On Monday I went to the second concert of my four-day NYC vacation: Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street. The first time I ever saw that band was at the very same venue in 2009, and to this day it stands as one of the most fun concerts I have ever been to, so I was very much looking forward to a repeat performance. Every time I’ve seen them, the band has had a different line-up – this time we had a fairly pared-down version: Marc Ribot on guitar; Anthony Coleman on keyboard; EJ Rodriguez on percussion; Brad Jones on bass; and Cougar Estrada on drums.
The Cubanos Postizos are sort of a genre unto themselves – I guess I’d have to call it Cuban jazz put in a blender with punk, a dance party, and that distinctive Ribot guitar flavor. What comes out of that blender is an awful lot of fun. Happily, Le Poisson Rouge removed all the tables and chairs from the main floor to make room for those of us who wanted to do some dancing – I’ve seen the Cubanos at a nice, seated venue and it just doesn’t feel right…
Mr. Ribot started the evening with a bang, saying: “You may have noticed something: there’s no chairs! There’s no tables! SO YOU BETTER DANCE!” Then he let out a wordless shout (out of sheer enthusiasm, from the sound of it) and launched into the fast-paced and light-hearted Los Teenagers Bailan Changui from the Cubanos’ debut eponymous record. After treating us to 15-20 minutes of fast music to get our feet moving, they shifted down a gear and played a more slow-burning song, Fiesta en el Solar, from the same debut record, and then Dame un Cachito Pa’Huele from their followup album, “Muy Divertido!” After a few more dance-friendly tunes, they moved into one of my very favorites: Aurora en Pekin. The studio version of that is not just one of my favorite Cubanos tunes, or one of my favorite Ribot pieces, but really one of my favorite all-time pieces of music ever. Pure perfection. Naturally, when I realized they were playing it, I filmed it, and since I had gotten there really early, waited in line in the pouring rain for 40 minutes, etc., etc., I was right at the edge of the stage in front of Marc Ribot:
Also included in that video is Yo Soy un Postizo, another favorite of mine (and a near-fatal earworm – be warned!). After the solemn intensity of Aurora, that one got us dancing like crazy.
They moved right into another perfect pairing of a slow tune and a fast tune, and once again it was two of my favorites: No Me Llores Mas, which is slow and erotic and featured some hellacious bluesy soloing; and Choserita Plena, which is a serious contender for the most fun song in the Cubanos’ repertoire and had the crowd dancing like mad again. I left my camera rolling on the stage while I danced the night away…
After about 90 minutes, the show was wrapped up with a quick encore, El Divorcio, a surprisingly cheerful song about getting a divorce. (I suppose not every marriage is meant to last.) It was a great show, I haven’t had that much fun in ages. And the dancing really loosened up the stiff neck and back I’d been working on – once again I am saved by the healing power of live music!
I’ll just mention here that you can get the Cubanos’ debut self-titled album for ten dollars, and it’s really an amazing album. Tom Waits has mentioned it as one of his all-time favorite albums. Don’t you want to be like Tom Waits? Sure you do. We all do. Also, I know it’s last minute, but if you’re in France, the Cubanos Postizos are playing shows in Lyon and and Toulouse this very weekend! June 15 and 16. Check out the concert listings here, there are lots of tour dates coming up in other places too.
I also want to give special mention to the opening set – Edmar Casteneda played his harp for us, and it was just amazing. I had never heard of him before that night, and I’m really glad I was able to hear him play. Beautiful. I’ve never seen anyone play a harp like that before (although, granted, I haven’t seen very many harpists). He played a Tiny Desk concert at NPR a few years back, which you can watch here: