Photo by Matt OttoEL GRAN SILENCIO, JC FANDANGO, ANAHEIM WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15 El Gran Silencio's performance at JC Fandango proves that this most-hyped of genres still has the power to transcend our terrestrial realm. Or maybe it's just El Gran Silencio, the Monterrey quintet whose concerts remind me of that moment in the Bhagavad-Gita when Krishna reveals his thousand-suns glory to Arjuna—a fusion of rap, norteo, ska and metal so overwhelming that the only way to cope is by dancing until you're little more than sweat molecules.
El Gran Silencio started with the trilingual hip-hop/ragamuffin boast "Sound System Municipal," then segued into the chugging cumbia wheezes of "Cumbia Lunera." Following was a too-short two-and-a-half-hour performance featuring a perversely fecund mishmash of styles: power ballads such as "Djanme si Estoy Llorando" that would reduce the most tattooed H.B. bro to a sniffling baby; accordion ragas stolen from the Colombian jungles via India; maniacal horn-driven surf/rock ditties that could serve as a soundtrack for a Mexican remake of Beach Blanket Bingo. And you've never heard "Iron Man" until you've heard El Gran Silencio's version, a shotgun marriage of Los Tigres del Norte and Black Sabbath.
Provoking this sound-shifting mayhem was accordionist Campa Valdez, he of the dreadlocked mullet and warm-up shorts. His Pandora's Box of an instrument unleashed chaos across the JC Fandango dance floor: one group of rockeros kept catapulting brave bodies into the air in the hopes that someone would catch them; most fell like Icarus to the cement but quickly jumped up for more. Still others twirled around the dance floor with their beloved in slow, sensuous union even as the black center of the pit smashed with the ferocity of a Big 10 football scrimmage. Things were so beautifully hectic no one even cheered when Hernndez threw his tool about 10 feet into the air and caught it while lying on his back. And why would anyone notice, really? The crowd was too busy becoming one with the El Gran Silencio Void, gyrating to the commanding wheezes and squeezes of their chntaroavatar. (Gustavo Arellano)
THE AVENGERS Fitzgerald's, Huntington Beach Thursday, June 17 Avengers: so ferocious—for a sports bar. Old S.F. punk, but one of the best ones—shit on the Dead Kennedys, kid, and get Avengers and Crime!—and back for a quiet tour with a fit young rhythm section and two old-ish original members who looked real happy, which was okay because somehow singer Penelope still sounds green, mean and barely 19, and Avengers play songs like feeding fingers into a fan. They did everything you'd want to hear except "Fuck You" and "Second to None," and they played them faster and harder than the old records, and Penelope looked good—not lecher-good but wholesome-good, a Glenda in a bubble beaming beatifically off the front-row fistfighters, one of whom was a girl with a cane. It was such cuddly shit: lots of sing-alongs, to-a-person smile-alongs, girls all in denim and eyeliner clapping hands on their hips in time with the snare drum, and afterward, everyone lining up for photos with Penelope like a class field trip to see Sleeping Beauty at Disneyland. If it wasn't H.B., people would have hugged, or touched, or at least not slapped into one another so much. And around the peripheral: the old punks, the best, the loner guys with bad ties and bad posture, hiding under their droopy eyes and comb-overs and meekly handing Penelope a Dangerhouse seven-inch and a Sharpie. That's gotta read like some jive hieroglyphics to the baby boardshort set, so here: Do you ever feel like your dad is sad sometimes, and you can't do anything about it? That's because he had a life before you, and he misses it, and some nights, he wants to think about girls he knew before your mom. Anyway, the last Avengers show was 25 years ago this actual week; tonight, cameras flash like fingersnaps, and Penelope's got a CD crooked in between her knuckles and a smile that wraps around everybody like tinsel, and outside in the summer hum of the parking lot, guitarist Greg (and his daughter, who the door guy wouldn't let in because, said door guy told us, door guy is a "prick," and he is!) is talking to James from the Skulls—he was a little emotional, says James—and saying he was born and raised in Fullerton, but this is the first show he's ever played in Orange County, and it just feels really good. (Chris Ziegler)