Tag Archives: music

National Argentine Rock (‘n Roll)

30 Jan

Argentina is known throughout Latin America as having an excellent rock n roll scene, and such popular artists as Soda Stereo and Charly Garcia have seen international fame take them across the world. These are just two of the most popular examples, but lately I’ve been discovering more and more of this musical scene which otherwise would go unknown to me, and I assume to many other foreigners as well. Previously people had told me to listen to Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota, a band which got a bad rap in Argentina because of violent concerts which built up to the death of a young fan (reportedly by police).

While Soda Stereo is more on the pop side and Charly Garcia is more of a showman, Patricio Rey (the band, not a man) was more of a rock n roll band, and even though their songs sounded harsh, the themes weren’t necessarily about raging and murder. Still, their negative reputation made it difficult for them to continue performing and they carry a stigma to this day. On the other hand, there are other bands which I’ve just recently learned about. Take for example Divididos, which spawned off of the band Sumo. Sumo was led by drugged-out Luca Prodan, who died at the age of 34 from cirrhosis (he lived a rocker’s life). Shortly before his death he was asked in an interview if Sumo would break up, in which he said, “Divididos, las pelotas!” meaning “Divided (break up), nuts!” After his death the band broke up into two bands, “Divididos” and “Las Pelotas.”

You should give all of these musicians and bands a listen if you’re into rock and want to listen to something different. Even with my level of Spanish, I find it difficult to understand most of the lyrics, but the music is what’s important, and good sound always gets translated clearly,

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Seeing Los Tormentos Perform Was Disrupted by a Tormenta, How Ironic

12 Dec

Yesterday was one of those simple days with few expectations or plans, yet which winds up being awesome and memorable. It actually wound up being a disaster, but after all of went down, the bad parts weren’t nearly enough to mar the experience. I started off by heading up to my buddy Brian’s place, La Casa Latina, in Palermo Hollywood. As soon as I walked in around 4 pm I was handed a drink and the music was turned up. There were four of us–Brian’s roommate Tonio, from Lima, Peru, his friend Daniel from outside Lima, and his other roommate Omar from Caracas, Venezuela. Sitting around and drinking in the afternoon might seem pretty depraved or low class to many, but it’s a common form of socializing in Latin America, and drinking steadily (though eventually into excess later on) throughout the day is not weird at all.

I got there just in time because the dark clouds on the horizon opened up and a monster storm came through. The house is small and has a retractable roof, so even though it was closed drops were still falling on us as we banged on drums, Brian played the guitar, and we improvised on randomness. I have no musical talent so I just tried to keep up with a homemade rattler. The rain coming inside from the roof suddenly backed up in the drain and we were watching as the apartment quickly flooded. Brian got right down to it and stuck his hand in the drain, thick among black matter, and fixed the problem. The men cheered as like cavemen, we solved a problem. This called for more beer with lemon, which allegedly was a cure to a hangover in the making.

The excitement of the day grew as we blasted the music and prepared for a concert from Los Tormentos, an Argentine surfer rock band which I’d never heard of before, but Omar said was the best in Argentina for that genre. They were going to play at Niceto Club just a few blocks away and it was a Jagermeister party, meaning they were going to give out free shots all night, asking for trouble. We paid to get in, got a few shots of the orange Jagermeister, and waited for the opening act, who were delayed. That didn’t seem all that odd.

The Jager went dry and in typical rip-off fashion, there was some excuse that we had to wait 30 minutes for it to get cold, but it was for the best anyway. Finally, after much delay, Los Tormentos went on. They started off strong to a packed house, but after two songs in the power suddenly went out in the entire block. We stood in the dark for a minute wondering if it was part of the act, and slowly people began to filter out into the street. As helpful as never, the staff at the bar said they had no idea what happened, had no responsibility, would not refund, or help in any way. We left but to add salt to the wound, it was cold, windy and raining. So in the end we didn’t see the show, but the day will still go down with me as a memorable one.

Two Years in South America: A Thinkpiece

31 Aug

Arriving in Quito, 2 Years Ago

I sprawled out on the single bed, more like a cot, in the large hostel room with bright green walls and red trim around the ceiling. It was unbearably hot, a heat wave in Madrid in June. If the Spanish were complaining about the heat, it had to be really hot, and we didn’t need a guide book to tell us it was time for a siesta. I put the new CD into my superslim Panasonic CD player and rest my head on the pillow, expecting to hear some loud rock music. Just an hour before my sister and I wandered into a music store in the center, where I found a band I remembered my friend Goldberg telling me about, Death Cab for Cutie. I couldn’t remember how it sounded, but figured the disc was cheap enough, and after two weeks backpacking Europe, I needed new tunes.

The first song, “Title Track” off of We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes began slowly, so I figured it was just leading up to something. But the music stayed mellow, and I actually really enjoyed it even though it wasn’t what I expected. The two Australian girls of Indian descent in the beds next to ours who had been traveling for six months and were going home the next day had already fallen asleep. I closed my eyes and listened to the new music, drifting away as I sweat through my clothes and the sounds of Madrid slowly fell. I was mid-way through traveling internationally and independently for the first time, and I was loving it and everything about life. I was also 17.

A few years later now, I’ve covered some more miles (though by this point I refer to kilometers), same backpack trusty as ever, and these old baby blues have seen their fair share of amazing and terrible things. The kinds of things that will never make it down to pen and paper, mostly because they are incommunicable. I’ve just recently past two years of life in South America, and year two was entirely different from year one. In reality, it’s like two different worlds, that is, Ecuador from Argentina. The language in principle is the same, and from time to time things like bureaucracy and corruption remind me of where I am, but otherwise, I forget that I’m living in South America. Buenos Aires isn’t exactly like Europe or the United States or the other countries in Latin America. It’s just Buenos Aires, good and bad.

Baños, Ecuador

I try to think of how I felt back in Madrid when I was 17, just out of high school and getting poisoned with the travel bug. Aside from being sick of my sister after three inseparable weeks, I loved every minute of it. Bouncing around from country and culture, meeting new friends in hostels and seeing the history from my books come alive was part of the reason I got into my “career” of internationalism. I thought it would continue like that, but in South America, I’ve found a different path.

There’s also something important about spending a longer period of time in one specific place. While Cuenca was a small city which a traveler could pass through in two days, living there brought me into a different corner of the city. By the time I left I had a solid group of friends and a semi-ritual, including Saturday afternoon cookouts, which gave me incentive to get through the week. In general, Ecuador was a real challenge, mostly because of how insecure I felt after my night bus was hijacked the first week there. That experience alone unequivocally set the tone for the rest of the year and my life. My outlook on travel and how great the world could be was not exactly crushed, but dented significantly.

Eventually throughout the year in Ecuador I became more comfortable and made the most of my experience, even though I know there could have been more out of the time there as a volunteer. I often had to find ways to keep busy with just a 20 hour work week. Now working full time, I wish I had that luxury again. Going home for three weeks in August was nice, but the reverse culture shock definitely hit hard, enough so that I was excited to get back to South America, where things didn’t make sense, but their lack of reason made more sense than the disappointment I found in the United States, where things were supposed to be right.

Buenos Aires

To clarify, some people accuse me of hating home or my family for being gone for so long. It has nothing to do with that. I’m from Boston and I love it there, as well as my friends and family. But there was something else I was looking for which home could not offer. A challenge unique in and of itself, an adventure which would never present itself again, and the opportunity to grow after a life spent in classrooms. So I don’t regret that decision to leave home, because the point of life isn’t merely to get through it, but to live it as well as possible. Sometimes you don’t have a say in it, and other times you can arrange the pieces as you see fit, then play it out.

On arrival in Buenos Aires I was disappointed after years of holding an image in my head. What would this place be like? Obviously it couldn’t hold up to my dreams because dreams tend to be perfect. Those first few months were extremely difficult for multiple reasons that I’ve discussed before (housing, lack of friends, lack of money, adjusting to a new job, adjusting to Argentina after Ecuador, etc). I knew that by the time a year came up and I was packing my bags I would just be settling it, so I chose to give myself two years–a long enough time to make anyone feel homesick more than once. Yet I’m happy with the decision, because the truth is that just now after one year in Buenos Aires, I feel like I understand it better. I don’t totally get it, but I’m working on it.

There’s no doubt in my mind that things will never be the same once I return to the States. It’s not like living in Jersey for a couple of years. The lifestyle, the struggles, the triumphs, all have done something to me which I won’t really understand until the day I land in Logan International Airport in East Boston. It won’t be bad, it won’t be good. It will just be what it will be. This morning I was flicking through my music and decided to put on Death Cab for Cutie, We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes, “Title Track.” It’s been a while since I’ve listened to them, even though they were once my favorite band. The slow tune of the opening song pulled me back to that boiling hostel room and it made me remember why I travel, why I live abroad. The day started off well.

Fuerza Bruta in Buenos Aires

14 Aug

Fuerza Bruta, running man

In the center of the Villa Villa Room a man is running in place on a giant treadmill. He’s attached to a cable in case he loses his step, but he seems sure of himself and keeps walking, dodging white plastic deck furniture and other pedestrians—people who are seemingly attached to the treadmill and pop up from underneath, get in his way, and just as quickly as they entered, fall flat off of the track. The music is booming and percussion is in a world of its own when the man starts to run flat out, his tie bouncing around on his beating chest. And then without warning a loud gunshot rings through the packed room and everyone jumps. The man drops dead, the spotlight still fixed on his lifeless body. But a moment later he gets up, checks his wounds on the now blood-soaked dress shirt, and begins to walk again.

This madness, this depth of script and powerful acting, combined with the eardrum rupturing beats, is Fuerza Bruta (Brute Force) in a nutshell. The show has been appearing at the Recoleta Cultural Center in Buenos Aires since March, but will have its final show on August 22 before moving on to the next location. It has already run with success in Chicago, Mexico, and soon New York, and has continued to thrill Tuesdays through Sundays for Porteños and visitors alike. I had only heard of it recently, but after getting a brief description and understanding that its one of those incredible shows which people always describe by saying “you have to see it,” I knew that it was worth spending a little cash.

Bang!

After work with Vero and her roommates Cris and Pauli, we met up for a quick round of mate and then ran off to Recoleta, barely making it in time for the show. I tried to head to the bathroom before it started but got denied as the doors closed and the lights went out. There would be no heading in or out for the next hour. Fuerza Bruta was like something I’ve never seen before—there are no seats, and the crowd stands around while occasionally being ordered by the crew to move out of the way so the stage can shift.

By chance we wound up in one of the worst spots in a back corner, but for those who go in the future, I’d recommend getting as central as you can. The running man begins the show in the middle of the room, but once he’s been shot dead a couple of times and broken through some cardboard walls, the rest of the actors come out. It becomes part Cirque du Soleil, part Stomp, and for a while you have dancers running on the side of the walls or people in a cage, destroying the set and interacting with the viewers, who don’t know whether they should be scared or dance along. But everyone is wearing crescent moon smiles and slowly but surely the room turns into a dance club, with a rave atmosphere.

Big rig truck horns blare and mist is shot through the air, which would be nothing less than refreshing if it were summer, but it’s the middle of winter and those of us worrying about our declining health stand off to the side a bit, watching those who are probably on LSD or ecstasy get soaked in the middle of the floor. They’re the ones who are getting the most out of the show, as it appears to have been created by stoners, for stoners. You spend the whole time looking up so that after a while your neck feels detached and as if your body is lightweight.

Suspended swimming pool above the crowd

A giant plastic pool is hovering over the crowd and we suddenly become aware of the half naked girls swimming above us. You can’t really call it anything other than artistic swimming, and they’re literally dancing with the water, making it follow them as the pool drops and rises in elevation, eventually coming in arms reach for the crowd. The girls start doing violent belly flops, and though it looks like it hurts, I can only think that it’s got to be the most enjoyable job on the planet at this moment.

Just as quickly as it started, the show comes to an end and leaves me wishing it was a weekend night, now that my energy is up and the dancing groove has been tapped. But alas, it’s a Thursday night in the middle of the winter, and I feel a cold coming on, so we call it a night. The show is only in Buenos Aires for another week, but the thrill of the act will stay with me for long after that.

Where: Villa Villa Room, Recoleta Cultural Center, Junin 1930, right next to the Recoleta Cemetery

Price: The price goes up every day, meaning on Tuesday it costs $50 ARG, Wednesday $55, Thursday $60, etc.

When: Shows are Tuesday through Sunday, at 9 pm every night except Sunday, when it plays at 5 pm. The act will end in Buenos Aires on August 22.