Calle 13 House of Blues May 10, 2012
Repeat after me: "Ka-yeay, Tress-say." Okay, then, now that we can all pronounce their name, I can begin to tell you how this trio of siblings from Puerto Rico turned a bouncy party song (Atrévete-te-te) into an anthem that helped evolve the group into a revolutionary voice for Latinos across the Americas.
Although that may sound grandiose, this Grammy Award-winning group continues to remain modest and real by gracefully balancing the fun with the forceful. Last night at the House of Blues, Calle 13 gave their fans an inspired taste of what opening act Outernational calls "speaking the truth and causing some trouble."
Residente's unmistakable baritone cut through the silence to open their set with "Siempre Digo Lo Que Pienso" (I Always Say What's on My Mind). Dressed in a white muscle shirt and sweatpants, the rapper wandered across the stage, attracting the attention of the beautiful Latinas in the crowd.
Bald and tattooed, he gives off the vibe of a bad boy who knows how to have fun, flashing an inviting grin while spitting lyrics at a determined pace, making sure you understand every word. His lovely and equally talented sister PG-13 followed him onstage, complementing the dynamic with her strong and sexy attitude and voice. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Visitante served as the bandleader of the group's sound, which included a polished horn section and a pair of vibrant percussionists.
Calle 13 is not easy to classify into one musical genre. Although Residente was inspired by the lyrical style of his friend Tego Calderon, the music the group produces is a mix of reggaeton, cumbia, samba, salsa and rock.
Residente stays away from the gangster persona that many rappers use as a crutch, and instead prefers to associate himself and his raps with those who struggle against discrimination, manipulation and other social maladies that are prevalent throughout the Americas.
I ran into several members of local band Los Skarnales at this show. Felipe, Razo and Chapy all seemed to be having fun. Chapy informed me that the aforementioned percussionists were playing several traditional Colombian drums and shakes, rare items that you just can't go buy at Guitar Center.
A talented percussionist himself, he was mesmerized at the exceptional solo the guys onstage churned out. He stood there taking it all in, letting out an appreciative yell when it was over. Witnessing someone being moved by music to that extent is one of my favorite things about working for Rocks Off.
The night continued with hits like "Nadie Como Tu" and "Beso De Desayuno," and Residente even crammed a bit of his rap from Julio Voltio's "Chulin Culin Chunfly" into the mix (I love that song!).
Add in "La Perla" and "La Vuelta Al Mundo" and you've got yourself a nice set, although fan favorite "La Jirafa" was disappointingly absent. Yet, a good portion of the crowd was there to hear one song and one song only:
Niggas In Paris "Atrévete-te-te".
And yes, of course they played it. And yes, it was glorious. How can a song that mentions Street Fighter, Green Day and Kill Bill NOT be?! They ended the night with "Fiesta De Locos" and "LatinoAmerica."
Serious but fun revolution music on a Thursday night in Houston, presented by a group from Puerto Rico. No matter what calle you're from, you can't deny the powerhouse that is Calle 13.
Personal Bias: I've been to Puerto Rico twice, and I pondered long and hard about staying on that beautiful island each time.
The Crowd: Latinos and Latinas, dancing and inspired
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Overheard in the Crowd: "Dude, when the revolution comes, I'm jammin this song and going off to fight!" -- Marlon of HaviKORO, as "LatinoAmerica" was being performed
Random Notebook Dump: Calle 13 is performing at Pachanga Fest in Austin tonight. The Latin music festival runs until tomorrow. I went last year, and it was a blast. You guys should go there and have fun.