top: Los Abandoned; bottom: Cartel de Santa (Photo By John Anderson)
Rojo, Caliente y Verde ShowcaseExodus, Wednesday, March 17
SXSW is a world of overlapping circles. Famous/unknown, loud/soft, local/international, original/rehash, English/Spanish, etc. Future SXSWs will no doubt expand this last linguistic circle with events like BMI's Latin showcases, which reflect the evolving ethnoscapes of Texas and the nation. The multistoried Sixth Street club Exodus hosted Latin bands ranging from the post-punk, Eighties-mavens Los Abandoned to the salsa/hip-hop/jazz-funk collective Ozomatli. Led by the classically trained Chilean singer and multi-instrumentalist Lady P. dressed resplendently in a fashionable bold green dress L.A.'s Los Abandoned didn't waste any time putting their most energetic foot forward. The gifted fourpiece mixed alternative angularity with a boppy Eighties rhythm, not unlike a New Wave incarnation of the Muffs. This should serve the band well next week when they open for the Breeders. Trying too hard to cross over the cultural Rio Grande, Mexico City's Vaquero followed. More polished than their predecessors, the quartet also seemed more at ease onstage. Offering up melodic, crescendo rock à la Coldplay, their music, if somewhat undistinguished, nevertheless betrayed the talented hands that made it. Unique instrumentation like a melodica and tight harmonies also helped separate the band from the host of likeminded outfits. Still, singing primarily in English with an Anglo veneer, Vaquero could've just as easily been from Denver or Liverpool, instead of the Mexican capital. Blessed with a more mellifluous language, Latin rappers don't take a backseat to other hip-hop wordsmiths. No problems with the requisite machismo either. So what about the rest of the package: the music? If Monterrey, Mexico's Cartel de Santa is any indication, no problem there either. With MCs Babo and Dharius, DJ Agustín, and guitarist Monoplug, Cartel dished samples from their eponymous, Jason Roberts (Cypress Hill, House of Pain, Control Machete) produced debut, rocking the dog house by the time they delivered "Perros." Even on the way out, during their encore, the clan engendered a small bout of stage diving. With Zoe, Plastilina Mosh, and Ozomatli finishing the second half of the bill, the future of Latin rock and hip-hop music is in good hands.