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But those who know what the city's about, like producer Alfi Martins, enjoy it enough. In the mid-1980s, he worked as a keyboardist for Charly Garcia before moving to New York later that decade. For a while, he lived in Madrid, but after deciding he wanted to come back to the States, he finally settled in Miami in 1995. He's been involved with the "meta-hop drum and bass" band Council of the Sun for a few years and recently worked on a remix for Bajofondo Tango Club. He is not planning to go back to Argentina anytime soon. "I can't say that I didn't enjoy playing there," he says. "But all I can think of now is [being able] to buy an apartment in front of [soccer team Boca Juniors' stadium] La Bomboñera to live there when I retire."
The latest addition to the Argies pack is drummer Edmundo "Pelu" Rivero, who recently left the Gardis and debuted as a solo artist at Sandbar, where he now performs every Thursday. Pelu came here in 1998 after sharing a band called Semen with his brother Damian for nine years. His grandfather, singer Edmundo Rivero, was an Argentine tango icon, but Pelu didn't want to cash in on the legend. While cleaning bathrooms and kitchens, Pelu waged a legal dispute to recover his now-5-year-old son, Fausto, after his mother brought him to the States without Pelu's consent. But the court decided in his favor, and he's now able to visit Fausto as often as he wants. Pelu met Pais in 2000; while with the Gardis, he got a chance to sit in as a session drummer with many Argentine celebrities. Charly Garcia was his favorite. "To play with him was a dream come true," he says.
Rivero shares another dream with Tereso and Fort Lauderdale-based rock band Vieja Gloria: They all want to play at Obras, a 5,000-seat stadium that has been Buenos Aires' rock cathedral since the late 1970s. Vieja Gloria has developed a small following over the past seven years, playing its own songs along with a few Argentine rock classics by cult bands like Redonditos, La Renga, Los Piojos, and Divididos. But when bassist Pablo Vivas talks about his experiences here for the past 12 years -- he and his friends in the band paint houses or do gardening or whatever else is necessary to earn income -- he doesn't have to say that he's homesick. It comes out over a long conversation during which he expresses his anger at the state of Argentina's economy and how its politicians have left tons of people like him with little alternative except to emigrate.
"Once you've been painting all day, I swear that you won't think of strapping a bass to your neck," assures Vivas, who still manages to do it three times a week. Some fans love to visit them during band rehearsals so they can literally cry while listening to the group's intimate Redonditos covers. "We play for the suffering Argentineans," he says.
Somehow, all the above-mentioned musicians share his lament. Despite the modest success some of them have achieved here, none of them left Argentina with a smile. It doesn't matter how long ago.