Latin Alternative Music Conference
Indie Musician Showcase
July 11, 2007
New York, NY
So last night I headed out to the Mercury Lounge, where the LAMC indie showcase was already unfolding. The venue is a small room located in the city's Lower East Side (also dubbed East Village), and is located about a block away from Katz' Deli, which became known for the infamous Meg Ryan fake orgasm scene on 1988's “When Harry Met Sally”.
I caught the last few songs by the B-Side Players. The mood around the venue was mostly about networking. As I pulled out my notebook (I was standing next to another writer, who contributes to a World Music magazine I also write for) to take notes about the show, members of Denver-based Panal, a rock en espaňol band attending the conference was quick to hand me a promo CD of their work, which I haven't yet been able to listen to. A few minutes later, a promoter for an independent label also spotted me and handed me a single by the Hip Hop Hoodios that is supposed to be appearing sometime in the near future.
I really enjoyed the set that Argentinian trio Austria played --- they hadn't been billed in the first place, for they were a last-minute replacement for a scheduled band that wasn't able to make the show. They mostly played folkie ballads in Spanish that spoke mostly of longing and yearning without exactly sounding cheesy.
Next up was Mexico City's own Austin TV, a group of five musicians who appear onstage wearing weird green masks (at least they don't attempt to clone Slipknot). They took about 40 minutes to get ready, but the wait was worth it. The band plays instrumental music clearly inspired by 70s prog-rock but keeping a keen eye on heavy metal tendencies.
I didn't particularly dig the costumes – they dress up in silly British schoolboy costumes (think Angus Young) and cover their faces with leafy green masks (in the past, they dressed up in extraterrestrial outfits). The gimmick is possibly intended to conceal not only their faces but also their ages – a close look at what their masks reveal show that they don't seem to be any older than 20 years old.
The music, however, is very grown-up. As they finished their first number,they introduced themselves and told the audience (both in English and Spanish) that they believe that music has no frontiers. They also explained that they are an instrumental band and advised the audience to “feel the music”.
One of the highlights from their short set was “Marduk,” which began as a slow ballad but evolved into an all-out Metallica-inspired tune, inserting complicated instrumental textures within the music. Guitarists Chato and Oiram (as they are identified on their MySpace page http://www.myspace.com/austintv) have great chemistry, and the other members of the group are pretty proficient on their instruments. I specially liked the work by drummer Xnayer, who commanded the sticks with the expertise of a weathered professional.
Over a chat with LAMC publicist Josh Norek (from the Nacional label, to whom most of the conference's headliners are signed to), he told me that the point of the conference itself is not to make money (“We're lucky if we break even,” he said with a chuckle), but to promote Latin musicians who would not be able to find an audience on their own without this kind of event.
That does ring true – I have participated in earlier editions and today many of the bands – which are not household names in their own countries – are familiar to me. -- Ernest Barteldes