Central Park, NYC
Venimos a Bailar
The evening was downright steamy as music fans made their way to Central Park to see El Guincho, Ana Tijoux and Nortec Collective’s Bostich + Fussible, at SummerStage. Wednesday, July 7 marked not only the first night of the 11th Annual Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC), but also NYC’s first big Latin alternative show of the summer. But with threats of thunderstorms and an early start time—especially for a Latin show—the crowd was slow in arriving.
French-Chilean MC Ana Tijoux warmed up the crowd, combining sharp Spanish lyrics and a refreshingly impeccable flow over 90s-style hip hop beats. Sporting feather earrings and a bright red T-shirt with “1977″ printed on it (in reference to her year of birth and 2010 album by the same name), she was backed by Rod Venegas and DJ Ethos of the Bronx-based group Rebel Diaz. Tijoux recently played a couple New York gigs as part of her very successful spring US tour, but the the crowd was unfortunately pretty sparse during her SummerStage set. Although, she did manage to attract those who just wanted to ignore the heat and dance for a bit.
El Guincho, aka Pablo Díaz-Reixa, caused quite a stir among the Pitchfork set a couple years back with his sophomore album Alegranza, an aptly titled mish-mash of upbeat samples and hypnotic rhythms, part hyper one-man band, part calypso revival. The Canary Islands-born, Barcelona-based musician just released an EP entitled Piratas de Sudamérica, and has another full-length album slated to drop in the fall. And his fans were clearly ready.
Unfortunately, the great outdoors was probably not the best venue for him, as the complexity of his music’s different layers and harmonies got a bit lost in the large space, but that didn’t keep him from jamming out. He was dwarfed by the massive screen behind him, rocking short shorts and a white polo shirt that was soon completely soaked with sweat. El Guincho was thrilled to be there and stopped at one point to explain his enthusiasm: “Sorry, it’s been a long time since we’ve played together!” in reference to the two bearded redheads playing guitar and bass with him.
El Guincho’s band mostly played favorites from Alegranza, interspersed with some new material. Many of the songs blended together and sounded the same, but the fans didn’t seem to care, bopping along happily in the dusk. By the time they played “Antillas,” everyone was dancing like crazy, chanting along, “venimos a bailar” (“we came to dance”). Yes, indeed.
But there was no doubt who the majority of the crowd had come to see. Mexican wrestling masks and cowboy hats far outnumbered Spanish flags, and by the time Bostich + Fussible took the stage at 9 p.m., the sun had set and SummerStage was packed with sweaty bodies, ready to jump and dance. A retro-futuristic console straight out of a B movie spaceship was brought out to the middle of the stage, and the massive screen flashed the words BORDER, FRONTIER, FRONTERA, FRENTE, BARRERA interspersed with images of the US-Mexico border.
The Tijuana-based electro quartet Norteño Collective has been using the same shtick for years, but they’ve managed to keep their performances surprisingly fresh, which is no small feat when your instrument is a computer. But when it comes to Nortec Collective en vivo, the DJ aspect almost takes second billing, as they put on a carefully crafted, extremely energetic multimedia show. Once a collective of five DJs, their most legendary performances involved all the members and a full norteño orchestra. Wednesday’s incarnation featured just Bostich (Pepe Mogt) and Fussible (Ramón Amezcua), who released an album together in 2005, but there’s no way you would have known things had been at all pared down.
Standing in the middle of the stage on their sci-fi control tower, Bostich and Fussible faced the audience and programmed their beats with—get this—iPads. The duo was flanked by an accordion player and tuba/trumpet player who provided live accompaniment and the occasional dance moves. VJ Luisa Barajas kept things colorful and provocative with ever-changing visuals on the massive screen behind the DJs and musicians. If Apple doesn’t use Bostich + Fussible for their next iPad campaign, they’re crazy.
The crowd danced, jumped, and crowd-surfed throughout, glistening in the reflection of the flashing lights. Bostich + Fussible played mostly material off their album Tijuana Sound Machine, though songs from Nortec Collective’s hit album Tijuana Sessions, Vol 3 solicited the greatest response. When the show was over, shouts of “OTRA OTRA!” (encore) echoed the park (followed by the ubiquitous “culeeeero”), but SummerStage decided it was time to call it a night.
SummerStage’s tendency towards eclectic lineups has backfired in the past, mostly because organizers tend to group together totally random Latin artists who have nothing to do with each other (Ely Guerra and Aventura, anyone?). But Wednesday’s show, though perhaps at first glance a tad incongruous, proved an excellent combination. A theme of musical sampling and genre re-appropriation—from old-school hip hop to Caribbean rhythms to ranchero music—provided a common thread for the three otherwise diverse acts. A better trio couldn’t have been selected to represent the frequently impossible-to-define genre of “Latin alternative music.”