Café Tacvba Arena Theatre September 8, 2013
My friend Chapy, percussionist for Los Skarnales and the Suffers, is a hardcore Café Tacvba fan. This past weekend was his 25th birthday, and he celebrated by attending both the Austin and Houston shows of the band's current U.S. tour. If anyone knows great music, its Chapy. Myself, on the other hand, although I know of Tacvba, I've never seen them live or even heard any of their music.
How very un-Mexican of me, I know.
So after missing their Houston stops over the last few years, as well as their showcases at SXSW and Coachella, I finally get to cross this band off my list. Rarely do I ever have to opportunity to see a band with fresh ears, so my assignment on Sunday night at the Arena Theatre was certain to be stimulating.
The tour was set to promote the Mexico City band's latest effort, 2012's El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco (The Object Previously Called an Album), which made several "Best of" lists at the end of last year. The band itself has survived for more than 20 years, pouring out a dazzling mix of alternative rock, electronica and traditional folk music for their legions of fans. Chapy compared them as "the Radiohead of Mexico," which would help me immensely if I ever listened to Radiohead. Strike two.
The night began with "Pájaros" (Birds)," the opening track from Objeto. The driving and pounding beats mixed with futuristic laser sounds certainly accomplished the band's intent, which was to pump up the audience. Normally, the Arena's stage revolves, but tonight there was no movement. The instruments were inward-facing, and the band was enveloped in a metallic canopy of lights and speakers. This provided an intimate atmosphere, like the audience was sitting in on a band practice. Very cool indeed.
Tacvba's slight, mousy lead singer is named Rubén Albarrán, a man who carries a wide, toothy smile and enough eccentric energy to keep us guessing every note of the show. His vocals may not be traditional, wavering somewhere between shrieking and cooing, but they added to the overall element of realismo magico in which the band thrives.
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"Espero que la esten pasando de puta madre, Houston!" shouted Albarrán, a greeting that's just the Mexico City way of wishing someone a nice day. The crowd was exceptionally appreciative of the singer's energy as he hopped all around the stages, posed for photos, waved hello, danced, and generally engaged his fans on a level that is rarely seen from any artist on any platform. The lights and sound of the stage setup were also intense, with foam bubbles and colorful lasers sprouting from the stage creating a wonderful mess in the front rows.
The concert was a steady crescendo with each song surpassing the passion and response of the one prior. Hits like "Ingrata," "Chilanga Banda" and "Eres" kept the room of Tacuberos singing at the top of their lungs, skanking and moshing in their seats and in the aisles.
Albarrán wore a bird mask for most of the second half of the show, flapping his wings and bouncing as he sang. The rest of the band joined him for an impressive choreographed dance that resembled something between the chicken dance and la Macarena, which caused a roaring applause from the room.
I've called Los Tigres Del Norte "the Beatles of Mexico," and Maná "the Rolling Stones of Mexico." Now we have "Radiohead Mexicano."
Personal Bias: Rock en Español will always have a place in my heart.
The Crowd: A dude in a top hat waving the Mexican flag, another in a lucha libre mask, a pregnant woman, and every Mexican in between. Puro D.F., buey!
Overheard In the Crowd: (Mexican Soccer Chant) "Ooooh-eeeeeh-oh-eeh-oh-eeh-oh-eeeeh! Café! Café!"
Random Notebook Dump: Two nights in a row, my best friend Derek joined me for amazing Mexicano shows. We have been attending concerts together for almost 15 years, including memorable shows by Jay-Z and Carlos Santana. He is definitely a force that inspired me into this music journalism business.
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