SXSW Showcase Reviews
Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, Fri., March 16, 2012
Lila DownsSpeakeasy, Wednesday, March 14
You know it's a good party when the singer swigs from a bottle of tequila, then balances it on top of her head. Oaxaca, Mexico, siren Lila Downs brought with her no small sense of drama from our neighbor to the south, heralded upon her entrance by the cheers of an adoring audience and the horn section from Grupo Fantasma. Downs' creative mission is to represent indigenous and contemporary Mexican culture to the masses; as such, the set list included the gorgeous "El Palomo del Comalito," a celebration of the corn-grinding women of Oaxaca, which commences with Downs emulating a pan flute in its highest ranges. Later, Downs intoned, "I am the queen of the underground, a tombstone is my crown," before kicking off "La Reina del Inframundo," a dark yet festive reflection on the drug violence in contemporary Mexico. She then transitioned, con mucha lágrima, to "Cucurrucucú Paloma," brought to prominence in 1965 by Lola Beltrán and previously interpreted by the likes of Pedro Infante, Caetano Veloso, and Joan Baez. Of course, historical context isn't all that important in the heat of the fiesta, which was in full swing all the way to the closing strains of "La Cumbia de Mole," Downs' musical shout-out to her home state.