Monday, August 4, 2008

Two-Tone Wingtip Staceys Serve It Up Serio

If you didn't hear about The Panza Monologues, a one-woman show written by San Antonio homegirls Vicki Grise and Dr. Irma Mayorga with contributions from several Texas-based scribes--among them Barbara Renaud-Gonzalez--that brought down the house at Plaza de la Raza on Saturday night, then you were probably among the five or six people that Rip Van Winkle their way along in the world. A Chicana tour de force as far as live theatre goes, the show opened for a one-night only showcase and at least twenty people were turned away. Karla Legaspy and Felicia Montes helped spread the word only too-well. Using stories that range from the hilarious to the deeply moving, Vicki Grise romps back and forth, carving up the stage with panza moon goddess prowess or alternately touching vignettes that address ancestral sadness, movimiento politics and feminist issues. Special mention should be made of Marissa Ramirez' lighting design and general theatre know-how. It couldn't have happened without her tirelesss stagecraft. Of course, Adelina Anthony's turn as the host didn't hurt none either. Está bien funny la Ade. But her rapier wit skewers you while it leaves you wanting more...

For the LA incarnation, which was videotaped by Roberto Oregel for the production of a Panza DVD, las muchachas enlisted the assistance of several jaraner@s, among them el Tejarocho Alexandro Hernández, another Tex-Mexpatriot, who put together a live backing band called Los Flacosos. Hernandez is working on a PhD in ethnomusicology and plays just about any instrument con cuerdas. He also performs as a regular member of the "world jarocho music" group zocaloZüe. Joining him on stage were Eduardo Arenas, Soul Rebel Radio's jaranera extraordinaire Laura Cambrón and violinista Jacqueline Mungía who, as a group, added an entirely new dimension to the production. Can anyone say soundtrack? The capacity crowd rose immediately to its feet at the end of the show for an ovation that recognized the play's world class caliber.

Hernández has also been recently recruited by fiery hip-hop MC Olmeca. And we followed the Saturday show at Plaza with the John Anson Ford Theater benefit for Tia Chucha's Café Cultural where a near capacity crowd was treated to a dazzling flurry of words and sound from the young East Side poet and mic master, who was once again in peak form. With the addition of an electric guitar, Olmeca's live sound takes on an urgency that lingers along more interesting lines that communicate whispers of canto nuevao or la nueva trova. Lyrically, in both Spanish and English, he balances a muscular vocabulary and a litany-like staccato burst of non-stop rhyme with relevant and socially conscious story that is both accessible and inspiring. I would even dare call it hopeful. despite my own proclivity to cynicism. And I would be remiss if I didn't confess a desire to see the boys live again for an entire show, even if it's just to marvel at the two-tone, black-and-white wingtip calcos pachucos. The benefit also featured a dance-your-nalgas off set by the heirs t0 Ozomatli, a young East Side band called Upground, who delivered cumbia, salsa and rock fusion worthy of the South By South West Music and Media Conference selection they were part of this year. No es por nada that they were invited to play the most important music industry conference in the nation right there in my hometown of Austin, Tejaztlan. The city likes to bill itself "the live music capital of the world," and I really can't argue. The finale last night featured comedian and actor Cheech Marin, who strapped on his own hollow body guitar and lead Upground in a slew of musical numbers, among them the perennial "Born in East LA." It was puro Califas, a moment unlike any other I've ever experienced before, serio foo'. It was sicccc.

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