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[whitespace] Beck and Call

Mexico's Café Tacuba shares Midnight Vultures 2000 tour with Beck

By David Espinoza

SOMETIMES YOU GOTTA WONDER what they're thinking in those posh record company executive offices. One-man superstar Beck, the Ferris Bueller of rock & roll (freakoids, geeks, indie-rock snobs--they all love him) has been set up with a tour on which he's going to meet his match. While the darling of alterna-blah rock has reinvented and remixed genres to new heights, his opening act, four hombres from one of the biggest cities in the world, has gone a step further. The fact that the majority of folks attending Beck's Midnight Vultures 2000 World Tour, which hits the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on May 2, won't know a thing about Café Tacuba is unfortunate, but hey, there's room for forgiveness here.

For more than a decade, while American entertainment media have focused on the latest acts from English-speaking countries, an entire generation of cutting-edge Spanish-speaking rock y roll artists has been overlooked. This, of course, hasn't stopped the best of these bands, Mexico City's Café Tacuba being one of them, from selling millions of records in Latin America as well as the rest of the world, but it has made Spin and Rolling Stone look rather naive.

Of all the so-called rock en español bands that have been said to possess crossover potential, Café Tacuba has for the longest time been the foursome to bet on. Like Beck's, Café Tacuba's sound encompasses an eclectic bag of genres that have been spliced into oblivion then reassembled into fine pieces of mayhem. It is a sound indicative of the band's cultural roots, from traditional Mexican styles like banda, jarochos and norteña, all mixed up with American-originated themes like punk, industrial, funk, New Wave and sometimes hip-hop.

The significance of a Beck and Café Tacuba show can't be underscored enough. Latinos growing up in the U.S. have to know who Beck is, he's everywhere. Café Tacuba, on the other hand, is still by and large a secret that only U.S. Latinos know about. Few English-language radio stations seem ready to go completely bilingual ("Living La Vida Loca" doesn't count), even if the music fits the format. Indeed, we'll know the times are a-changin' when we hear Café Tacuba frontman Anonimo wailing right after a Smashmouth song.

Looking back at Beck's career, it all seems to make sense. He was born in L.A., his first hit had its chorus sung in Spanish ("Soy un perdedor"), the title of his sophomore major-label album, Odelay, is Vato-slang (pronounced "Orale") and he recently sang a song with Ozomatli at the Alma Awards--the guy is an honorary Chicano. That being said, this will be the first time such a highly acclaimed and successful American artist will be touring with an equally talented act from south of the border. Sure, there was the fluke show at which Argentina's Los Fabulosos Cadillacs played with the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, or some other American neo-swing band, but Beck teamed with Café Tacuba? Now that's hitting pure gold. Call it a product of globalization, the result of record companies spilling into other countries and gobbling up the local music establishment--alternative rock is about to get a wallop from a Mexican band it won't forget.

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From the April 27-May 3, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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