2003 ESPÁRRAGO FESTIVAL.
15th ANNIVERSARY IN GRANADA
Tomasito / La Mala Rodríguez / Ojos de Brujo
Silvia Calado Olivo. Maracena (Granada), May 10th, 2003
Translation: Joseph Kopec
Photos: Daniel Muñoz
The welcome was as warm as could be. And not precisely because of that sunshine
which finally ushered in the springtime. Several patrols of the Civil Guard with
their respective dogs were stopping cars right and left, obviously in search of
illegal substances. It is understood that the pro's festival kit must carry them,
although the numbers deny it: fifty-three reports of over three thousand people
attending does not even make up two percent of the total. Incidents, zero. Well
then. The thing is that with good karma as a credential, the scorching sun, the
thick pollen rain from the poplar groves and a local train brushing the wall of
the bar every so often, the Espárrago Festival began the traveling celebration
of its fifteenth birthday in Maracena, Granada. And what happened there was...
The amphitheater of the town in the outskirts of metropolitan Granada, which
had nearly ignored - except for the front row - the opening group, answered the
call of Tomasito,
no sooner had he uttered the "válgame dios" ("bless
my soul") that starts off 'Mariana de Pineda'. A diverse troupe disregarded
all outside stimuli to tune in without interference to the complete artist who
in black jeans, a white shirt and Sunday shoes shook each and every atom of the
stage. Percussion, bass and flamenco guitar seconded him... or "thirded".
"What a great crowd I see here! It looks like we're at the beach!".
Shirt hanging out... and the palpable inspiration of 'El fino de mi casa', from
the unfortunately no longer available 'Tomasito'. And there's dancing and singing
and strutting and jumping, flamencohiprocker style. And there's José
el Pena, and bits of reality, and the pataíta (kick), and the robot
boy, and seguiriyas, and hard, and "flaquito, flamenco soy, flaquito,
flamenco voy" ("I'm a skinny flamenco, I act like a skinny flamenco"),
and a mini instrumental interlude. "It's really hard for me to sing soleá,
but for this really stupendous crowd". And there he goes with virtually unassisted
'Soleá punk', fighting against a lack of musical support, which is luckily
worthwhile thanks to the response of a pleased, gaping crowd. He goes on with
the version of 'Agradecido' by veteran Madrilenian rocker Rosendo, who was in
charge of closing the day, by the way... and to whom Tomasito had already promised
to sing his particular remake of the song in the dressing room.
Just as he goes off stage, he comes back on presenting his band doing tangos:
Álvaro, on flamenco guitar; Josito, on bass; Elsa, on the drums; and Nacho,
on percussion. He resorts to rapping - and a black shirt - for 'Sobreviviré'
('I Will Survive'), among other things, "a badly sung fandango". From
rap to 'Cositas de la realidad' ('Bits of reality') and on to rock. He
goes up, comes down, jumps, plays the bongos, connects with the "o mare,
mare" from his first album, which now invades the Spanish radio formula in
the Chonchi Heredia version. A pause to comment one detail: how he fits the popular
Jerez lizard bulería into his particular style, that same one which Moraíto
has a smattering of on the record by La Macanita. He wants to bid farewell with
his now classic 'Camino del hoyo' ('Road to the pit') and he does it Mick
Jagger style, throwing himself into the pit, dragging himself, ripping his T-shirt,
kicking the bucket... and ending up in his underpants, "like on the album
cover". And he's asked for an encore. And he does an encore with torrotrón,
with the robot boy... with a Tomasito finale.
La Mala Rodríguez
People rightfully hiss the announcement that Mártires del Compás
has dropped off the bill, but they are hardly given a chance to air their protests.
The sequencers already lead up to La Mala Rodríguez, who comes to finish
the day. Flamenco hip hop. There will be those who criticize the application of
that label, but the attitude, content and modulation... provide more than enough
reasons than many others. Isn't that "porque a mí me va mucho la marcha
tropical" ("because I like tropical partying a lot") a homage to
Aren't the words jindama (fear), filigrana (filigree), tirititrán
the stuff of flamenquitas? Isn't that boasting "me hago tirabuzones con
las bombas que me tiran los mamelucos" ("sticks and stones may break
my bones but words will never hurt me") an example of lifelong alegrías?
And aren't they full-fledged flamenco, for their concept and rhythmic tapping,
phrases like "si hay pan pa uno, hay pan pa dos" ("where
there's food for one, there's food for two"); "no me digas quieres
y no puedes, mucho lirili y mu poco lerele" ("don't tell me you
want to and you can't, a lot of lirili and very little lerele"); "a
medias, nadie se quea jarto" ("split up, nobody gets filled up")?
That's it, María coughed up the repertoire from her début album,
with surprising vocal defiance, sprinkling it with several advances of her next
album, which seems to aim for a Mala Rodríguez who his more jondita,
warmer, more wicked if possible... and as interesting as in 'Lujo Ibérico'.
Ojos de Brujo
The crowd was again annoyed, this time with the preparation by Ojos
de Brujo. Specifically, they experienced the sound check live. A question
of the tour's tight schedule. Thank God there's always the bar, the waffles, the
shoarmas and other delights of the festival buffet, and the group made up for
it. The band led by Marina la Canillas came in feisty doing rumbas. With 'Tanguillo
de María', it vindicated the legalization of marijuana and sided with "the
people who are on the other side of the Strait and can't come over because it's
illegal like the plant". Around a dozen people on stage - vocalist, percussionists,
DJ, guitarists, bass player, palmeros and bailaora- and quite a few sound problems
more or less made another rumba sound, afterwards 'Naíta', "that tune
which begins with tangos and ends up in the hills of Úbeda" and which,
in passing, not only brings a popular Triana tango to this crowd, but also cries
out "for the right to a dignified life". Take note of the didactic and
research work by the heterodox, at the same time as their social conscience. The
diverse band wins the crowd over in a natural way... including those who had preceded
them on stage, who went around following their sampled flamenquito between their
seats and the bar. 'Barí', 'Vengue' and something more. Bulería,
more rumba, soleá, zambra... all of it seasoned with a pinch of that street
chaos innate in the group which lightens the communication process between the
seats and the stage.
The comments on Rosendo have been left out, so as not to confuse or offend
(although that's always a personal choice), but the admiration for this rocker
professed by the latest generation of flamenco artists appearing in this text
goes on the record. "I promise to be grateful to you, buddy", friend
Tomás would say. Next stop of the Espárrago 15 train to Jerez: Morón
de la Frontera.