The dudes hit the stage to a wave of elation, amid cries of—wait. Wait. What is the lead singer’s deal?
Photos by Rob Trucks
Central Park SummerStage
Saturday, July 15
“This is the first show where we’ve had to turn away press,” notes an understandably harried SummerStage employee as she circumvents the long, loping line of poor saps patiently waiting to join the capacity crowd patiently waiting to greet Mexico City art-rock deities Café Tacuba, sun-dazed and giddy with anticipatory glee, whipping cheap paper fans emblazoned with the Zune logo high in the air like wafer-thin battle axes. Shit is crowded, and liberally dotted wih li’l Mohawked tykes perched on Daddy’s shoulders. The dudes hit the stage to a wave of elation, amid cries of—wait. Wait. What is the lead singer’s deal? He’s a short, wiry fella dressed in a bright white suit and a top hat three sizes too big for him that engulfs half his head and clearly impedes—more like prevents—his vision. (Practically, he seems to have cut eyeholes into the hat to alleviate this problem.) He bounds about the stage unleashing torrents of pinched, nasal brays that can sound Cobainian at their unruliest and most antagonizing, nicely complimenting the short, staccato bursts of Pixies-brand distorto-guitar dissonance with which the band has deigned to introduce itself.
Oh, it’s obnoxious, isn’t it? Here are some references you may recognize! Cobainian! The Mexican Pixies! The Mexican Clash! The guitarist looks like Dave Grohl! The bassist looks (and dresses) like one of the Hives! Tacuba’s 2003 disc Cuatro Caminos—a spacey, schizophrenic mix of Latin rock and art-damaged space-synth wankery—was critically praised as “the Mexican Kid A,” which is both ridiculous and reasonably apt. (There are moments that sound exactly like that Thom Yorke solo record, actually.) No time for laptop-techno wankery now, though. This is a party band, vacillating between a badass ska-punk-surf attack, patchouli-drenched reggae-lite noodling, and best of all, a marching dance-punk strut, all disco high-hats and yearning keyboard lines. (Can somebody with a setlist tell me what the fifth tune was? Killed me.) The Cure at their bounciest, the Killers at their least pandering. (!!) And then, of course, there are the militant oompah tunes—any band that compels me to scrawl the words total fuckin’ polka anthem in my notebook is OK by me.
For the last half-hour the lyrics seem to consist entirely of whoa oh oh ba ba ba ba WAY-OH, with a few chaste moshpits breaking out down in front and a few revelers leaping onstage to shout into a mic or hug the guitar player. Some possibly subversive touches, though—an online attendee translates one bit of stage banter as “What a nice city you have with such nice buildings. People all over the world work so hard so you can all live so well.” I hope to God that’s legit. It’s totally something Joe Strummer would’ve said!
“Little Johnny Mohawk isn’t crying because he doesn’t appreciate Latin thrash,” the photographer explains, “He’s about to turn on the waterworks because security just told him he couldn’t dance in his chair.”