Barrio Love

Photo by Matt OttoMANIC HISPANIC, GO BETTY GO
GALAXY CONCERT THEATER, SANTA ANA
WEDNESDAY, CINCO DE MAYO

It's a county springtime event that's beginning to attain the perennial frequency of San Juan Capistrano's swallows: the Manic Hispanic Cinco de Mayo show. Unlike the birds, however—who merely fly 7,500 miles from a small town in northern Argentina without the aid of modern technology—the O.G.'s of OC punk never disappoint, constantly delivering delightfully un-PC cholo-chic performances. And this most recent observance of the pseudo-Mexican holiday was no different.

After a lukewarm opening set from Glendale punkeras Go Betty Go—call us chauvinistic if you must, but we still maintain they're two chords short of a high-school talent show—Manic Hispanic's seven veteranos appeared to the roars and roncas of the packed Galaxy. They transformed the Galaxy stage into a Smithsonian fashion exhibit on the cholo: short-brim fedoras and mad-doggers dark enough to use as soldering goggles; Pendletons and bandannas; Dickies and those thick-striped black-and-gray polo shirts that look like Oakland Raider warm-up jerseys. Throw in some gangster struts and lingo, and it's a miracle someone didn't alert the guards at Folsom.

But all bowed down before head carnal Gabby Gaborno, splendorous in a sombrero and suspenders, his magnificent liposuction-free pansa a testament to Mexican food. The pocho ese'd through two hours of the Chicano-toned punk covers that rightfully earn Manic Hispanic their infamy. Best was a blistering cover of D.I.'s drug caution "Johnny's Got a Problem," here growled as "My Homeboy Is a Joto" and complete with simulated butt love between Gabby and bassist Warren Renfrow. When Gabby wasn't calling everyone mijo in an accent worthy of Cheech, he would just stand and pose, pachuco-style. ¡Orale, cabrón!

The bro- and homie-heavy crowd loved it—two fights broke out only half an hour into the performance, and the pit's brutish swirl would've classified as a race riot anywhere else in Orange County. Nevertheless, la naranja's boiling ethnic tension disappeared for an evening, thanks to the power of parody. "Today, I'm going to catch myself a skinhead!" Gabby sneered during an overrefried make of "American Society" before throwing a piñata into the crowd. The worst residents of Huntington Beach and Santa Ana united in tearing it to pieces—better than each other, you know? (Gustavo Arellano)

BABASÓNICOS, EL LEÓN, NUCLEO XALOS BAR, ANAHEIM THURSDAY, MAY 6

"A man is only as faithful as his options," Chris Rock once noted, so it's with great shame that this devout Catholic announces his first fling. There we were in Anaheim the day after Cinco de Mayo, disgusted with Latin music cathedral JC Fandango's showcase of stupid Mexican skankers Inspector. Down La Palma Avenue, however, beckoned an enticing affair: the tiny, svelte Xalos Bar was featuring the Argentine glam-rock godheads Babasónicos, who perform in the States as often as a Bush apologia.

We'd heard great things about Xalos ever since the owners bought the property last year and exorcised the vile white-power vibe the former tenant encouraged when it was called the Shack. Xalos has a ways to go, however, before it can seriously challenge JC Fandango's reign. For starters, the starters: while the wonderful Nucleo spun like the Tijuana equivalent of Gustavo Cerati's furtive electronic prayers, the dorky hacks of second act El León deserve deportation now. And though the club fills with beautiful people Friday and Saturday night, the Xalos folks need lessons in promoting to rockeros since maybe 100 of them attended this muggy night.

All grumbles quickly dissipated, thankfully, once Babasónicos took to the spartan stage. Fabulously fey lead singer Adrian Dargelos emerged from a side door dressed like a butch Evita Perón, bedecked in a glossy, sequined wifebeater with a glittery black brooch around his neck and jeans slung low enough to reveal his happy trail. Dargelos commanded his backing quintet through Babasónicos' extraordinary repertoire across musical frontiers—anguished, languid boleros imagined via a "Boys Don't Cry"-era Cure; electric gaucho rock full of strutting bass, twangy guitars and snappy cymbals; even a rap number done in Argentine argot that brought the carajos in the audience to howl in approval.

The bleary-eyed Dargelos talked little to the audience besides mumbling, "gracias" after every tune, but the audience didn't care: Babasónicos is so bloody talented that their impromptu twiddling during a five-minute technical delay early in the set exhibited more innovation than three-quarters of the mierda polluting the FM waves. And when Dargelos groaned the greatest lyric so far of the 21st century—"I'm a victim of a fragile, temperamental god, who instead of praying for me went to dance at the disco"—on the zither-backed "El Loco," Babasónicos moved beyond mere cult act and toward sages for the Americas. If Xalos hosts more shows like these, we'll sonically sin on a regular basis. (GA)

 
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