It was a Saturday evening, i knew it was gonna be an underground show, in a place i've never seen bands before; in fact, this show happened at the other end of Mexico City from where i live, meaning that i had to cross one of the biggest cities in the world just to see an underground show where a "post-rock supergroup" featuring member of the San Diego hardcore scene was playing their first concert in this country ever.
So the show was scheduled to start at 7:00 pm and i hadn't bought a ticket in advance, sort of trusting i could just buy one on the door, yet i had a certain feel that there was a big chance i might not get in because the bands opening the show are kinda popular among kids here, so the show could sell out with me outside, bummed out. Fortunately, i was able to arrive at something before 7 and buy a ticket from a kid with an Omar Rodriguez afro; i was scared of not getting in, to tell you the truth, the place was already littered with kids outside the venue, a club in the back of a mini mall-like place with a much bigger dance club right next to it; most were your token emo kids (exaggerated 70's hair, tight jeans, tight black shirts, trucker hats, etc.) and it was pretty much a half girls, half guys crowd; a lot of them underaged (the show was billed as "all ages"), but i even got to see a Jim O' Rourke indie bloke*. Anyway, i stood around waiting for the door to open; when it finally did, everyone ran to form a line to enter, but after something like 30 or 40 minutes there, without any advance or sign that the show was gonna start, everyone began to wander off, in packs, hugging girlfriends/boyfriends, meeting with friends, going across the street to the supermarket to get smokes or drinks or junk food to make the wait a little more tolerable. After a while of doing nothing except talking on the cell with whoever was available for a few minutes to chat and/or try to convince to come check this amazing band to no success (can you say "one hour drive within the same city to see a band i've never heard"?), the afro guy who sold me the ticket and another dude came up to me and started talking, he said i looked familiar and told him about my former band Milck, but he didn't recognize me from there (surprise, surprise!!), he concluded that i just look like someone he knew, so we started talking about the turn out and about the quality of the headlining band, which ended with him qualifying it as "Tristeza esta brutal!" (spanish for "Tristeza is brutal!"), then he left. After more time waiting outside, and more people coming (the flyer said that the assistance was limited to 1000 people, which i thought was pretty close to happen), a kid in a Sid Vicious t-shirt, not older than 15, asked me if Austin TV had already played and told him that no one had played yet since everyone was still outside, then we started talking about the music he was into which, surprisingly enough, weighted more on older stuff like the Who (his favorites), Sex Pistols, The Doors, Pink Floyd and Guns N' Roses, but he qualified himself as an Austin fan and came exclusively to see them, having never heard of Tristeza or any of the similar bands i could think of (Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Mogwai, Sigur Rós, Mono, Explosions In The Sky, etc.); he didn't even know the other two bands opening, which was kinda odd since i always seem to see all these bands play on the same bill.
Sometime around 9:00pm (yes, nine-fucking-pee em!) the line was already moving, so i searched for the kid, who spotted the drummer from Austin and wanted to say hi, after we came into the place. The place....i got to tell you it was very cool, i loved the place, way classier than what you expect for a rock club; the place is called Club Vintage and that might tip you on what's inside: built mostly of wood, with little streetlight-like lamps on the walls, tables on the upper part, and prominent staircases; it did look vintage, sorta like a 30's version of the Bait Shop, which you might know if you watch The O.C. Already inside, i went straight to the bathroom, then i made the rounds; first, on my way out of the bathroom, i spotted the merch table area of the club, this being the first time i ever go to a show where there's a merch table (bands with merch tables don't come as often to Mexico as one would want), so i went to see what was for sale; focusing on Tristeza's side, i bought a copy of their debut full length Spine & Sensory and a vinyl copy of their eponymous 2002 EP on Gravity, both for what it would cost me the cd alone anywhere else in this country of mine, i was almost out of money though. Upstairs, they were having free vodka bar, which is totally rocking in my book, yet i didn't enjoyed it that much because i didn't like the mix they were serving (diet Sprite+vodka+some kind of red syrup) and the bar was only opened for an hour, plus i was busy guarding my vinyl booty from the rest of the crowd so...At some point, the first band announced themselves: "Hi, we're Sad Breakfast, thanks for coming..." they started playing sort of what i expected: slow, dreamy, syncopated arpeggios that gave way to jolty rhythms; they weren't as bad as i thought they would be, they sounded like a mixture between Mineral, At The Drive-In and Jupiter-era Cave In, which is better than the Simple Plan or Drive Thru/Vagrant Records soundalike i expected, plus the vocals weren't as whinny as monst bands' and they were very few and in between each song, their moves onstage were somewhat calculated but energetic; despite having a few sound problems, they played a good sounding set and ended up with a big blast of feedback+delay pedal manipulations, their second address to the crowd: "Que chido que vinieron porque Tristeza esta brutal!!" ("It's great that you all came tonight because Tristeza is brutal"). I watched their whole set from the second floor only to be asked by a waiter to move along since people couldn't stand there because they were blocking the view or something; whatever, i went down some stairs that faced the stage and stayed there by a side so i wouldn't block the way.
Next up were Hummersqueal and frankly, they were awful, they were everything i expected from these so-called emo bands: whinny, corny, fake and cutesy; of all the bands on the bill, their guitar sounds were the worst you could imagine, all bass and no treble; they did have a lot of trouble with their sound but still, i don't think this sound was too far from what they were aiming. Yet they got a tremendous crowd reaction, people jumping around and singing along to their songs. They took forever to set up and stuff, yet they played and that was that.
Next up was Austin TV and right then it seemed clearly who were the real headliners, the true draw in this show; people began flocking to the floor to watch the band, many wearing their t-shirts and others wearing bunny rabbit's ears which i didn't get at the time. After setting up, four dudes and a girl, wearing matching white shirts, black pants, black ties and sad clown masks began playing an energetic if a bit odd brand of post-punk punk rock, i expected whinny singing but no one sang and no one had the intention to sing which took me by surprise; after a song or an intro (couldn't tell), everyone except the femail keyboard player took the masks off and continued playing after greeting the crowd; fixing my eyes and my attention onstage, i noticed the guitar player with a red Fender Telecaster, he had an Omar Rodriguez afro...sure enough, it was the guy i bought my ticket from and all i could think is that i was lucky not to slip on and tell how much i thought the openers sucked (all thru shear prejudgement, of course; my bad); the drummer had a mohawk (a real one, kids) and the other guitar player and bassist looked like they were straight from ,,,And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, plus the guitar player played the part also, flaying violently whenever the rhythms jumped on. Musically speaking, i had my jaw on the ground after, like, two songs, the music was just amazing, totally great and original and everything i want to expect from bands i hear for the first time but hardly expect to come out of a local band (which is a shame). Their brand of instrumental rock was like a mixture of At The Drive-In's skronky chords and hyper rhythms with the sounds and structures of Sigur Rós, Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, Mono or Tristeza, all topped with B-movie like keyboard sounds and some dialogue samples here and there, they aren't post rock because they aren't apocalyptic or numb, they just feel too damn much. The band also played full of passion and i noticed a nice phenomenon going: the strong reaction the crowd had from listening to something so aggressively live yet beautiful; they were totally into into it, jumping and swaying so hard they almost knocked a speaker tower, watching that reminded me of all the old videos of hardcore bands like Black Flag, Germs, Minor Threat, Adolescents, etc, when people were so moved by the music that they could start moshpits and slamdancing out of pure instinct, without being premeditated or organized...hell, not even out of violence but of freedom (unlike today, where most mosh pits are about big dudes trying to hurt as many people as possible or about demonstrating what they learned at after school karate classes). It was amazing to say the least, i was jumping around, headbanging and screaming along my approval with everyone, all i could think of was "if they were only noisier, i would be 100% a fan". Then, for their last song, they improvised a piece that started out very slow and soft and would build to very loud and heavy and then end in feedback, then to pick up at softer again, while one of the guitars still squealed out feedback, it was amazing to witness that, the Trail Of Dead-like guitarist rocked so hard he broke his strap and had to get help taping it to finish the set. When it was over, it exploded and the sounds just left a cloud of happiness and satisfaction for something not to be foreseen.
After Austin left the stage, big part of the crowd started to scatter around and away while i remained in my position, i saw Sid Vicious shirt kid going past me to go upstairs when i express him my approval of Austin; minutes later, Tristeza, joined for the occasion by former member Jimmy Lavalle (now in the Mono-approved band the Album Leaf), took the stage and, after a brief introduction, exploded right into a song. The sounds coming out of the stage were natural and magical, like if the whole thing was wired into ultra vivid surround sound, loud and alive yet gentle and inviting, they played song after song of effortless majesty, it's safe to see that most of the kids were loving it. Every beat was felt, every note adding to an orchestration of rock that defies rock; you could feel it and they were giving it all, you just knew it, the were just tearing themselves apart playing such pretty tones, but what did you expect from guys who were part of a hardcore scene?.
I almost feel tempted to call this "concert of the year" even if it's too early still for it but, when i go to a show and i feel the need to go out and play my guitar and do something twice, then i feel this was one extraordinary show.
*: Jim O'Rourke indie guy: wild, unfashionable hair, old worn jeans, brown blazer or suit jacket like something a teacher would wear, big, dorky sunglasses. Inspired (or ripped off) from avant guardist, noise championing, underground mainstay, current Sonic Youth member Jim O'Rourke's sense of fashion:
Les Choses Sont Bizarres.mp3 from Austin TV EP
Ella No Me Conoce.mp3 from La Ultima Noche Del Mundo
Golden Hill.mp3 from Spine & Sensory
Are We People.mp3 from Dream Signals In Full Circles
Tristeza's site: www.trstz.com
Buy Tristeza's cds at Amazon
Austin TV's site and store: www.austintv.org
AFS v. 377 ~ The Power of Contempt
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