Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pupy prelude and a date with Alaín

Pupy gets ready to show his despelote.

Pupy had said at the last Thursday double bill with Yoruba Adabo double bill that it would be a regular, but I had heard him talk before of residencies that never were, so I was a little sceptical - even more so when Maraca’s name went up on the cartelera. But a phone call to Duni confirmed that the two were indeed playing together at Galiano. Woo!
My fellow farandulera (MFF) and I had arranged the day before to do an interview with Ricardo, from Salsa Mayor/Son Yoruba in the afternoon, so he came round and had a beer and we talked about his very interesting career (short version: born in Russia, no formal training, has sung with a bunch of bands in his 24 short years on this earth. Long version will go up when I return). One anecdote I will reveal now is that he tried out for Pupy after Pepito left, but he clashed with Mandy and didn’t get the gig. Which is pretty tragic considering that not long after that, Mandy was gone.
Afterwards, MFF, Ricardo and I went down to Galiano. He lives literally around the corner and when we walked in he said: "I’m tired of coming to this place." Sometimes I feel the same and I’m only here for six weeks.
It was a lot busier than for the previous week’s Pupy gig and got busier still - obviously the word had got out, though I have no idea how. (Duni said, “promoción”. I said, What promotion? He shrugged.)
I had a dance or two with Ricardo - as well being an ace singer and frontman, he is a cool dancer. And he has excellent manners. You could take him home to meet your mum.
Los Que Son Son hit the stage for the curtain raiser, Que cosas tiene la vida, then Yoruba Andabo took over, as they had last week. The rumba dancers were all gussied up this week - I kind of liked them in funked up streetwear better. They had much less room, as the dancefloor was so crowded. I hate to think what it was like for them to dance on, cause as was usual for the Casa in that state there was spilt beer and rum all over the place. But they managed.
While I was hanging with Duni, Rusdel came by and chatted. Turned out he has asthma and had spent the day at the hospital. (Turned out my ex had too). I couldn’t imagine how he could sing in that state, but he did. He put on a pretty good show, too.
Pupy returned with Se parece a aquel. I had a dance with Ricardo, but the floor was so crowded that it really wasn’t much fun, and when Un poquito al reves started, I scooted down the front with him in my wake.
Norberto did a great job again (seems that it was only the first night I saw him do it that he stuffed it up) and an even better job on Dicen que dicen later. That was really beautifully sung, perhaps even better than - dare I say it - Pepito? Later on, I told him he had sung well, and he made the sign for más o menos. That’s pretty in character for him. Still, better that than the kind of person who says, “I know! Aren’t I great!?”
In the meantime the band totally cooked: all the singers were really going for it - it was probably Michel’s best performance; he was very outgoing; and Pupy was up and dancing with the singers and smiling a lot. I guess the huge crowd had a lot to do with it.
Lazarito from Bamboleo was there. To be honest I would have preferred Pupy to have kept playing - it was during Si me quieres conocer, which has been funkified no end live, and Lazaro didn’t really know the new arrangement, so it wasn’t quite as good as usual. But you know, it’s Si me quieres conocer, so it’s still fantastic.
Unfortunately Calla calla made a return. I sat down. Fortunately Timba a Pogolotti was next and I got up. And made Ricardo get up too - how mean! The dancefloor by this time was just a mess. Once Yoruba Andabo joined Los Que Son Son on stage, there seemed to be almost as many people on stage as in the audience. It was one big locura - the place was going off. It was all a bit too untamed for me - the curtain came down, and me and MFF got out. We had three hours to chill before our first date with Alaín Daniel.
Or so we thought. Turned out to be a bit longer than that.
We cooked up a stir fry and watched an Argentine telenovela, then headed to the Capri. The hotel itself is all boarded up with corrugated iron, but the lights were blazing outside Salon Rojo and there were masses of cars parked outside. The scantily clad farandula were making their way inside.

Alaín and corista.

The Salon now has fluorescent tubes inside the chandeliers and lasers. PMM was on before Alain - a kind of package of DJs and dancing (I use the term loosely) girls. The music wasn’t bad - remixed R&B mostly, but there was nowhere to sit as usual. Soon Edith from the music TV show Donde si no/23 y L came out as MC. She jiggled around a bit and gave the cartelera but didn’t really say much over all. Then came a bunch of girls and one guy. They were all very thin and dressed in elaborate outfits and their choreographed moves consisted mainly of them striking poses. They went and changed into more elaborate outfits and we got the same again. The third time, they actually danced to Vogue - including choreography from the original Madonna video. I ran the gamut of emotions from perplexed to amused to irritated. The first was resolved when Edith announced a fashion show: they were all skinny and didn’t dance because they weren’t dancers, they actually were models. Qué comico!
The girls came out one by one and posed in a series of outfits, beginning with a nautical theme and ... oh for god’s sake. Clearly this is just something to get guys into the clubs. It wasn’t over soon enough. I mean, really wasn’t over soon enough: Alaín didn’t come on until 1.30. One-thirty.
Lucky for him, he and his young combo fully rocked. Oddly he did very little from the new album Vestigios - only Se pegan and La Miky. He did a Manolín medley (kind of baffled by that, on many levels) and a few songs I had never heard before. And lots of little snippets of things. But it was all good.
The band, which seems to be more or less the same musicos as the last few years (the gordita on guiro has gone - there is no guiro - now and it’s possible the baterista is new), is supertight and looks like they’re all having fun. His bass player is not only one of the funkiest in Havana, but quite possibly one of the sexiest as well. His piano player dances like mad man - I have no idea how he still manages to keep his hands on the keys. His tecladista is hepcat cool like Betty. Or Veronica. (I can’t remember which one played tambourine and which one played keyboards.) He has great coristas and good metales. Then there is the man himself: suave and hardcore timbero at the same time. It’s a great package over all.
The farandula were out in full force, including Azucar Negra’s Ailyn, who was wearing a mini dress slashed to the waist (I have photos), the usual Los Angeles de la Habana crowd; and some gang I didn’t recognise who came with their own bodyguards (wtf?).
Ailyn did a nice turn on the mic, and didn’t overstay her welcome. The same couldn’t be said for various other raperos (or whatever they were) - Se pegan went for about 30 minutes, and not much of it featured Alaín. Lazarito did a ballad with Alain and the sexy bajista, seemingly teaching the latter the song as they went. It was his third gig of the day: in between Pupy and Alain, Lazaro had played with Bamboleo at La Tropical (according to the radio anyway, I didn’t actually go).
Salon Rojo still has the best sound in town, and great lighting too, but it still has the worst set-up: too many tables and chairs; and nowhere to stand and watch that doesn’t find you buffeted by the passing crowd. Forget about a place to dance.
We left thoroughly exhausted at 3am, our hair and clothes reeking of cigarette smoke. Can’t wait to see him again next week. But I wouldn’t complain if he played somewhere else...

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