Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Chicha Libre on the Rocks Off Concert Cruise, NYC 5/15/09

There have been more intense, more riveting shows this year but for sheer fun factor, this one tops the charts, a perfect match of band and milieu. Chicha Libre get plenty of ink here because they (at least at this point) seem to be the sole American practitioners of chicha, the intoxicatingly fun, reverb-drenched Peruvian hybrid of Colombian cumbias, American surf music, psychedelia and all kinds of other latin styles. The way Chicha Libre play it, on the surface it sounds a lot like surf music but it’s bouncier and although the music gets pretty dark in places, the band can’t resist taking pretty much anything – Michael Jackson, the Clash, Erik Satie – and doing it chicha style. They did pretty much everything last night. With much of the crowd gathered on the prow, the boat rocked on the waves as it left the harbor, guitarist Vincent Douglas gamely going with the flow and letting his richly twangy chords ring out while the floor shifted.

In two sets and what had to be at least two hours of music, the band mixed obscure chicha instrumentals by los Mirlos, Juaneco y Su Combo (whose anthology Chicha Libre’s own Barbes Records just put out) and others with originals which are arguably even better than the first wave stuff. Who knows, once word gets around and other bands start playing chicha, maybe someday Chicha Libre will be considered a good second wave act something like what the Specials were to ska. Douglas likes effects pedals, this time using a chorus box to add some aptly watery flavor to the title track from their album Sonido Amazonico (ranked in the top three on Lucid Culture’s Best Albums of 2008 list). As usual, the band couldn’t keep from grinning as they intoned “pavane, pavane, pavane” on their chichafied version of the famous Ravel Pavane, turning a requiem into a celebration. Both their versions of the Clash’s Guns of Brixton and Alone Again Or by Love held pretty close to the originals, while Popcorn Andino (a cover of the silly 70s novelty hit by Hot Butter) gave Electrovox keyboardist Josh Camp a chance to build eerily reverberating atmospherics over the rattle and clatter of the two percussionists, Greg Burrows throwing in the occasional big cymbal splash, equal parts high drama and carefree buffoonery. The best songs of the night were two eerie new ones, so period-perfect that it was impossible to tell whether they were covers or originals (one suspects the latter). Finally, on the tongue-in-cheek Hungry Song (also from the album), the band finally cut loose and jammed out, percussion and Electrovox again leading the stampede. 

A word about the cruise: it’s nothing like what you would expect. Since Rocks Off is independently owned and operated, there are no officious ushers or corporate security goons, no garish ad banners and in fact it’s hard to tell the crew from the passengers, since everybody seems to be having such a good time. Disabuse yourself of any horrific memories of freshman year booze cruises or Cancun. This is a different animal, a distinctly New York version. The boat was clean, there was never a wait for a bathroom, no sorority girls passing out, no fratboys bellowing over the music. Just a bracing breeze and Chicha Libre.

May 16, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. This WAS a great night, all of the above is true and Chica Libre did set a memorable atmosphere on this heavily rocking (and listing) stage. A good night and I hope they return to Rocks Off cruises.

    Comment by Carmelita | May 17, 2009 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.