“Who?”. Only a few times in life, such a tiny three letter word can involve an instant headache, the urge to punch someone else’s stomach and make you wonder what the hell are people listening to nowadays. “Rodrigo & Gabriela”, is answered back, way too many times to keep track. And almost every time, all one gets was an odd look and a change of subject.
After an outstanding career with more than a decade touring around the world, 7 live and studio albums, participating in blockbuster soundtracks like “Pirates of the Caribbean: In Stranger Tides”, delivering memorable performances in some of the most important music shows, festivals, and before the president Barack Obama: Rodrigo & Gabriela are strangers in their own land.Juan Loco by Rodrigo y Gabriela
Many “artists” with half their achievements and not even 1% of their talent have always been worshiped in México. Sadly, meaningful and soulful music comes and goes without notice in our country. Way too many bands and singers are trapped in the underground music scene, and lack the resources and exposure to keep on doing what they love. In the meantime, talent shows, duopolized television networks and recycled 80’s songs pollute Latin radio stations and top charts. Fighting against this system is the ultimate challenge for anyone trying to succeed, and there are only 3 ways to choose from: sell yourself and give the mainstream what it wants in hope for better luck, stray true to your music and keep on trying or simply take the easy way out and give up.
Luckily, Gabriela Quintero and Rodrigo Sánchez decided to do it the hard way. And here they are now, coming back home to play for 2 back-to-back nights at El Plaza Condesa, in México City. Ending their two yearlong world tour in the city that once rejected and forced them to try to find success overseas, seems like the perfect way to closure the bad relationship they’ve experienced with the Mexican music scene: by turning the other cheek.
With a venue filled with metal heads, rock n’ roll fans, flamenco enthusiasts, movie geeks, grandparents, kids and all kinds of characters, anyone could practically realize that one of Rodrigo & Gabriela’s points when talking about their music is totally true: they are not keen on any particular style, their music can’t be classified, it’s not folk, it’s not flamenco or acoustic metal either. It’s a wide range of instrumental music: it’s just music for everyone. Words are not necessary to communicate emotions. And it truly feels that way.
Unlike other instrumental bands who try to transpose their studio albums by adding more musicians on stage, Rodrigo & Gabriela use what they can carry with their hands: just two acoustic guitars, guitars able to channel their charisma and energy into the audience. And that’s all they need to transform a normally awful Monday night into a memorable display of musical talent. It all began with a short speech by Rodrigo, recounting their last 2 years away from home and making everyone aware that this was an “anything goes” night. There would be no setlist, no rehearsed acts, nothing prepared: just whatever felt right.
And everything felt more than right: each and every note felt perfect. One hasn’t seen such performing and musical chemistry in two musicians since The White Stripes. The way they encouraged, challenged and drove each other around Hanuman, Diablo Rojo, Ixtapa, Tamacún and many other ear candy jewels, the head banging Rodrigo made while playing, Gabriela’s shyly kid-like speeches and jumps, the drum machine role happily played by the audience, their mind blowing guitar solos.
Are top chart hits necessary? Is recognition from heartless media a must? Is it worth playing what you hate as long as you become popular and rich? Don Rodrigo and la Señorita Gabriela said no to all of that. And a decade later, here they stand with their heads high, proud, smiling like kids playing their first chords on an instrument in every tune, enjoying themselves and proving everyone that doing what you love is bulletproof. Proving that there’s still hope for truthful music. These are two real artists, worth more than all the fake plastic talent created by the poisoned media. That the real prize is not your face in every magazine and your name on every wall: it’s the ability to put a smile upon the face of an entire crowd, no matter its size.
Rodrigo & Gabriela are México’s little giants. There is a joy in everyone touched by music that came from similar blood and roots. They are hope, and role models, for a country filled with musicians and music fans surrounded with violence. Fellow countrymen and women are able to escape to better places through their music. Our invisible champions. And for all that and even more, we say “gracias: we are proud”!
Written by Jorge A. López Mendicuti
Guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, law school graduate, amateur writer and music fan
P.S: thanks to Gabo, Fabián and specially Fabiola for sharing such a special night with me.