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When El Tri co-headlined a massive concert with the Rolling Stones in a Mexico City soccer stadium a few years back, Keith Richards sported an El Tri tee shirt, paying homage to Mexico's own version of the Stones. Like Richards, Alex Lora, the singer, bass player and songwriting force behind El Tri, was weaned on the blues and has remained true to the genre throughout a remarkable career that began in the late '60s.
The son of an Army captain and secretary, Lora studied in England, growing up listening to and playing English songs. His first band, Three Souls of My Mind, like many other Mexican rock bands of the era, emulated bands in the U.S. and England and then developed its own style of classic blues-based Mexican rock known as rock urbano. The band abandoned rock en ESL altogether when Lora became frustrated that their fans couldn't sing along. Later, he adopted the fans' adoring nickname for them, "El Tri," representing the three colors of the Mexican flag.
Also known as Chilango rock -- making reference to a slang term for residents of Mexico City -- the music's most prominent themes are politics, Mexican identity and, of course, love. El Tri songs are usually done in heart-rending tones, and fans soak them up much in the same way they inhale the polluted air around them, a painful reminder of a rough life in the barrio.
El Tri's simple and sincere approach has given them longevity -- and oddly wide-ranging mass appeal. Sammy Hagar, formerly of Van Halen, is a guy more known for his tunes about tequila, not his humanitarian efforts south of the border (he runs a Toys for Tots program in Cabo and has spoken about human-rights issues in Mexico). Nevertheless, Hagar, a self-proclaimed "gringo with a Mexican heart," has invited the band to perform as part of his "Cabo de Mayo" tour (he's also invited Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony to play with his band). In a recent interview with Quepasa.com, Hagar says, "They're a really cool band and I think they deserve exposure in America. I love turning my fans on to neat things."
That said, it'll be interesting to see how this mix of potentially combustible crowds finds mirth together in rock 'n' roll.