NEW YORK By day the Latin Alternative Music Conference centered on such industry-specific workshops as instrumental techniques and an A&R panel; by night, however, the focus was squarely on music.
(Click here for the full report on the music at the conference.)
On Sunday, a Central Park concert featuring Argentinian rappers Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas drew nearly 10,000 people, some of whom had participated in a Dominican-pride parade earlier in the day.
The ongoing Watcha Tour rolled into Irving Plaza on Monday. Headliners Molotov, the Mexican hip-hop group that sports three bassists, were joined by Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas, Texas punk band Vallejo and Puerto Rican rockers El Manjar de los Dioses.
The latter scored the night's most theatrical points with their performance. As a screen lifted, the audience saw El Manjar's flamboyant singer, Jose Luis Abreu, draped in a black gown with lace covering his face. A towering figure dressed as a gypsy, complete with feathered black headdress and multicolored skirt, swayed in the background. Then, a young woman emerged from under the gypsy's dress and approached the singer. After letting out a piercing scream, the woman ran offstage and Abreu emerged dressed in a sequined red and black outfit and black bandana.
The band then kicked into a set of Caribbean-tinged rock. The rhythms incorporated traditional island folk music, but the sound was all rock 'n' roll crunch.
Vallejo's performance also turned heads. The band presented itself as a three-guitar juggernaut with solos as fast and as intricate as those of early-'80s heavy-metal guitarist Randy Rhoads. Lead singer AJ Vallejo was a ball of energy, jumping up and down throughout the performance, switching between English and Spanish (at this mostly Spanish affair) and providing the festival's dirtiest moment. At one point, he jumped onto a platform extended above the stage, where a young woman was filming the show. Vallejo put his crotch against her camera lens, exposed his goods and wiggled.
An awards show assembled by Latin-rock magazine La Banda Elastica and hosted by former MTV VJ Noel and King Changó singer Andrew Blanco took place at Irving Plaza the following night. Ozomatli (Best Rock Band), Molotov (Best Live Band) and Gustavo Cerrati (Best Album) won awards for their 1999 work. Mariachi-rap band El Gran Silencio, ambient singer-songwriter Julieta Venegras and Riesgo de Contagio also played warmly received sets.
Thanks to an obviously partisan crowd, the night's biggest attraction was the popular Colombian art-rock group Aterciopelados. One young man, with an exalted look on his sweaty face, waved the yellow, red and blue Colombian flag as he sat on another fan's shoulders. And in the most festive mosh pit Irving Plaza may ever see, several dozen teens formed a circle, arm-and-arm, and leapt joyously as Aterciopelados played such kinetic electronic-rock songs as "El Estuche" (RealAudio excerpt).
Aterciopelados' music combines influences from several sources: the trip-hop of Portishead, the jagged darkness of U2 and PJ Harvey, the keyboard-driven pop of Simple Minds and the disco-rock of Luscious Jackson. The unifier throughout the eight-song set was lead singer Andrea Echeverry. The vocalist is an extremely tall and gangly figure with dark brown eyes and a raspy voice. At certain times, she closed her eyes, apparently caught up in her own passion. At others, she was playful and undeniably charismatic. Between songs midset, she peeled her thin white jacket off her right shoulder and, in mock titillation, rolled that shoulder in profile.
Despite being booed for speaking in English, former Oingo Boingo member John Avila delivered what at least one of the event's organizers believed would be the central message of the Latin Alternative Music Conference.
"We are in the middle of a revolution," Avila told the crowd. "Rock en español is taking over the world, and it's all in your hands."