It may have been a warm-up show before heading to the massive So-Cal Coachella Festival, but for San Francisco Mexican Institute of Sound fans, this was the real deal. The music jammed and not a head in the house wasn’t bobbing. The musical styles blended together–from cumbia to cha-cha, danzon, spoken word, experimental, jazz, rumba, dub, and on– so that to the untrained ear, you could have been easily fooled into thinking that it was just one consistent sound.
MIS front man, Camilo Lara, addressed the crowd in both English and Spanish, and frankly it didn’t matter what he said. In the unassuming, dark, somewhat oddly-shaped Red Devil Lounge, it was as if the crowd had been transported to an underground club in Buenos Aires or Mexico City. MIS has the international and diverse feel of trilingual artist Manu Chao, but with the club-esque beats that just make you want to dance. In fact, there wasn’t a person in the place that wasn’t dancing and grooving to the music, myself included.The sheer energy of Lara mixed with his contagious head bobbing and crowd boosting, made it so I couldn’t help but enjoy myself and the music.
Their latest album’s release is cleverly entitled Soy Sauce. According to Lara (who heads the A&R department at EMI Mexico when not performing as MIS) Soy Sauce can be interpreted in three different ways: soy sauce– as in the brown sauce made out of soy that you dip your sushi in; “I am sauce” (soy salsa); and “soy sauce”–I am a willow tree. Leaving things open to interpretation is just how Lara rolls, with the epic twists and turns in musical styles, MIS proves that they are always one step ahead of the game. With songs like “Sinfonia Agridulce“, MIS’s valient mariachi-infused cover of The Verve’s 90s smash-hit single “Bittersweet Symphony“, along with “Yo Digo Baila“ (I say dance) and “Cumbia“, the album promises to alter your vision of all that traditional Mexican music could possibly entail. MIS invites you to jump on board for a wild ride.
Lara in his gray top hat and red tracksuit coat sang-talked in his funky, all-over-the-place style while intermittently jumping up and down and keying in buttons on his mini keyboard. Meanwhile, Julian Placencia played bass, Kay and Pato were on the turntables and Paco Vazquez was on drums. All of the songs elicited crowd participation and head nodding, but it was the cumbia-infused beats with Lara singing and speaking Spanglish in a call-response fashion, that really got them moving and grooving.
DJ Juan Data in his orange construction worker-colored jumpsuit and luchador mask got the party started with his high-energy mix of music that included neo-cumbia and cumbia mash-ups mixed in with some hip-hop, electro, favela funk and latintrónica. Throughout the concert DJ Juan Data couldn’t be missed in his jumpsuit dancing around and enjoying the show.
MIS finished out the show with the kind of music you want to rush home and play or download as soon as the concert is over to keep the vibe rolling throughout the night, long after the party ends. Unfortunately MIS didn’t grace the audience with an encore, instead No Somos Machos Pero Somos Muchos did their thing with their wild mix of funk soul, electronica charanguero and more.