecstatic crowd there to have fun and dance, nice and reasonably priced food, friendly bartenders with a small selection of drinks and craft beer, and Pato Smink Dj-ing at the breaks, also filling the dance floor.
There are always random Rock Nacional stars anonymously in the crowd, digging it. A wide age range, a wide range of types of people.
Its part of my argentine family.

And, there is something about the way a trombone makes your chest vibrate on those low notes.

In other places, you dont get to chat with the performers after the show, and buy the new CD from his backpack.


Yesterday was a cold and drizzly day in Buenos Aires. Its spring, the weather can be variable. Argentines dont mind- it gives them an excuse to dress up in their fashionable boots, down jackets, and handmade scarves- any time it gets below about 65 farenheit, the furs come out.
We ran errands and did chores, then ordered takeaway- and 20 minutes later, a steak, chori, and fries were delivered, hot, to our door. Sheila made a salad to supplement, and we had a quick dinner.

Then, we walked a block to the bus stop- and, within a minute or 2, our bus magically appeared, completely empty. We got on board, and were whisked thru the night time streets of Buenos Aires, not stopping once- no one at any other stop, and, no one on the bus, so no one wanted to get off.

In about ten minutes, we found out why- the buses had bunched up, instead of the 10 to 20 minute spacing they usually have, and there was one right in front of us, picking everyone up and dropping everyone off.
So we had a personal ride downtown, getting off a half block from our destination.
We were going to a concert at Espacio Tucuman, which is the Province of Tucuman's tourism and culture office in the Capital. It was in a neighbohood of big office buildings and government offices, so not too much night time use- the streets are never empty here, anywhere, but not crowded.
When we got to the address, it was a 70s modern storefront, all glass and stainless steel, but a bit down on the heels- old posters taped to the windows, and, inside, although lit up, it looked empty.
We went in, and one, fashionable woman, dressed in a flannel shirt, but fashion grunge, was alone- she reaffirmed we were in the right place, sold us tickets, and walked us thru the lobby, empty except for seating and tourist posters and brochure racks, to a door in the back.
Which opened on a big black curtain, but we could hear music.
Inside, a cute little space, like the fraternal halls I used to see punk rock in, back in the 70s. A parquet floor, folding metal chairs, a small stage, and maybe 40 people, several of whom we knew.
Very family-like and genial.
Playing on stage was El Remolon, with Barbara Silva and Leo Silcan, playing electro-folk andean music. Remo is often a DJ, or a CumbiaElectronica musician, or a record company owner, or a promoter, or a creator of scenes. In this occasion, he was adding electronics, music, and keyboards and vocals, to a more traditional folk music, creating a hybrid you could
dance to. Barbara Silva has an amazing voice and presence, Silcan is quietly comptent on a variety of instruments, and the whole thing defies categorization.


After the first set, there was a break- a chance to catch up with friends, and La Jefa, the woman in the plaid shirt, who ran the place, was selling empanadas, sodas and beers from a little stand in the lobby. But she was also bringing a plate of empanadas to the sound man, checking with the musicians to make sure everything was good, and in general, being a generous host.

After the break, King Coya and the Queen Cholas. King Coya is Gaby Kerpel, a force in Argentine, and global, music, since the early 80s. He is a composer, producer, musician, DJ, and man behind the curtain, the musical director for the international performance group Fuerza Bruta.
As King Coya, he just has fun, inventing an imaginary futurist andean cumbiafunkfolk samurai ekeko hero, who dances, sings, and plays in costume. For the last few years, he has livened up his solo standing behind a table of machines by working with dancers and singers, the Queen Cholas.
The first time I saw this format, 3 or 4 years ago, the Cholas just danced, but now, they sing, they play instruments, they jump in the audience and interact, and, they dance, a lot.

In some ways, the whole performance is a bit reminiscent of the late, great, RammelZee the gothic futurist artist and musician from NYC. Especially in the way Kerpel creates a fusion of imagined tradition, history, sci-fi futurism, and always, a beat that makes you shake your tailfeathers. Here they are in a performance this year, much like what we saw, although, we felt like they were in our living room, with friends, it was so intimate and personal.



I wish I could be two places at once. Saturday I had to make a tough choice. Two great bands playing at the same time. I chose not to go see Los Brujos, at La Tangente, in Palermo (to be followed by another band I like a lot, OK Piramides)
Instead, I went way out to Agronomia to see Sexteto Irreal. They only play a couple of times a year, so seeing them is something I dont get to do very often.
I am always amazed how many small bar/theaters there are in BsAs- I have been to at least a dozen, and I am sure there are ten times that many- a stage, seating at tables and bars for a hundred or two, and a simple bar and kitchen. Sometimes there is comedy, sometimes theater, poetry, or, as in this case, music. They will have a PA system, and stage lighting, and the ones I have been in have been clean and well run, usually mostly private but sometimes getting some city money. And they are all over town. This one, on Constituyentes, is called Moran. And it was full. I was really glad I got advance tickets online.
Sexteto Irreal is kind of a supergroup, the members have played with everybody, and have played on many of the classic hits that you hear on taxi drivers radios. Their credits include Charly Garcia, Soda Stereo, La Portuaria, and being sidemen and bandmembers with dozens of performers for the last 30 years or so.
They are also friends since their teenage years, and have an easy and instinctual familiarity that makes them fun to watch.
You could drop any one of these five guys cold into any band on earth, and halfway thru the first song, the band would be sounding better.
Tonight, they were playing Klezmer post punk electronica jazz tango rock nacional. I have seen three of them play bandeon at various times, wouldnt be surprised if the other two could too, and of course all read and compose music, produce albums for others, and at least a couple of them arrange things like strings and horns for other productions. They have written soundtracks for film, done musical theater, and pretty much anything else you can imagine related to music.

Also, they have amazing chops. Teran alternated between violin and clarinet and tenor sax, sometimes very Klezmer, other times hot jazz, other times indefinable. Krygier was on keyboards, and vocals, dancing with glee. Samalea is a drummer who is effortlessly powerful, but also versatile and can play anything. Basso is a killer bass player, able to fit in anywhere, but often with the groundshaking power of Laswell or Wobble. And Manu Schaller, whose dayjob is as a recording engineer, is playing samples and theremin, like you have never seen theremin played before. Not a sound effect, but an instrument that is somewhat organ, somewhat guitar, somewhat horn, exquisitely controlled.

They rocked the house.
Which was full of musicians and rock nacional figures, going back 40 years. Lots of semi-famous music industry people, and the age range definitely tilted old, I was mid range, which is unusual, as I am often the senior fan present at other shows.


I am only in Buenos Aires for less than 2 weeks right now, so I am packing in as much music as I can. Last night (sunday) I took the same bus to the same club to see a different band. The bartender was amused to see me again.
I was there to see Martin Buscaglia. He is Urugayan, and kind of hard to categorize, but I really enjoy his music and try to see him when I can. He plays mostly alone, although he does have a keyboard player come up for a few songs.
He did this song- which basically says Blah Blah Blah is not important. Which seems to have particular relevance these days.


Last night out on this brief trip. I basically came down to see the opening of the Grupo Bondi exhibition at Museo de Artes Decorativos, as they are my good friends. Also had to change a few lightbulbs at my house here, keep up on the maintenance. I am coming back for my regular 3 months in December, to see lots more bands.
I went to La Grande one last time. Juana Molina could not stay away, she played with the band most of the night. Head to head with rappers of Cumbia Villera, African talking drums, and the usual rotating cast of skilled musicians testing their mettle with the pros. The bartender made me a Michelada. Makes me happy, I am a simple man. That Juana can keep up with anyone. Here she is a few years ago jamming with a mixed crew from 4 continents.