LIVE: Latino garage-rockers still groove, move
BY JOHN PETRIC, The Other Paper, April 16, 2009
Mexicans from Michigan: Who knew Tex-Mex bounce would meet up with ’60s garage rock just north of Detroit and we’d still be doing the Latino cave stomp 43 years later?
Thus it was Friday night at a packed Rumba Café as ? and the Mysterians laid an hour-plus of the sexiest punk-soul dance beats local hips and loins could ask for.
Cheesy vox organ, a drummer perfectly on the post-Motown “Goin’ to A-Go-Go” groove, the happiest bass player you’ve ever seen, a guitarist punching out power chords and the charismatically weird but fascinating ? himself. It all made for a rock ’n’ roll enchilada that ate us for a midnight snack.
Born Rudy Martinez but legally renamed Question Mark, ? was in his ’60s glory: red leopard-skin blouse tied at the midriff with billowing sleeves; prerequisite black sunglasses; black Mexican cowboy hat with the “?” patch on the front brim; and dancing a frenzy of dance steps the whores in Tijuana abandoned long ago.
You didn’t want to watch anybody else onstage. That’s because there was a fascinating weirdness about ?, a self-professed lover of science fiction who once maintained he was from Mars and grew up with dinosaurs. He looks like an Apache shaman you’d meet on a mescaline weekend in the high desert out West.
I liked the guy immediately.
He danced like a toreador version of Charo crossed with Mick Jagger, loose-limbed and hyper—and the dude’s, like, 68 or something. Ageless, really, yet lithe.
Unfortunately, too many in the crowd stood like gaping statues while the band that inspired the term punk rock (see Dave Marsh, 1971, Creem magazine) poured a withering soul-fire of hot dance music like a lava machine.
Most of the songs were derivatives of the Mysterians’ 1966 hit, “96 Tears,” but not slavishly so. Nearly every other song, the guitar and organ would drop out, and it would be just the bounding bass and drums carrying the groove. It was a beautiful device and worked magnificently. You simply could not flirt with the riff and then not embrace it.
As for ?, he would take advantage of the bass-and-drums break to step back from the mike and sensually move like you haven’t seen a grown man move maybe ever.
Raw sex was given a breather, and tenderness a chance, with a cover of an Otis Redding ballad. Awesome. ? had the crowd in the palm of his Latin hand by that point, and then it was back to the fierce Mexican soul-ified version of ’60s garage rock with “Girl, You Captivate Me,” the lyrics panting out a heat worthy of any crazed 16-year-old.
They repeated this pattern of four or five high energy tunes punctuated by a soul-ballad classic several times, giving their set depth and character. They encored with a primitive fuzz-drenched cover of the Stones’ “Satisfaction” after their set-crowning jewel, “96 Tears.”
On a bummer note, the opening band, Vegas 66, which has no idea rockabilly has a subtle swing but instead played as if the Ramones invented the genre. Hence, clunk-a-billy. Sad, really.