One More (Sweetest) Thing: Encore in LA w/ La Santa Cecilia
I’m back. Yeah, I know I said my good-byes already, but I’ve had an epiphany, okay? Epiphanies are good. We call them ‘piffs’ in the trade of desires and obliquities. This one is called La Santa Cecilia. Now I don’t know who the group is named after, and I’m too lazy to Google it, since it really doesn’t matter—probably the patron saint to somebody’s hometown in Mexico or beloved Aunt Cecily or something. It really doesn’t matter. Whoever she is: she’s cool.
Now it’s no big secret that I’m not LA’s biggest civic booster, considering its constant need for approval as a major world city to be definitive proof of the very opposite. But it HAS gotten better over the last 20-30 years—much better—a revived downtown sufficient evidence of that, and the fact that I’ve survived most of the last five years (t)here without a car as the definitive proof. But still, in comparison to New York? Yeah, right…
Until now LA has been a paragon of the contradictions that define modern America: wealth and poverty, privileged and needy, American and Mexican, entrenched power and massive immigration. And that’s generally reflected in the entertainment, too. Latinos have their gigs and ‘real Americans’ have theirs. LA arts-clique-approved Latino groups like Nortec Collective from TJ and that Bosstich/Fussible act they do don’t really resonate with la raza, and homeboy success stories Los Lobos and Ozomatli only do marginally better.
This dimensional divide is mostly hidden to casual onlookers, of course, almost by definition. So when Jenny Rivera died and half of LA County went into deep mourning, the uber-hip DJ’s from ‘influential’ KCRW had to go to Gustavo Arellano (‘Ask a Mexican’) and ask “WTF”? (I’m half-joking: actually they went to Betto Arcos from KPFK).
But it’s not just a city/country thing, either. No, it’s a raza thing. When Mexican rock super-group Mana’ comes to town and sells out four consecutive nights at Staples Center downtown, it doesn’t even rate a mention in the local press. When they tour US stadiums with buddy Santana—CARLOS—Santana is the opening act! It’s like another dimension.
Until La Santa Cecilia. I never thought I’d see the day when a fat-ass Mexican mama, with babe at the breast, teenager in tow, day-labor husband in hand, and cousin Lupita la puta by her side, would be standing front-row-top-dead-center-stage mouthing the words to every song by a group on a stage intended for an LA fusionista audience. I have seen the light, and I have seen the future, and it is good. This is a breakthrough nortena/ranchera/corrida/cumbia/como-se-llama group—as if such a thing could possibly exist—and they are on the move, with Grammy in hand.
The chemistry between lead singer La Marisoul (pun) and accordionist Jose ‘Pepe’ Carlos is infectious and it just gets better from there. These guys can not only boogie, in multiple languages, in retro-fashion schtick,but their political street cred is very much in order, thank you. The tears on these love songs are real. I don’t even object when they bring up the Oaxacan musical youth orchestra for collaboration. With anybody else, I would. These guys are the real deal. Check ’em out.
It ain’t over till it’s over. Grand Performances downtown at the water court is the place to be this weekend with Carmen Rizzo and DhakaBrakha Friday night, then Malaysia’s Yuna on Saturday night. Sounds good. Me, I can’t decide between Rialto or Club Congress here downtown in Tucson. But I’ll be back… There just may be hope for LA after all. BTW ‘Santa Cecilia’ is the patron saint of musicians in the Latin rite. You may have heard that here first, maybe not… I’m outta’ here…