One of the best parts of SXSW Music is getting to see bands that come to Austin from distant parts of the world, some of which are visiting the U.S. for the first time. This year, the Santiago, Chile based band Astro made the trek way north to share their musical blend of synthesizer fueled-psychedelic-alternative rock with audiences in the U.S.
Astro, who recently signed with the L.A. based label Nacional Records, played a couple of different showcases at SXSW, including a daytime set at the Austin Convention Center. I ran into lead singer Andrés Nusser during the Torreblanca and Amigas show and asked him his thoughts about SXSW and Texas.
Check out our video with Andrés, where he talks about Astro’s latest release, his experiences at SXSW, and his first impressions of Texas and the U.S.
If you didn’t grow up listening to Rage Against The Machine, or at least know who they are, it’s kind of hard for me to figure out how to introduce them to you. Suffice to say that they meshed rap and rock in the 1990s and threw in a whole lot of political baggage, too.
For me and my cohort, RATM (as we scrawled on our notebooks and backpacks in whiteout) represented are very personal version of 1990s angst. It was NAFTA and the death of death of grunge and Bill Clinton and a whole lot of other youngish, angsty stuff.
In any case, like most things, they quickly became mainstream and broke up in 2000, although they got back together in 2007 have been sporadically performing since. Vocalist Zach de la Rocha Is often characterized as being angry, but it has lyrics are pretty good, so she checked them out.
Note: Pretty much every song the band put out a profanity in it, so be warned.
The Bags was a punk rock group that formed in LA in the 1970s, with Alice Armandariz as the front woman and singer. Her stage name, Alice Bags, has stayed with her all these years, and she recently gave an interview to the San Francisco Weekly. In the piece, Bags seems to be somewhat uneasy being labeled a “Chicana,” but does claim to be a Mexican-American woman.
She’s recently the author of a memoir, “Violence Girl,” that discusses her entrance into the punk rock scene as a Latina raised in East LA. The band’s estate together too long, we wanted to share a selection of their work anyway.
This burgeoning Mexico City quartet has got a classic rock sound in which influences of Led Zeppelin and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs can be heard.
They started to gain attention after winning several battle of the bands contests in their country, they’ve moved on to bigger stages like playing at the massive Vive Latino fest in Mexico, SXSW in Texas, and even opened for KISS on some of their Mexican tour dates.
Check them out for yourself in their videos below. Have a great weekend!
When I was in high school in the 1990s I used to listen to the Voodoo Glow Skulls and think they were the epitome of cool. As a matter of fact, I was going to be in a band, and we were going to be cool like them.
Of course that never happened, but nonetheless I still listen to this ska band from Southern California. They’ve been at it since 1988, and by “it” I mean making often silly and ever cool, bilingual rock/ska songs.
There is English, Spanish, trumpets, saxophones, bass, drums and more, here are a few of my favorites, but the band has a pretty extensive catalogue. You could say that VDGS inspires nostalgia in me, but then again, it’s also great driving music.
If you haven’t heard of Maldita Vecindad, I feel sorry for you, but I’m going to break it down for you right quick. First, their entire name is La Maldita Vecindad y los Hijos del Quinto Patio and they formed in Mexico City in the 1980s. I found them in the 1990s and have been obsessively listening to their 1996 album, Baile de Máscaras, recently.
When I say “obsessively,” I mean that it was the only tape I listened to in my car (yes I have a tape deck in my car) for most of 2011. As the tape begins to wear out, what I’ve realized is that this album is brilliant for many reasons, principal among them is the chronicling of a pre-NAFTA Mexico, beginning to grapple with the post-NAFTA Mexico, and what the world would be like for Mexico moving into the 21st century.
Now I know that sounds fancy, but hear me out. A song like “Salta pa’trás” for example, that re-examines the weird racial caste system used by the Spaniards in Mexico dig away at the absurdity of racial labels in one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world (Mexico City). The song consists of chants of these labels “mestizo con blanca, china con lobo, india con negra,” and you get the picture; the chant seems kind of desperate when sung, and ultimately, the song concludes that there is no such thing as purity — a point made both about race, but also I think we can deduce, about our society in a globalized world. This is further underscored by the repeated use of indigenously stylized chants or melodies used in the hidden track at the end, but also throughout the album.
“El Chulo” is about a guy who fancies himself dapper, but who’s actually dating a stripper. Then the closing tid bit of the song is, “El miedo no cabe, se va a la tiznada,” which basically means you never stop being afraid, fear just evaporates into the ether. Again, if we think about Mexico City in the context of the mid 1990s, as the U.S. and globalization was taking over, this song is almost about the nation of Mexico as it transitions from a more predictable life, to one in which fear is set to dissipate a la tiznada.
Similarly, “Por Ahí” talks about progress and modernization:
“No Les Creo Nada,” is probably the most obviously political song on the album, the chorus is “Mienten mucho, no les creo nada,” which translates to, “They lie a lot, I don’t believe them at all,” referring to the news media specifically, but generally to the political system in Mexico. The song talks about how the mainstream discussion of things in Mexico is fine, but in a sarcastic tone, enter the chorus, and you get the picture that it’s frustrating having to live on reality in your life, and then see the fictionalized version of it on TV.
And the last song that I’ll talk about on this album is “Don Palabras,” which ostensibly tells the story of a guy the singer meets, but seems to be really about Mexico as a society. The chorus is, “Miles de historias. En cada barrio,” which translates to “Thousands of stories in every neighborhood.” Urgency is added to the song with a saxophone, and the lyrics are sung with a sense of tragedy that culture is being lost. That these stories that used to be told, that poetry itself, is being lost in the vastness of Mexico City.
And the final reason you should check this band and this album out is: they’re awesome! Happy Friday!
The defunct Chilean band Teleradio Donoso recorded only two albums during their brief existence (2005-2009), yet almost every track released is a memorable pop-rock hit made to dance or wallow in self-pity to.
Indie rock band La Vida Boheme from Caracas, Venezuela takes cues from a variety of musical influences – from salsa to ’80s punk rock – to create a unique sound.
Rafael Perez, Daniel De Sousa, Sebastian Ayala, and Henry D’Arthenay formed the band less than five years ago and already have a devoted following dubbed “La Resistance”–take a listen and see if you’ll be joining them.
The winner of 10 Grammys and three Latin Grammys, Mexican rock guitarist Carlos Santana and his eponymous band were pioneers in the fusion of rock ‘n’ roll with salsa and jazz.
The band first rose to fame in the late 1960s and 1970s and that’s what we’re going to highlight here, as opposed to that Rob Thomas song that was so overplayed and catchy that I still have it stuck in my head.
The name of this Argentine rap duo, which melds a character from a hit 1960s TV show and a famous Colombian footballer, represents their eclectic style that takes inspiration from rock to hip-hop and everything in between.
The childhood friends initially formed the group as a more rock ‘n’ roll version of Menudo, but they eventually ended up a duo with their first album out in 1991. Eleven years later they called it quits with an album of mostly remixes dedicated to their late manager.
I’ve been left to my own devices today, so let me share a gem I discovered while studying abroad in Chile in 2006.
A friend heard about this Chilean group from one of her English students, whom, practicing the imperative, told her she “must listen to Mecánica Popular.” So a group of us went to see them live in Santiago and were instantly hooked on the smooth guitar rhythms and haunting vocals.
The incarnation of the band we saw was Manuel García, Diego Álvarez, Ronnie Gutiérrez, and Christian Bravo. Together they sang poetic lyrics set against a unique blend of rock and roll and traditional folk music.
Yes, the group’s last album was in 2005 (as far as I can tell), but their songs are still in heavy rotation in my iTunes queue (as are the solo efforts of singer/guitarist Manuel García), and are great tunes for getting through the workday.