Sunday, March 22, 2009

SXSW 09: De los Muertos, Piñata Protest

Posted on Sun, Mar 22, 2009 at 8:00 PM

De los Muertos

Let's take a brief moment to point out the obvious and say it's practically impossible to hear De los Muertos vocalist Paul Lopez without thinking of Tom Waits (especially since he performs in a fedora and sings about “gambling and boozing”) and the guitar and bass are often so surf-rock influenced, you'll picture the first scene of Pulp Fiction with nearly every riff. But if you're guessing at influences instead of watching them play, you're missing the point. Lopez's voice approximates the same sort of thumbtack-gargling growl as you know who, but when he's staggering around the stage in a bleary-eyed electric side, he seems completely himself. Have a look:

And the audience, just as clumsy, grins and dances along. “You're fuckin rock 'n' roll, alla yous,” Lopez says. But the music is more than Lopezâ??s stage presence. “Wanderer” has a country-western bounce and catchy “for crying out loud I'm just a man” hook seem destined for body-spray commercials (and that's a compliment), and vocalist Becca Najera's rough, booming voice (unfortunately victim to a bum mic setup) finds harmony in some of those seedy, poorly lit places.

Piñata Protest

For some reason, one of my favorite moments at the festival was immediately before this video when Alvaro Salas took out his pocket trumpet and asked “Anybody out there like to smoke pot?” For a second, it seemed like Salas might be showing off a trumpet-shaped bong -- this is Austin, after all -- but the band ripped through (urban?) legendary joint-butt ballad “La Cucaracha” in record-setting time. Most of Piñata Protest's originals have the same Flaco-Jimenez-with-a-mohawk vibe, an oi-punk/conjunto hybrid that gets the audience dancing and moshing simultaneously. Salas hits the accordion keys like he's finger-tapping on an electric guitar. “We're looking for an after party after the show tonight,” Salas says. Have fun. I'll be at home cleaning the beer out of my hair. Not that I'm really complaining.

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