San Francisco Bathhouse
February 13 | Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

SPANISH DJ Pablo Díaz-Reixa AKA El Guincho achieved some unexpected success in 2008 with his assortment of world sample goodness. Unexpected, because singers who sing in Spanish rarely achieve success in the Anglophonic world, let alone those who assemble a cornucopia of unusual sounds and samples into one gigantic party. Alegranza! was a great album, with minimalist loops of everything from ‘60s Cuban doo-wop to Kenyan guitar riffs. The album translated brilliantly live too – it was much more melodic than expected, and the crowd danced with unmitigated joy.

The night was opened by the Ruby Suns, the New Zealand artists who have been deservedly causing a stir in the US and UK in 2008. However, this was a particularly sloppy show. They were a two-piece for the show (probably for logistic reasons, but their sound suffered) and the mix particularly in the first half of their set was very muddy. At times, they sounded like a cheap version of an Animal Collective live show – the yelps and random drumming not really working as well with a poor sound mix. The crowd banter was cringeworthy – “we’re going to play a song” in-between long periods of silence, or asking if everyone here is still hungover from Camp a Low Hum which came out as in-jokey for half the crowd which didn’t go. But a particularly silly moment came when the band played their cover version of El Guincho’s most well-known song ‘Palmitos Park’. Sure they might be good friends, or they might have got Díaz-Reixa’s blessing, but it did strike me as a particularly odd choice for a band with so many great songs to stand on the main act’s toes. Especially since El Guincho himself played ‘Palmitos Park’ twice in his set.

El Guincho was a two-piece for the show, and the sound mix managed to work a bit better in capturing the polyrhythms and harmonies. The crowd was soon working its way up to a frenzy, jumping and bouncing with considerable fervour as Alegranza! was given its great live re-working. It was rather utopian, no-one really got in each other’s way, silly grins were tattooed on people’s faces, and there seemed to be considerable pleasure being had by the half-full crowd. Díaz-Reixa was enjoying himself too, profusely thanking the crowd, and appearing completely shocked that he’d been called for an encore after the main set. He was forced to confess that he didn’t have any more songs, so the crowd asked him to play ‘Palmitos Park’ again, which was attacked with considerable gusto. Hopefully he writes some more soon, because his existing songs are so damn good. The concert was so enjoyable, that despite being racially abused upon entering the street, nothing could remove the warm globalised glow that El Guincho had given. Maybe the racist should have headed up and seen El Guincho play – he might have learnt how fun the incorporation of a multitude of cultures can be.