El Tri and Chido Fest, Comerica Theater, 5/18/12

El Tri, Celso Piña, Inspector, La Lupita Comerica Theater Friday, May 18, 2012

In the buildup to last night's Chido Fest featuring Celso Piña, Inspector and La Lupita, frontman Alex Lora of host band El Tri told us that the event would be a great chance to hear all sorts of variations of rock en español. The Mexican icon delivered on the promise assembling a blistering set that was part dance party, part mini-maelstrom.

But before I get into my review of the event, I feel like I need to give readers a primer. While I can't profess to be an expert on Mexican vernacular, I think it's important to address a few words and sounds that are generally heard at a rock en español concert.

Chido: Loosely, it just means cool. It's pretty much complimentary.

Chiflas: These are various whistles. Mexican whistles are loud and generally sound like this. Culero: It means asshole. It can be used both as a term of endearment amongst buddies, as well as a diss. It's interchangeable with the word cabron.

Chinga tu madre: If I need to define this one, you haven't lived in the Southwest long enough. If you can't figure it out, Google it. My mom's going to trip on me for saying it in Spanish, let alone defining it for y'all. Funny enough, it's not always used as it translates.

As you can see, there's certain amount of vulgarity and tongue-in-cheek crudeness when it comes to this commonplace slang, but it's all in good fun -- depending on your tone.

That being said, while multi-generational rockeros and rockeras made their way to their seats at Comerica Theater in downtown, the show started promptly at 8 p.m. with Mexican ska revivalists Inspector. Lead singer Javier Sánchez used his booming baritone vocals and imposing stage presence to ramp up the energy in the crowd. Rocking a high, slicked back pompadour, all black outfit and wallet chain, the rotund frontman known as Big Javi posed and paced across the stage while his trio of horns delved out winy screams to covers of, "Me Estoy Enamorando" and "Te He Prometido." Since 1995 the group has been the authority of reggae-infused ska hits in Mexico. After 30 minutes, they wrapped up with the crowd-favorite "Amargo Adios" before the audience broke into long drawn out chants of, culeroooooooooooo.

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Set changes went by quickly between all of the bands, barely giving anyone time to get from their seats to the beer vendors, but concertgoers managed.

La Lupita brought the tempo down with some funky, slow grooving beats. Lanky frontman Hector Quijada's rich voice echoed brilliantly in the air as he fluttered about flamboyantly. The crowd got a kick out of the boom-pa beat of "Supersonico," which they dedicated to the fans that have followed them throughout their 20 year existence, and the accordion-driven Tigres Del Norte cover of "Camelia La Tejana." By the time their slot was done, most of the theater had filled up with bobbing heads boiling over with anticipation.

If there was a calm before the storm it came during renowned accordionist Celso Piña's cumbia-filled half-hour. Relying on dual accordions and bongo beats, Piña and his troupe kept it mostly instrumental with occasional yells of wepa. Couples adamantly tried to dance in the aisles but were met with staunch resistance by venue security. My favorite moment of the night came when two strangers bumped into each other on the stairs and briefly started dancing. Security might have let the dancing slide if the new what mayhem was coming next.

Alex Lora and the rest of El Tri wasted no time setting the stage for the foul-mouthed sermon that would define the night. They launched into "Perro Negro y Callejero" and riled up fans chanting, "Viva Mexico," and "chinga su madre, Joe Arpaio," over and over again. After three songs, doobies were lit up and what I hope was only beer and backwash shot into the air. Meanwhile, the "pit" area and aisles became engulfed with fist-pumping fans and crowd surfers.

During songs Lora continued feeding into the crowd's frenzy with his raspy voice and high-pitched screeches. The music played like good old-fashioned rock and roll, bolstered with the occasional violin strum and harmonica cry. "Estan contentos cabrones," Lara would ask at the end of songs.

Between tracks, Lora criticized corrupt politicians and urged Latinos to vote. After that he pretty much told Arpaio and Governor Jan Brewer, and their mothers, to fuck off, before concluding with, "long live the Virgin of Guadalupe and long live Mexico."

The group also played plenty of tracks featured on their latest live album, Libertad Incondicional such as, "El Chavo de Onda," and "Las Piedras."

After a little more than an hour the seven-piece band walked off stage before chants of culero rang out yet again. A minute or so passed before they retook the stage. "I heard that chant and I told these maestro's, 'I think they're calling us,'" Lora says.

As anticipated, anti-SB1070 protesters again showed up outside of the venue to call out Lora and El Tri for "selling out" by putting on a performance after right's groups have called for a boycott of the state until the controversial law is overturned.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: El Tri, Celso Piña, Inspector, La Lupita at Comerica

The Crowd: A wide range of mullet-wearing, spiky-haired rockeros.

Random Notebook Dump: We're really throwing our beer away like this?

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