Monday, June 2, 2008

New M.E. Live! Tapings

This past Friday I was lucky enough to be invited to attend new in studio tapings of M.E. Live! here in Austin. The tapings came before two Latino Music Month showcases. The first being a Conexion Rockera production at Stubbs featuring Pinata Protest, and two groups I saw Friday. The other showcase was the first ever Pachanga Music Festival. Since I was unable to attend either this weekend due to other obligations, the M.E. Live taping allowed me to experience what I missed.

There were six bands scheduled. They are as follows: La Conquista (Monterrey, MX), Grupo Fantasma(Austin,TX), De Los Muertos(San Antonio, TX), Charanga Cakewalk(Austin,TX), The Sweethearts(Austin,TX), and Nortec Collective(Tijuana, MX). I arrived during the last song Grupo Fantasma performed, so I missed La Conquista.Well, I wouldn't say I missed La conquista. While they are all lovely, I can't help but think of The Pussycat Dolls with accordions when I pass by their videos on TV. Plus, I will see them next week during a Myspace Latino showcase at The Parish on 6th. I will reassess my opinion of La Conquista after that show.

I also was not that disappointed that I didn't catch all of Grupo Fantasma. I know they are amazing live as I have seen them at least three times. They even played with Prince. Enough said. They have a new album coming called Sonidos Gold and I can't wait to get my hands on it. They are going on national tour so do catch them in your city if you can.

After Grupo Fantasma broke down their all their equipment and instruments, De Los Muertos set up. Their lead singer was this rockabilly looking Elvis dude in mariachi pants. Only from San Antonio man....I know because my whole family is from there (West side actually). Still, I had never heard of them before and didn't know what to expect. Once they started, I felt like I was listening to a Robert Rodriguez/Tarantino movie. I swear they could have been on the soundtrack for any of those films: El Mariachi, Desperado, or Once Upon a Time in Mexico. They sounded a little blues and maybe a little funk, with a darker Latin edge. Their songs were in English in case you were wondering, but you could definitely hear the Mexican influence. Like all the groups, I only got to hear three songs but look forward to catching a whole set from De Los Muertos one day. I wouldn't mind driving down to San Antonio to catch them. To the left you see a picture of Sonido Boombox host Paul Saucido introducing them. I am not saying I dig De Los Muertos yet, but I loved what I heard thus far.

Next to perform for M.E. Live! was a local Austin group, Charanga Cakewalk. I had already been familiar with their music as it is played regularly on Sonido Boombox and on a newly launched internet radio program called Rock Y Roll Radio. Charanga Cakewalk is Michael Ramos and a cast of other talented musicians including a percussionist, a keyboard player, and a guitarist. Ramos plays the accordion and whatever you call a small piano you blow into pictured below.

The next band to follow was a punk/pop (not the other way around) band from Austin called "The Sweethearts". The Sweethearts are a female fronted and kind of a throwback to what was good from that genre in the 90s. Being 28, maybe that's why I dig them. Now I have said this before, whenever I see a female fronted group, I cross my fingers that I am not in store for something smutty or gimmicky. With The Sweethearts, you get nothing of the sort. Lead singer Linette is charismatic but sweet, and her voice reminds me of a edgier or rougher Gwen Stefani.

As far as the band goes, Ren can really play guitar and the other two members were definitely seasoned and good at what they do. I had never seen them live either so it was cool. Punk is actually a genre of choice for me and I am pretty picky about it. The Sweethearts prove that Austin punk rock is not dead and will soon show that to the West Coast as they tour this summer. Don't believe me? Look around on their myspace as they posted a letter from Fat Records. Basically what it said was they liked them and they wanted to see them live or something to that regard. I asked Linette at the taping about that because it was difficult to read. And yes, their songs are in English.

The last band to perform for M.E. Live! was the popular DJ team from Tijuana, Mexico known as Nortec Collective. From the Nortec Collective came Bostitch and Fussible. They took the longest to set up as they had the most complicated gizmos (yes, the technical word for DJ equipment like mixers, etc) to set up. Along with Bostitch and Fussible, they had an accordion player and a clarinetist. They did tracks from their new album titled "Tijuana Sound Machine".

I had not seen a bad ass DJ or electronica show since the Chemical Brothers or Crystal Method concerts I went to when I was in high school. Although this wasn't a typical concert, the experience of seeing Bostitch and Fussible live and up close like that blew me away. No really, it was amazing. I sat above the actual stage area looking down on them and got to see how they did all their music and sounds. I couldn't begin to explain it. They only gizmos I was familiar with were the Apple laptops.

The way Nortec Collective merges the electronic dance music sound with Norteno or banda music of Mexico is genius. Their live accordion player was not only the best accordion player I've seen since Mingo Saldivar, but the accordion itself was so "blinged out" that the lady sitting next to me said she would wear it as a purse it was so fabulous. The clarinet player was also good, but I thought he looked either tired or uncomfortable. He was great either way. In the picture above to the left, that is me with Ramon Amezcua, aka "Bostitch". I got to speak to him before the taping and he was the coolest dude. His English appeared to be limited which was probably why he was just chilling by the bar they had set up by himself. All I did was tell him in Spanish how excited I was to see him and we just talked and talked and talked. I hope all you Nortec Collective fans read this and recognize that about Bostitch. I am still excited as I spoke with a musical genius there at M.E. and got a picture. The day could not have been better for me. If you like electronica, Mexican music, or both, you'll love Nortec Collective.

Finally I wanted to thank the good people of M.E. Television not only for the invite, but for showcasing all these bands through their fine network. Thanks to M.E., I have discovered so many new local and national bands that I now listen to and love. I don't know where else people in Austin could see many of these bands on TV otherwise. None of this has aired as of yet, but keep on the look out. M.E. TV is on digital channel 577 and channel 15.

I will leave you with a Nortec video I took off of good old You Tube. This is my favorite song from them right now called "Tijuana Sound Machine". Enjoy.

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Manuel H. said...

I was not "invited" to the METV Live taping but I was at the Panchanga Music Festival this past Saturday. I do have to add that ALL the "Cool People" were at the festival sweating their asses off.
I've seen and heard the musical groups you've listed to include Pinata Protest and especially, my man, Mingo Salivar. I have not seen or heard De Los Muertos or The Sweetheats but will research them at a later date.
Groupo Fatasma is exceptional musically and when you see them live, even if you're not a dancer, you will find that you have happy feet. They are a must see or at minimun must hear musical group.
La Conquista is OK. Their music and costume is catchy and would be a good opening act for someone.
Charanga Cakewalk is another exceptional musical group with Michael Ramos as its creative musical director/creator. I have all his musical but finally got to see Charanga Cakewalk this past Saturay. I was disappointed that they did not play "La Negra Celina", my all time favorite.
Now, Nortec Collective is really undescribable! You have to see and hear their show if you can. If you can imagine techno or electronica mixed with Mexican border music or "Norteno" music. The visuals were also exceptional. I found myself mezmarized by the computer graphics on a 10 X12 foot back screen and a 3 X 5 foot plasma screen in front of the DJ table. The crowd just went crazy that night. I felt like I was in a mosh pit with people jumping up and down, swinging and swaying enthusiastically, to put it mildly, with the music. You just had to be there to understand.

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