‘Mendicuti! How’ve you been? Hey, I need your help’. We all know that, when conversations with friends you have heard about in a long time start like this, something fishy may lie between those words. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case in this instance.
Instead of having those awful kind of favors people or long-time-no-see-you friends tend to ask, this was an offer this writer had long expected to come by: ‘Could you help me put up a concert for an artist called Niuver and maybe consider taking photos of it?’. Music and a full night worth of new concert photography? I was all in.
Trying to get all the stuff together for the show, only one fear came and went through my spine every now and then: would she be good? If there’s something our dear readers should know is that this writer likes to play something called musical Russian roulette, which consists in attending some random live shows and small gigs, without listening to the band or artist beforehand or at least avoid searching deeper into their back catalog. With just one song heard, two photos of her watched and my friend’s promise of a good show, it wasn’t a surprise that I looked like a jaw dropped idiot when this curly hair and mermaid looking girl stepped out of a small car and into the venue’s parking lot, gracefully waving her red dress here and there while chatting in both Spanish and French. It was her, Niuver had arrived.
Niuver’s “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas” (Live)
Her smile and the joy wrapped the band & their crew as they were all joking with each other while listening to a Cuban music trio in a restaurant next door were good signs. While some bands get stressed prior to their shows, these guys (and girl) seemed to be happily enjoying every moment of their current tour. After a few back and forths about how their tour through the country had been so far, the clock hit the 11 mark and it was time to see if the talent matched the vibe: the crowd was not disappointed.
Inside an intimate little venue at the back of a restaurant with a few lucky witnesses, three gentlemen awaited as a shy lady holding a guitar came onstage and, pushing her long hair away from her eyes, the first notes from Dime began and shyness became something else: a total display of stage presence.
There’s something special about small venues and intimate shows, the lack of contaminating factors such as big screens and the outer elements promote a deeper connection between performers and audience. In between songs, Niuver told the stories behind each tune, how they came to be, what they were about, who they were about and why she kept on singing them after those people and experiences had long been gone.
French and Spanish words came and went through the night with Sé que te vas de París, Quiéreme mucho, C’est toi que j’aime and another thirteen songs, with couples standing up to dance from time to time and that red dressed mermaid smiling here and there, captivating and contaminating the whole place with the wonderfully contagious disease of music-joy. Representing Cuba with the nation’s traditional theme Manisero and turning Déjame tu piel into the swan song of the night, three gentlemen and a lady gave a final bow before heading off to México City for a final performance a few days later with a promise of a quick return to a country that had embraced the uniqueness of an artist born out of a cultural clash.
Rock, blues, folk, country, alternative, English, French, Spanish, Latin, bluegrass: genres and languages won’t matter as long as the music and the artist itself is honest. The way those elements can amalgam themselves and give birth to something special doesn’t always finds the right formula, but when it does, why should we miss the opportunity to witness such a beautiful freak of nature?
It is always nice to play the musical Russian roulette from time to time. Dear readers, do yourselves a favor: happiness is a warm sonic gun, its bullet sometimes hits in the right place, and when it does, you are in for quite a ride.
Special thanks to Regina Peñalva and Noel Álvarez for an amazing show as first timers, Alfredo Navarro, her sister, Jorge and the rest of the band for quite a night.
Written by Jorge A. López Mendicuti
OurVinyl | Senior Writer & Photographer