Monday night, September 13, Omar Rodriguez Lopez and his group comprised of Juan Aldrete De La Peña (bass), Deantoni Parks (drums), Marcel Rodriguez Lopez (keys), Lars Stalfors (laptop)and Ximena Sariñana Rivera (vocals), played a far out set at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. I almost didn’t go. Irrational fears of dying in a firey car wreck, caused by an inability to see clearly at night, had me hesitating but I told myself to take heart and get in the car otherwise miss out on what was sure to be a monumental experience. I drove the hour and a half to Frisco listening to my new favorite band, San Francisco natives, Fops, without incident. I barely hit any traffic and even found free parking around the corner from the venue! The stars were surely aligned.
The show opened with the Mexican “garage rock” band, Le Butcherettes, playing a whip lash inducing set of songs from their first album, Kiss & Kill, and from the forthcoming effort, produced by Rodriguez Lopez, Sin Sin Sin. Interestingly the crowd seemed to know every song, including those on the as yet unreleased album, word for word. I thought this was curious. Either the crowd was filled with music critics who obtained promo copies or it’s been pirated already. A musician friend commented to me recently that there truly was no hope to make money from selling records these days due to pirating and it looks like he is correct! Little matter, the sing alongs made the experience that much more enjoyable.
And while allusions to PJ Harvey are obvious (and accurate), one thing Harvey lacks, Gender Bender (who is all girl, to be sure) has in spades: a sense of humor. A fan called out, “I love you Teri!” and without hesitation her dead pan reply, “I like you for who you are.” That made a few of us chuckle. During the last few songs of their set she kicked off her heels and walked through the crowd saying hello to random people. Before climbing back on stage she stopped to tell the tiny hipster Chicanas standing beside me that they were gorgeous and she loved their hair. She said it in a matter of fact tone that seemed like she was joking but wasn’t.
In the beginning I was skeptical about this band. I didn’t want to like it at all, especially because of the pseudo feminist allusions and pretense towards “performance art” but after reading a few interviews in which Teri explained her ideas, and the fact she is only 21 years old, made me go back to reevaluate her songs through a less bitchy lens. Feminism is no easy mantle to adopt, even less so if you’re Latina. Given that she has a sense of cultural/ political history, intellectual curiosity and a willingness to challenge her own self-perceptions (I got all of this out of one interview!) I thought she deserved a second chance. Since then my own freebie promo copy of that aforementioned unreleased album has been in heavy rotation in my iTunes.
It’s really good once you get past the third wave feminist rhetoric and PJ Harvey comparisons.
The Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group blew me away. Well at least the first few songs in which Deantoni Parks smoothed out the space jams. He truly was the star of the night. There was even a contingent of people standing around me who seemed to come to the show solely to see him play! Not surprisingly an extended discussion as to who was the best Mars Volta drummer took place while the roadies (which seemed to include Marfred Rodriguez Lopez of Zechs Marquise) set up the equipment and did a mini soundcheck. That debate was bound to happen as Parks’ drum kit was upfront and center on the almost floor level stage. I had a sweet spot one person back and to the right. POWER. Amazing in every way. Far the fuck out. I don’t have words that can adequately, or accurately, describe those first few songs which were untitled and, evidently, unpracticed. Omar revealed that they were essentially testing them out on a live audience. Test away!
The rapture was broken when he invited a young girl who looked to be about 12 years old onstage. I don’t know anything about Ximena Sariñana Rivera. And up until that moment I had never heard of her, nor heard her music, which has been nominated for a Grammy (not a favorable factor in my opinion). I was disenchanted but hung on hoping somehow her airy vocals would reveal a maturity or poise or even in some way compliment the music being played but it never happened. At times she danced around limply and or seemed to stare off into space looking a bit unsure as to what to do with her limbs. I remember being an awkward young girl so I cringed in sympathy. However the musicians returned to their exquisitely experimental jamming when she left the stage. But then Omar invited her back for a few more songs. At that point I had heard my fill and was content and unafraid to make the drive back. Totally worth the night driving terror.
NOTE: Pridgen=2, Theodore=12, Parks=Everybody else in the venue.0