Live Shots

Nueva Luz, Zupia

Black Cat, July 29

Rock en Español. Remember those words. You already know them well, but in a year you'll know them better. In two years, you may be sick of 'em. At the rock & roll family picnic, Rock en Español is the loud and brash kid brother, the noisy upstart from down south who would just as soon stand on your sandwich and scream into your fat face as slink quietly back from whence he came, down in the Valley and the borderlands and further south still. It was the borderlands that coughed up last Thursday's Black Cat bill -- one in a weekly series -- with both Laredo (Nueva Luz) and Nuevo Laredo (Zupia) represented. (Tamaulipas' Punzo Kortante were waylaid by visa problems at the U.S. gate.) The stateside boys swung first -- and whiffed, their earnest goth/metal intentions crippled by canned drums and an embarrassment of cheesy synth riffs. If nothing else, Nueva Luz proved that, as surely as you can Rock en Español, you can also not Rock en Español. Second-setters Zupia came with sharper credentials, proven not so much by their lineup (a real live drummer!) or their beverage selection (40 oz. Mickey's), but by their smashing trouser collection, a fine summer line which ran from leather pants (lead guitarist Beto Gonzalez) to fatigues (vocalist Arian Medina) to the de rigueur shiny Adidas tracksuit (rhythm guitarist Roberto Quiroz). Zupia also brought considerably more talent to the table than Nueva Luz, along with a dose of growling vitality and enough self-reverence to tip the swagger scale in their favor. And while the lyrics were en Español -- as was the between-song patter -- the music could have hailed from Anygarage, USA. This was good ol' American hard rock, run through a Mexican strainer, but instantly recognizable to any kid with a permanent hearing loss. As Zupia's original energy gave way to the tired and true -- amplified screaming, power chords, and dewey-eyed guitar arpeggios -- it became clear that Rock en Español can be as shit-ass boring as any other rock & roll show. Shit-ass boring, maybe, but the promoters didn't blink, talking after the show about building a movement, about shoestring budgets, about music from the heart. And that much, at least, was not in question: This music was from the heart. And if your heart was in the same place -- a hard, headbanging, power chord and malt liquor kind of place -- you could even say it rocked. En Español. --Jay Hardwig

McCoy Tyner Trio

One World Theater, July 30-31

There were several times during McCoy Tyner's two riveting sets Friday night when you had to remind yourself that this was an acoustic piano trio and not a full-throttle electric rock band. At these moments of almost excruciating, escalating tension and ecstatic, merciful release, Tyner invoked the spiritual legacy of saxophonist John Coltrane, in whose legendary quartet the 60-year-old pianist was an integral member from 1960-65. There are very few, if any, jazz musicians, on any instrument, who play with more authority or who can build a solo to such spiraling, monumental heights and then bring you back down to earth with such gentle ease. While Saturday night's performance was not quite as explosive overall, it brought its own delights, such as a stunning solo piece and a first set that ended spectacularly with "Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit," an early, post-Coltrane tune that highlighted Tyner's 1973 Live at Montreux album, Enlightenment. In no small part, Tyner's success is augmented by his veteran rhythm section. Together with bassist Avery Sharpe and drummer Aaron Scott (16 years and 11 years, respectively, with Tyner and outstanding soloists in their own right), they comprise a thoroughly cohesive unit that's as formidable a jazz piano trio as any on the planet. Opening the second set on Friday with "Changes" and "Where Is Love," tunes from the trio's mid-Nineties Impulse release, Infinity, they dissolved from tightly focused ensemble passages into sublimely relaxed, loose-limbed syncopated grooves that flowed upon an underlying current of unrequited swing while touching on eastern modalities. On Duke Ellington tunes "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" on Friday and "In A Mellow Tone" on Saturday, Tyner alternated effortlessly between straight-up stride runs that invoked the blue sides of both Duke and Monk and then lightning right-hand bursts of modern, clustered notes, reverting back and forth from chorus to chorus. No matter what the tune, standard or original, Tyner made it his own with his distinctive style of power and grace. Better yet, it was a thrill to see an artist of Tyner's caliber in such an intimate setting. The virtually completed One World Theater still has a few kinks to work out, such as how to balance the sound in such a small room (300 capacity) when you have a drummer on stage. Nonetheless, it appeared that virtually every seat in the One World Theatre is a good one, and all they need now is the support of the well-heeled to make this venue an ongoing reality. It's hard, however, to escape the bitter irony that this soon-to-be-lavish palace for the arts is opening just as the Austin is about to demolish the beloved and unabashedly funky Liberty Lunch to make way for the downtown of tomorrow. What, if anything, does this conjunction of events, birth and death, foretell of Austin's musical future? --Jay Trachtenberg

Santana, Maña, Ozomatli

Alamodome, San Antonio, July 31

Rock en Español? Try Riot in Español. Commencing with what sounded like machine-gun fire from up in the stands, the revolution rose up at exactly the appointed time on the $38 gauntlets: 6:30pm. On la nariz. In fact, it was Ozomatli, the L.A. 10-piece hip-hoparkestra that begins its shows New Orleans procession style -- all drums and parade. Descending from well up into the enormous arena's upper sections, Ozomatli, three horns, bass/drums/guitars, a DJ, timbalista, and two gourd-tossing dancers, hit the stage with a hearty, "¡¿Que paso San Antonio¿!" and 30 funky, scratching minutes later marched right back to their point of origin chanting, "¡Ozo-mat-li, ya-se-fue!" As canny as their "Cumbia de los Muertos" had been catchy, the wild, enthusiastic group played unplugged for an additional 8-10 minutes in the stands to a delighted gathering of onlookers. Ozomatli makes converts quick. Just as quick was the set change and the token-whites-only Hispanic stampede that filled the downtown monument (set at half George Strait capacity) with familias of all shapes, sizes, and ages -- and its parking lot with vehicles and license plates from Mexico. What had been a empty cavern for Ozomatli was magically transformed into a full, excited house by the time Guadalajara's Maña was unveiled from behind four huge, white, name-emblazoned sails. On the floor, it was the last time anyone was seated throughout the sixpiece band's 90-minute set. Or rather, riot. People went apeshit. If the stereotype is that Latinos are passionate, demonstrative people, then truth hit home Saturday night in San Antonio as Maña demonstrated why all of Mexico and Latin America are so passionate about this middle-of-the-road pop band: They do it in Spanish. Long labeled the Mexican version of the Police, frontman Fehr's plaintive tenor and limited vocal range instead bears a distinct resemblance to Mexico's version of the Outfield. "Tu Tienes lo Que Quiero," one of the standouts on the group's North American commercial breakthrough from last year, the expertly polished Suenos Liquidos, even sounded like the Outfield's one shining Eighties moment, "Your Love." Ragga-inflected fare such as the memorable "Hechicera," and later Fehr's "Ee-ya-yo" chants brought Police comparisons to the fore in a set heavy with syrupy ballads. If that made Fehr Sting, then leaping, dancing, singing, drumming Alex Gonzalez was Prince, egging the always ecstatic audience to ever-higher peaks of adulation. Spiked with the crowning "Clavado en un Bar" and Fehr wrapping himself Mick Jagger-style in a Mexican flag for the encore, Maña's rapturous reception couldn't have been a more "caliente" lead-in for the evening's headliner, "nuestro paisan Carlitos Santana." Countering Ozomatli with his own 10-piece Latin beat hurricane, the ground-zero abuelito of Rock en Español took the stage accompanied by the video screen image of a snow-white dove flapping its wings in slow motion and proceeded to demonstrate the same grace and majesty as the international symbol of peace. Long renowned as a global musical commodity, the 52-year-old guitarist was plenty caliente by the set's third tune, "Smooth," Santana's first major hit in well over a decade. "Last year, my heart was with France," said Santana in a rare snippet of English, alluding to the World Cup. "This year it's with San Antonio. Congratulations World Champion Spurs!" Two other standouts from Santana's new duets album Supernatural, "Maria Maria" and "Love of My Life," stoked the jubilant crowd into near frenzy before the run of classic rock radio staples, "Black Magic Woman," "Oye Como Va," and "Jingo," sent them over the edge and into the isles. Longtime Santana sidemen Raul Rekow and Karl Perazzo, along with end-of-the-set guest Terry Bozzio, incited dancing and screaming with their roiling percussion, while their jefe unleashed his familiar live-wire leads. "Unity, liberty, equality -- justice," said the modern musical mystic prior to capping off the evening with a three-band jam of "Corazon Espinado," Supernatural's teaming of Santana with Maña. "We love you." Amor en Español! --Raoul Hernandez

Soul Coughing, Prescott Curlywolf

Stubb's, August 1

Let the rhythm hit 'em -- the musical imperative of the decade. And not just any rhythm, either. That metronomic, calcified tick-tick-tick-tick of straight rock drumming is over, deader than Bill Clinton's chances of winning Husband of the Year. The new beat is fluid, restive, skating across a skin of 16th notes and syncopation until it slides down the back of the spine. It comes directly from hip-hop, and thence from jazz, where the drummer's duties are considerably more than mere timekeeping and emphasis; jazz drummers must make their kits as loose and conversational as any horn or keyboard. It seeped into rock through channels as diverse as Stevie Wonder and Rage Against the Machine, and today is more ubiquitous than facial hair, equally essential to Limp Bizkit's crotch-grabbing bombast and Built to Spill's hallucinatory guitarcana. It's what Soul Coughing, beat freaks masquerading as modern rockers, is all about. Sunday's show at Stubb's was one long, continuous groove, subdivided into about a dozen sections and punctuated by frontman Michael Doughty's genial interaction with the sizable (but hardly overflowing) crowd. The band did employ rock mainstays like guitar and keyboards, but only peripherally to the circular rhythms of drummer Uval Dubai, who utilized every square inch of his Inspector Gadget-worthy rig. Upright bassist Sebastian Steinberg added more bohemian flavor, his Tigger-rific lines swooping and soaring like a pelican combing the Gulf for a late-night fish snack (that's what Tiggers do best -- they bounce!). Occasionally, the band veered into the stutter-step cadences of drum-and-bass, giving the amphitheater the feel of a downtown coffeehouse sometime before dawn or a salon where all the hairdressers look like they just stepped out of Vogue. The spindly, bespectacled Doughty, who could pass for Elvis Costello or Pulp's Jarvis Cocker in a low-lit room, looked much more comfortable prowling the stage like LL Cool J than picking his guitar. His lyrics referenced Telegraph Hill, fruit juice, and Elvis' "Little Sister," but he could have quoted Ulysses or The Book of Mormon and had the same effect. This was painfully obvious during opener Prescott Curlywolf's set, as their wall-of-noise guitar attack zoomed straight over the crowd's head. Five years ago, an incendiary cover of Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" such as theirs would have had the kids whooping and hollering like Comanches on the warpath, but Sunday they just stood there, politely waiting for the funky fresh flow to start. Welcome to our brave new world. --Christopher Gray

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