Last Night: Calle 13 at La Covacha
René ''Residente'' Pérez
Better than: Trading in your new Daddy Yankee CD for a slightly used paddleball.
Calle 13 is from Puerto Rico, but on Friday, Residente and Visitante were running on Cuban time. La Covacha’s patio/concert area was bloated with eager audience members by 1 a.m., which also happened to be the show’s scheduled start time. The audience was ready, but the two brothers had yet to drop by. The body heat of everyone under the tarp’s roof, along with the heat from hot-ass Florida, coupled with a Covacha oversight (failing to equip its patio with fans), in addition to the tardiness of the band, made some in the audience a little PO’d. And since they were paying eight bucks per bottle for their beer-flavored water, they found creative ways to recycle the plastic while waiting for the show to start.
Sound check began at 1:25 a.m. Visitante (music director, keyboards) and his band came out to find plastic Miller Lite bottles strewn on stage – air delivery courtesy of an antsy audience. But it didn’t stop there. When the sound check, too, was taking longer than they expected, people began chanting “Hijueputas! Hijueputas!” It means sons of bitches, in case you were wondering. Visitante, ever calm and mild mannered, faced the audience, smiled and shrugged as if saying, “Our bad,” but not without letting on that he was not in control and should not be blamed for the wait. Then the lights went wild. PG-13, aka Ileana, aka lil sis, began wailing to a calypso-meets-grunge groove. The length of her notes suggested something was about to happen. Then it happened. Residente burst on stage with a flurry of rhymes like haymakers to the audience’s bad mood. Who knows what he was saying. The point is, it worked. Residente’s energy drove the crowd. He hip-hopped from one end of the stage to the other, dancing, bobbing, and high stepping along the way. And the crowd’s eyes and attention followed. Everyone (or at least it seemed like everyone) knew the words and they sang as loud as they could. He was in a hoodie when he came out, but soon opted to lose it and sport a tank-top instead – consequently showing off his tatted arms. Oh how the girls loved that. “Ay que lindo!” (Oh, he’s so beautiful!) could be made out from the vague and random cooing that followed.
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Thankfully, it’s not all superficial for PR’s dynamic duo. Because Calle 13 rocks a full band – trumpet, trombone, congas, traditional drums and wood-and-cow-skin drums, bass and electric guitars – seeing Calle 13 live is more like being at a rock show than a rap or reggaeton concert. Here is where Visitante shines. He commands the seven-man band with as much ease, confidence, and creativity as his bro commands the mic. The dem bow beat, so prominent in reggaeton, takes a back seat in Visitante’s sound. It’s still there, marking the pace of the music, but it’s overshadowed by the elaborate guitars, trumpets, and keyboards.
It’s unfortunate that the venue’s acoustics were not up to par. The combination of the open-air structure and the poorly distributed speakers stole from an otherwise great performance by a finely tuned, incredibly in-sync band. The show barely lasted one hour and the brevity was magnified because of the delay. Even so, it was worth the wait. --Bryan Falla
Personal bias: Any band that sounds as good live as it does on CD is OK in my book.
Random fact: Residente holds a Master’s in Fine Arts degree from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
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