It’s a mouthful: Heineken presents the Nacional Records Road Trip featuring Nortec Collective Presents Bostich & Fussible, Los Amigos Invisibles and Ana Tijoux.
Two “presents” in a single tour title? Damn. That takes some cojones.
Thankfully, this one delivered, as proven by all three of the billed acts at the House of Blues on Tuesday night. Packaged as a “road trip,” it is. Kind of. Tijuana’s Bostich & Fussible are only a few miles away down the freeway, and the once Caracas-based Los Amigos Invisibles now split band members between New York City and Miami. Only French-Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux had to cross an ocean to participate, but three globally divergent musical styles were represented.
I arrived early, and the venue was a ghost town. The only action in the house was a Heineken-based promotion where attendees could don anything from pimp caps, bunny ears, feather boas, bull horns, mini sombreros, Egyptian pharaoh hats or oversize pink sunglasses, then stand in front of a screen for 7-10 seconds to create their own flip-book. Drunk-people-watching is always a hoot, but somehow that much more so when there are props like rubber chickens involved. Plus, the DJ was killing, playing some of my favorite cuts from Bomba Estereo, Control Machete and Sidestepper (I mean, if you can’t dance to “Mas Papaya” from Sidestepper’s In Beats We Trust album, you have a serious problem).
But it was all just a mere warmup for the electric Ms. Tijoux. The ghost town transformed into a crowded floor when the tiny MC took the stage, and the audience showed quite a bit of love for the show opener. Dressed casually -- T-shirt, flannel, jean shorts and high-tops -- she patrolled the stage, spitting her mainly autobiographical, and mostly high-energy, rhymes with flair. Her keyboard player held things down with tight grooves, and I was sad to see her set end.
Next up were the Venezuelan funksters Los Amigos Invisibles. I’ve never seen them disappoint, and Tuesday night was no exception. As per usual, singer Julio Briceño was drenched in sweat by the second song, and it was literally flying off of him as the band cranked through an unbelievably spot-on version of Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Their relentless stage energy makes it hard for me to believe the band has been around for 20 years (!?!). But according to guitarist Jose Luis Pardo, whom I spoke with a few days before the show, they can’t quite believe it either.
“We really started the band when we were teenagers,” Pardo said, “so we really consider it a miracle that we’ve been together this long. We never thought we’d make it this far, and we never thought we’d be able to make a living at it. We just really like playing live music with each other. But it really is a miracle, and we’ve seen it all in this band. Really, for us, it’s about that experience, of seeing people having fun and dancing each night. We love it and we serve that.”
After their fiery set, it was amazing that anyone had the energy left to stick around for local faves Bostich & Fussible. The Norteño-electronic mash-up specialists kept the party going until well after midnight. It still seems so awesome to me that their special niche of music appeals so far across the board. But, ironically, when I spoke with Fussible (aka, Pepe Mogt) shortly before the show, he said there was a time when it didn’t even appeal to them.
“Me and Ramon have been doing electronic music for a long time,” he said. “It’s crazy to say, but we’ve been doing it since ’88. And at that stage, we didn’t even like Norteño. We hated it. In our minds, there was only electronic music. We were collecting drum machines and synthesizers, and doing projects based on technology. And then I started my career in engineering and computer science at university. But now with Ramon, we combine all the Norteños with all of that new technology. And when we make that mixture, it doesn’t sound like a Norteño house remix. We put all the sounds together and make it the right balance between both worlds.”
Balance was the theme of the entire night, and all three acts got it right. And for all of the cities on down the line -- whether you know these acts or not -- there’s just no reason to show up if you don’t want to dance.