Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rockfest 2011 - Rock of Ages!

Last month I wrote about a quiet evening of musical entertainment that was held in a neighbour’s home (A Little Night Music – Loreto Style) in which I talked about the relative scarcity of live music here. Well, this past week there was an event that was one of the exceptions – Rockfest 2011, which was held at Del Borrachos, a favourite western saloon style watering hole located just off the highway, a couple of kilometres south of the town of Loreto.

First of all, a few words about this venue, which I have also mentioned in these pages before, Del Borrachos (which, appropriately enough, can be loosely translated as The Drunkards) is one of the busiest and most popular eating places in town, due in large part to the short order culinary skills of Chole, co-owner with her husband Mike. In addition the locally famous El Guapo con papas (“Whopper” hamburger with fries) which is the closest to a “cheeseburger in Paradise” that I have ever found, there are other menu favourites like the half head of Romaine lettuce with chicken Caesar, and Thursday’s special lasagne. All of these great meals are ordered at the counter in one corner of the large open room, which has about a dozen tables and several pool tables and large screen TV’s, and then the orders are prepared in a deceptively small, but efficient kitchen. Across one end of the room is the bar where draft and bottled beer are dispensed along with the regular assortment of other spirits.

However, for the Guerra de Bandas (Battle of the Bands) the regular outside patio area had been supplemented by several shade tents under which were dozens and dozens of plastic Tecate (Beer brand) chairs in what is usually the parking lot. Set up in front of the seating area under another couple of shade tents, was a temporary bandstand with banks of speakers and amplifiers and a drum kit which would be used by the more than half dozen bands scheduled to perform during the afternoon and evening.

One of my neighbours and I arrived before the 2:00 pm start time to get a good table and enjoy our lunch before the festivities began. We chose to sit outside on the regular patio, to one side of the temporary seating area, but with a good view of the stage. Meanwhile, inside, the main room was filling up with a late lunch crowd and gradually the outside chairs and tables started to fill up with other early birds for the entertainment.

After several sound checks by different bands coming and going from the stage, the first set began. Now I confess that I will not be able to report accurately on all the names of the different groups that performed and in what order – blame the language barrier, the somewhat distorted PA system, and, yes, perhaps the combined effects of frosty pitchers of Negra Modelo (one of my favourite domestic beers, amber with a nice hoppy aftertaste). But, the groups included Black Dog and Mi Name is Pancho, both from Loreto, and Pigstail, and Rockstar Again from as far as La Paz and Los Cabos along with a number of others.

What became apparent was that the groups played in what appeared to be approximately age order with the youngest on first, and the band members got older as the afternoon progressed. What also became apparent was that there is some serious talent among the younger generation here. Although the repertoire and styles of music varied from group to group, there were a generous number of what I would loosely describe as “Classic Rock” and Blues standards as well as some original material in Spanish. In fact, a number of times I was struck by the incongruity of hearing mainly unintelligible (to me) Spanish lyrics in one song, followed by a familiar “classic” sung in apparently unaccented English by the same vocalist. This left me wondering whether this indicated that there was actually a high level of fluency, or alternatively, a near perfect mimicry of these “foreign language” songs.

I also realized, that for many of these young groups, some of the music they were doing these great renditions of, I had been listening to for more than forty years! (Having just recently ushered in a new decade on my last birthday, I am, admittedly, somewhat sensitive on the general subject of aging anyway!) This brings me to one of my infrequent “rants” about the undeniable significance and cultural impact of MY generation’s contribution to the music iconography! When else is history has the popular culture, and more particularly, that culture’s young generation, continue to listen to and, in this case, perform, music that was created several generations earlier. That would be the equivalent of my generation in the 60’s, listening to, and being artistically influenced by popular music from the 1920’s!

In fact, one of my favourite ways of defining myself, in terms of my Boomer credentials, is to say “I saw the Beatles live on Ed Sullivan” which is, I think, undeniably a cultural touchstone and reference point for people of a certain age – like me! Anyway, I digress (again), the juxtaposition of Mexican teenagers singing 1960’s American and British Rock and Roll in flawlessly unaccented English, while playing thunderously loud electric guitars in the parking lot of a western-style saloon on a dusty side-road in Baja Sur Mexico was a delicious cultural experience!

An experience that was shared by what eventually became a standing room crowd of a couple of hundred avid fans who packed the saloon to overflowing, filled every chair and table in the patio and parking lot and finally stood shoulder to shoulder on the veranda and ringing the seating area. But it was not just the numbers that impressed me – but the diversity of the crowd as well. I saw many friends and neighbours from Loreto Bay, as well as a number of Mexicans who were employed there and many more that I recognized from town. That in itself was to be expected, given that this was one of the entertainment highlights here of this winter, but what was unique about this crowd was the large numbers of really young kids who were there with their parents – Rock and Roll is a family affair, just like so many things are in this very family oriented culture.

Perhaps the subject matter is clouding my judgement, but as I write this the morning after, I am reminded of the lyrics of a song from the very same era that I have been describing, although I confess Neil Diamond is not my usual first choice in music – “Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies and everyone go!” And that just about sums up the mood and nature of the crowd, everyone from leather skinned senior citizen ex-pats to goth garbed, gelled haired Mexican teenagers and middle aged middle class Mexican family groups complete with toddlers . Oh yes, and I can’t forget, there were also two caballeros in full cowboy regalia who rode in on their horses and (appropriately enough) and were able to leave their mounts conveniently tied up to the hitching rail by the front door of the saloon, in the shade of a 20 foot high inflatable plastic Pacifico beer bottle – only in Mexico, pity!

So that was my experience this week, sharing music with friends and strangers on a perfect sunny afternoon with a light breeze making the 80 degree temperature even more ideal (is it really February everywhere else?) and watching the nearby mountain horizon turn into a purple black silhouette as the sun set behind – it seldom gets better than this, even when you are “Living Loreto”!