Gato Loco at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 7/7/08
These crazy cats don’t believe in high notes. Subbing for the absent Chicha Libre – the Barbes house band was playing somewhere in Pennsylvania – this strangely unique instrumental outfit completely won over the crowd. You could call them the male Moisturizer. With baritone sax, baritone guitar, tuba, bass and bongo drums, Gato Loco could be the ultimate low frequency band: the only instrument that uses the upper registers is the guitar. Using oldtime Cuban music from the 1920s and 30s as their stepping-off point, they typically get a fat, low-end groove going and then have a lot of fun with the melody, waaaaay down there. They opened the show with the old Cuban standard Siboney. Everybody from Celia Cruz to Connie Francis has covered it, and Gato Loco’s idiosyncratic version, bringing out every bit of warmth and attractiveness in the melody, was a real treat. Their second number featured a lot of harmonies between the sax and the tuba over a bass groove, with a long baritone guitar solo to the crescendo. After the minor-key tango Carmela Mia, they did a clever Moisturizer soundalike with a tricky time signature.
The title track from their new cd began with a furiously strummed guitar intro, building to where the sax player went completely feral. “Punk rock!’ said a guy in the corner. The next tune took a pretty standard 1950s pop melody and made it slow and eerie, like something out of a David Lynch movie. They closed the set on a klezmer punk vibe, the sax player again going completely loco and knocking over his music stand. What a blast these guys are to hear. Let’s hope this band stays together: they really have something. They’re back at Barbes on August 11.
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