Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DeVotchKa - Mariachi El Bronx -- 9:30 Club - Mar 22 2011

Mariachi El Bronx - Yes, it is clear from the opening notes, that this is indeed a mariachi band. Acoustic guitars, an acoustic bass as big as the player, Trumpet, Percussion and a violin are the instruments of choice. A vocalist comes out after a few instrumental minutes. He is in full uniform as is the rest of the band. The percussion sets a nice tempo which everyone follows well enough. The trumpet stands out with lovely flourish throughout the set. The lyrics seem to be a bit more modern than the otherwise traditional sounds. And as I learn later, that is no doubt due to this being a side project of an LA hardcore punk band, The Bronx. Oh, so that explains his dedication of the last song to the punk rockers out there. From the sound of the finale, I thought I may have misheard him saying polka rockers. But these guys are punks having fun with traditional sounds and keeping it toward the traditional rather than trying to jump on a hybrid Gogol Bordello-like bandwagon (not that that is a bad place to be, but so many bands are already doing that). A good 45 minute set that was fairly received by the building audience.

DeVotchKa - As someone who lived in Colorado for nearly 20 years and is a huge fan of the Denver sound of bands like Woven Hand, Slim Cessna's Auto Club and, of course, 16 Horsepower, I surprisingly have not seen this, the most famous of the recent Denver bands. Their music is an interesting blend of worldly influences and catchy indie pop-rock. Tonight they lined up as a five-piece with a ton of instrument switching to the point where I am not sure there were two songs using the same combination of sounds. There was generally a rhythm section, although the bass became a lighted sousaphone at times. Guitars, keyboards, accordions, percussion, theremin and violin showed up often. They played in front of three projection screens, although the real highlight was the circus act. Two women ascended a pair of flashy ribbon-rope structures hanging from the ceiling. They then went into a choreographed performance of acrobatics and aerial movement. This was a good routine, looked dangerous, and was a lot more fun than I had first imagined. Musically, the band is just a little too safe for my liking. I think the live show did a lot more for me than their recordings, as the drummer was excellent and kept things moving nicely. They hit a good groove that reminds me of a combination of Los Lobos merged with The National. I am glad to finally see them and it was a decent enough live show that I can recommend to other DeVotchKa fence sitters. And there were over a thousand happy listeners here in DC.

Quote of the Night: From the opening band... "This is a song about a prison. It goes out to all the hardened criminals... Yeah, a female criminal! There is no prison like a female prison."

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