Las Cafeteras Setlist
03/30/17 Des Moines, IA Temple Theatre
03/31/17 St. Louis, MO Blank Space
04/01/17 Madison, WI Rederic March Play
04/04/17 Hailey, ID Sun Valley Center
04/05/17 Hailey, ID Sun Valley Center
04/06/17 Hailey, ID Sun Valley Center
04/07/17 Hailey, ID Wood River High School
04/08/17 San Francisco, CA Social Hall SF
04/15/17 Santa Cruz, CA Rio Theatre
04/20/17 Eugene, OR WOW Hall
04/21/17 Soul'd Out Music Festival
04/22/17 Seattle, WA Nectar Lounge
04/23/17 Laguna Woods, CA Laguna Woods
05/02/17 Austin, TX Flamingo Cantina
05/05/17 Lakewood, CO Lakewood Cultural
06/22/17 Oak Ranch Kate Wolf Music Festival
06/23/17 Oak Ranch Kate Wolf Music Festival
As the bands took to the stage, most people quickly abandoned their seats—
…not to leave the venue, but to get out on the dancefloor, as East Los Angeles Chicano band Las Cafeteras came to town, playing the Ordway Theater in St. Paul with a lively and inspiring set.
Local openers Alma Andina came on first, merging South American traditional folk with electro, cumbia, salsa, and merengue, for a sound of their own that clearly already has a devout area audience, witnessed by the amount of dancing and loud response from the crowd.
Their name (meaning “soul of the Andes”) makes reference to the high peaks of the Andes Mountains and had the audience on that same high, captivated by band director Vladimir Garrido and band. Most members hail from or have history in Chile, playing traditional instruments like flutes, mixed with more modern beats, blips, and effects and the band has several scheduled local gigs upcoming.
After a short break (and a breather for the dancers), the crowd ran to the dancefloor again as the headliners announced, “We are Las Cafeteras, from East L.A.!” reminding any still seated about the dancefloor- “Don’t be shy, it’s here for a reason”, bright red-haired singer Denise Carlos said.
In lieu of recent political events, the immigrant experience in contributing to this country- culturally, artistically and otherwise, has become more important to showcase, and the band’s unique Angeleno mix of the traditional music of Veracruz, son jarocho, with elements of hip-hop, beat music, Americana, rock, and cumbia, singing both in Spanish and English, personifies some of the best results of what an immigrant experience can offer as art.
That musical melting pot is on display with new album, Tastes like L.A., due out April 14, though concertgoers were offered an early purchase opportunity at the merchandise stand. The six-piece has four different singers, depending on the song, but David Flores is the enthusiasm leader, jumping about on guitar, dancing on a raised wooden platform called a zapateado, and inciting the crowd to let loose of any pent-up energy.
The very pregnant Leah Gallegos sang and played many kinds of percussion as well as an eclectic instrument called a jaranas- the jawbone of a donkey, while Daniel French kept to mostly guitar and keys, but would step out to the forefront for occasional hip-hop rhymes.
From the more traditional Mexican sounding openers ‘Café con Pan’ ‘El Chuchumbe’, and ‘Ya Me Voy’ (“so, that was our slow set”, Flores joked), sounds changed with back-to-back covers of American classics, ‘This Land is Your Land’ and ‘Ring of Fire’, the former actually being a deep protest song which is as vital today, as when first written.
‘Señor Presidente/If I Was President’ done midway through, explored what might become endangered by the current administration , with each band member explaining at the song’s breaks, what they would do if President, then asking members of the audience what they would do (i.e. LGBT rights for all, not building the border wall, universal health care, etc.).
‘Luna Lovers’ was a slower dreamier song, the music video by John Cantú capturing its essence by being inspired equally by silent film master Georges Méliès and the East L.A. community.
‘Trabajador/Trabajadora’ is one of the songs that most personifies the band- paying homage to migrant dreams and the working class, as well as honoring the generations before them, as surprise guest, local Latina soul singer-songwriter Maria Isa jumped on stage with the band during their last song of the main set.
The encore’s ‘Ni Una Mas’ (“not one more”) shone a spotlight on violence against women, known as femicide, an intense topic made more palatable by the band’s rhythms, and the mood then changed to more uplifting with the evening closing, ‘La Bamba Rebelde’.
Their update of the famous traditional song also doubles as the theme song for Telemundo's telenovela "Bajo El Mismo Cielo", and Alma Andina joined them on stage for a very crowded finale. The song’s updated lyric, "Yo no creo en fronteras, yo cruzaré!" (“I do not believe in borders, I will cross”) seems painfully too relevant today as countries retreat in isolation, fearful and overprotective of any outsiders.
With danceable rhythms, a joy in performing, and a socially relevant bridge-building message in their music, Las Cafeteras achieved what it set out to do in concert- through song, build a world where many worlds fit. It was enough to get you out of your chair- to listen, to dance, to feel, and to think.
Las Cafeteras at Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, St Paul (23 March 2017)