I squinted at the small TV, trying to figure out what to make of the enthusiastic, eccentric performers on the screen. The small guy with the nasaly voice wearing an image of large breasts on his t-shirt. The slender pianist who paused his playing to raise his arms and do a dance from the torso up. The bear-like bassist with the wild mane of hair, and the similar looking guitarist – a brother? – who rocked to and fro with the beat. And then the guest artists – an intrepid violinist and a guitarist with thick curly hair who elicited roars of respect from the audience. As for the music? A delicious mix of regional Mexican sounds, hard core rock, sweet melodies and more sounds that were too diverse and surprising to identify at first listen.
It was my first experience with Café Tacvba, the legendary Mexican band that has recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Since that introduction – a DVD of their 1996 MTV Unplugged performance – I’ve joined a legion of fans stretching throughout Latin America, the United States and around the world.Even to Japan! Such was one discovery I made when watching the new Café Tacvba documentary, “Seguir Siendo,” at the Hola Mexico Film Festival last weekend. The movie focuses on the group’s recent experiences and performances, including a stunt in Tokyo. Thankfully, it avoids Spinal Tap-esque pitfalls and instead offers a rich musical and visual sensory experience. My favorite scenes show Gustavo Santaolalla – the Midas of the Latino music world and also one of the hairy men in the Unplugged DVD – working with the group and giving musical advice.
Is another 20 years in store for Café Tacvba? Who knows. All the members – Rubén Albarrán, Meme de Real, Quique Rangel and Joselo Rangel – have independent projects that hold potential. I saw Rubén perform recently with “Hoppo,” and the music was ecstatic and magical – something with a long life of its own ahead.
But whatever happens, I pray to some higher power that all the tribute bands will throw their drum machines off a cliff and bury their guitars in the sand. After the “Seguir Siendo” screening concluded, a Café Tacvba tribute band from Long Beach took the stage. They weren’t bad. But after experiencing nearly two hours of the genius of Café Tacvba? Absolutely nothing can compare.