Well, this weekend was exciting. I accompanied my buddy out to the O’hare Marriot where he (and to a MUCH lesser extent, I) interviewed, hung out with, and ate dinner with Los Tigres Del Norte, who, for those of you who aren’t Mexican, are one of the biggest bands in the world. The whole thing was a truly bizarre experience, made even more bizarre by the fact that they were such nice, awesome guys. They were engaging and attentive, asking lots of questions about my band and when they’d tell a story about, for example, a weirdo tour bus driver, they seemed genuinely interested in my own ancillary anecdotes about weirdo bus drivers. Not really what I’d expect from a bunch of dudes that are, in some places, more famous than Bono.
No one in dining in the hotel restaurant looked twice at these dudes, and we probably looked like quite a squad: three older Mexican dudes in really sharp velvety suits, a dirty punk and a European journalist in a blazer and Adidas. The conversation was pretty fluid, considering the differences in age/status/everything in the world that were on the table, and while I’m not gonna go into what we talked about (after all, it’s my buddy’s interview, not mine) I will say that the highlight for me was when we all got up to head to the show and the cooks and busboys all came out from the kitchen and swarmed the dudes for autographs.
That night, we went to the show at the Aragon, which is a 5k seater, a very small show for the Tigres, (every labor day they do 20 thousand people in Chicago, and they’ve sold out the Azteca in Mexico City which holds a dick-exploding 120,000) one that they called a ‘dance,’ and it was totally a dance. People on the floor and in the balconies were paired up, dancing by the thousands, packed together in the tightest crowd I’ve ever seen at the Aragon. The girls were all dressed up, vaguely slutty was about average, and the dudes were in cowboy hats, fancy jeans, boots and button up shirts with all sorts of shit emblazoned all over them. We mostly hung by the upstairs bar, drinking beer and watching from above, the two only white people in the place, and kind of marveled at how totally we were immersed in this culture of what’s known as narcocorrido, which is, and I’m not shitting you here, German style polka music, played by Mexican dudes, with lyrics all about cartels, drug deals, smuggling and murder. It’s insane. And the whole genre was invented by Los Tigres Del Norte.
Rumors abound that some of the newer musicians, like the main support act from the other night, actually work on retainer or at least are funded on a project-to-project basis by the cartels themselves. What this means, is they (allegedly) get paid by these drug kingpins in central and south America to write songs about certain cartels, and even certain guys and specific smuggling missions that got pulled off, and also about how the other, enemy cartels are inferior at smuggling/have small dicks/whatever.
This can get pretty ugly and in fact a lot of times these dudes wind up getting killed by the opposing cartels. These songs, apparently sometimes are used as a soundtrack to youtube videos of hitmen carrying out murders. The whole thing is pretty wild, it’s insanely high stakes songwriting for one thing, and for another thing, it’s WAY more gangster than any gangster rap. These songs are literally dangerous and these dudes are really being snuffed out and, well…it’s pretty crazy when you consider the way the music sounds and the dudes who are playing it.
Every band I saw play that night (and I guess it’s important to mention that Los Tigres are not affiliated with any sort of illegal organization. They just write songs, and stay out of politics) was wearing matching skin tight denim jumpsuits. There were lots of cowboy hats and spangly boots on stage. Rhinestones were everywhere. Each band had matching back patches that made the whole thing look kind of like a roller disco. One of the bands had a tuba player who rocked a mosaic tuba that was covered in all sorts of reliefs of diamonds and flowers and Frida Kahlo type shit, and every band featured, at its heart, an accordion. It was so un-badass, in terms of what I’ve been raised to be cautious around that it was almost comical. But, make no mistake, these are probably the most bad ass musicians on the planet. It reminds me of the Maori a little bit.
It’s said, and I’ve seen pics, though I’ve never been to NZ, that the Maori tend to wear things like baby blue short shorts and pink tanktops, and that they’d undoubtedly be mercilessly teased for their clothes if it wasn’t for the fact that they’re all huge monsters who could, and will happily pummel the shit out of just about anyone for any reason at all. These narcocorrido dudes weren’t dressed like AC Slater, but they were undeniably dressed like backup dancers for the Jackson 5 or something. And despite the fact that the subject matter of the lyrics was pretty dark, the music is unabashedly upbeat sounding. The whole thing was weird and awesome and it was a great experience, that left me with the buzzing of an accordion stuck in my head and a desire to get some rad cowboy boots.
Speaking of rock shows in big rooms, my band is playing with the Dead Milkmen at the Congress this weekend. Come out and have some fun. We’re gonna do something pretty special for our set, something we’ve never done before and will maybe never do again, so if you’re on the fence, you should probably head down. I promise water cooler talk the next day.
Okay, I’m gonna go to an appliance parts warehouse and try to find a new timer for my washing machine, so I’ll see you dipshits later.