Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Mexico Rock

Talk about camp. Al Ritmo del Twist, a film presented by the Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles last Sunday at the Johh Anson Ford Amphitheatre was an exercise in the ultimate suspension of disbelief. Really hard to image a 40-something Manuel "Loco" Valdez as a high school student in a rip-off beach blanket party special where the stripped down, apolitical Mexican and utterly derivative, officially sanctioned rock bands from the sixties hold court. The monogamy of Churubusco veterans aping teenagers in a film where every scene is an excuse to feature a drum kit with lettering to announce "Los Rebeldes del Rock" or "Los Teen Tops," amidst a slew of twist dancers and live, human mannequins modeling female swimwear was a tad bit too much to bear. The Teen Tops Spanish-language cover of "Bony Maroni" which translates to "Popotipos" (my girl, the straw) is actually a highlight, and that's not saying much. Unfortunately, I missed the plática with Abraham Laborial, whose Afro-carribean father went from Honduras to Mexico in the first half of the last century as a studio musician and actually appears in the film. Ruben "Funkahuatl" Guevara rounded out the discussion with his own stateside 60s rock history, I'm told. In the company of poet Gloria Alvarez, her daugher Sol and friends Lluvia and Margit, I was delayed by an earth turning turn, community garden commitment at Proyecto Jardin, so you can blame me completely for the slag. I would have liked to be there for the discussion, even if it included more pontificating by everyone's favorite Latinophile, Josh Kun.

It was more urgent, for me anyway, to see Girl in a Coma, the girl band from San Antonio that has taken both the Chican@ and gringo rock worlds by storm with hurricane proportions. The film was a follow-up that we forced ourselves to sit through. And it was definitely cool to see Jimmy Mendiola, a wordslinger and filmmaker with his compañera and producing partner Faith Radle as well as another Tex-Mex patriot in LA, former Port of Houston Commissioner Azucena Maldonado, who worked the event. If you're interesed, Jimmy blogs about pop culture and all things Chicano and Latino at www.brownstate.typepad.com with a keen sensitivity and an attitude/aptitude that belies his San Antonio rocker roots and elevates him beyond the ken or ordinary pale of blogosphere navel gazers. He also directed a GIAC video that buzzes with a magnetic electricity.

This blog is actually a response and reaction to the Austin-LA-Mexico City triangle that has its genesis in a January, 1994 visit I made to Chiapas for The Austin Chronicle with a stop in Chilangolandia on the way, where I hung once again with Discos Rockotitlan founder Tony Mendez, who I'd met in New York at a 1991 New Music Seminar showcase. Have to say that I had been thoroughly influenced by a Rubén Martínez article on Maldita Vecindad in the LA Weekly and an Ed Morales Village Voice piece on resurgent rock en español with a bite. For me rock and the Zapatista revolution were inextricably intertwined after that ill-advised trip to la selva lacondona, where I was man-handled by soldiers at every roadblock from Mexico City to Juchitán. Maldita, Tijuana No, Los Hombres G and el TRI were my antidote to Eurythmics and baseless British pop that I raved to more often than I care to admit. I dumped The Clash and The Police completely while putting U2 on probation after hearing the rockeros rail against capitalismo and a gringo system imposed by MTV and McDonald's.

But enough with the stripes and who found chilango rock first because the "Mexico! Mexico! Rock! Rock! Rock!" program also drew luminary Angelenos, among them poet Marisela Norte, artist and owner of Tropico de Nopal Gallery Reyes Rodriguez and my cuate and occasional Gold Room sister Sandra de la Loza, a conceptual artist and photographer listed in the current issue of Tu Ciudad Los Angeles magazine as one of the 20 Hip, Hot (and very happening) Now brown people in the City of Angels. Props to printmaker and artist Daniel Gonzalez and Colin Gunkel, another Tex-patriot, for putting together an ambitious and ultimately important cultural program. Of course, it was a far cry from El Chopo, a Mexico City rock-and-roll swap meet where I wound up reading poetry earlier this summer as an opening act for Charlie Montana, a DF rockero who sports a Confederate flag t-shirt and a Jack Daniels bottle tattooed on his arm. Complete with the Lynyrd Skynyrd black leather hat and silver conch-shell hat band over a pair of aviator mirror shades, Montana could very well be the bastard love child of Axl Rose and Ozzy Osbourne.

Try sharing some sappy love poems in antcipation of that! I had to translate some work on the spot while juggling a live interview on the phone with a radio station and trying to save face in front of 600 goth punks and DF chuco skaters in scotch plaid, pierced ad infinitum and eager to hear a Mexico City barrio rocker who plays up the trailer trash persona in bleach blond hair to unexpected éxito. A universe of disconnect, at least for me, can't reconcile campy twist dance films where Annette Funicello and Frankie Valie give way to rode-hard Mexican movie stars on their last legs with the very real and always relevant Tianguis Cultural del Chopo, a squatterville terrain next door to Tlatelolco, the site of a 1968 government-sponsored massacre and a hotbed of resistance that, for the last 25 years, has manifested itself in the bodies, ritmos and ritos of los punks, los rockers, los darketos, los góticos y los hipitecas. Ask me about it sometime. Or better yet, take yourself there. Poet and scholar Reina Prado suggests the Greyhound bus direct to the Tijuana Airport from downtown LA. The flight on Aviacsa is about $280 round trip.

You can never be too cool for school unless you've been there and had at least three Indio beers with a quesadilla de flor de calabasa at Las Costillas de San Luis in Colonia La Roma before diving into a flotilla sized open air market fueled by music and all the rock & roll accessories you ever possibly imagine.

1 comment:

Peter E Carrillo said...

Abel
I love your words and thoughts, keep up the good work. The Raza definitely needs more writers documenting the vision. Peace and respect.
Peter E Carrillo