Los Van Van, La Zona Rosa (Photo By John Carrico)
Los Van Van
La Zona Rosa, May 3
Flush with the success of their recent Grammy win for best salsa performance, the 15-piece Cuban group Los Van Van reminded the packed house at La Zona Rosa, Wednesday that there's more to Cuba then just Elián. Singer "Pedrito" Calvo, nicknamed the Cuban James Brown, stole the two-hour-plus set during the band's racy "El Negro Esta Cocinando," with its hilarious double entendres merging food with foreplay. Calvo, with the help of an audience member in a hot pink mini-dress, provided subtitles for non-Spanish speakers in the audience with their steamy dance performance. In the past, Los Van Van has been kept from playing Miami, where the band has been accused of being supporters of Fidel Castro. Too bad for Little Havana, because Los Van Van, with its hybrid of charanga
(flutes and violins), a salsa horn section, plus bass and drums laying down a funky rhythm, has got the goods. One ass-shaking set from Los Van Van could've defrosted the Cold War years before the wall came down. The only difference here in Austin was that Los Van Van had to pull the plug shortly after midnight; in Cuba they would've just been getting started. And too bad for anyone that missed Paris-based 12-piece Sergent Garcia, which plays a fusion of reggae, rock, ska, funk, and rap. Out in support of their new album Un Poquito Quema'o
, the group, led by the engaging, multi-lingual Bruno Garcia, won the crowd over through sheer energy and an irresistible blend of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and Parisian rap style. Mid-set the band broke into a purely rhythmic number straight out of Africa, where band members did a dance that evoked dance hall reggae and traditional African moves. At this point, people lining the bar actually started migrating toward the dance floor. Like Cuban greats Los Van Van, Sergent Garcia proved that rhythm & dance are a genre all their own.