Friday, August 20

Rodrigo y Gabriela at Marymoor Park, Redmond, Washington

My musical tastes were not always so refined as they are now. For a long while in my youth I listened almost exclusively to country as that was the music of the only radio station you could reliably get reception for in Baudette. Then I discovered CBC Radio 1, Canada's BBC, and that interest faded fast enough. I moved on to my dad's classic rock cassettes from there. It was a safe choice. Queen, Styx, Journey, Kansas, REO Speedwagon, The Who, Meatloaf and all the rest had produced their best and signature work decades earlier. Their respective places in the major and minor pantheons were established before I had been born. Their only new albums were greatest hits collections. Mildly afraid of Napster, Limewire, Morpheus and everything else we used before BitTorrent and before the advent of iTunes, they were the most cost effective way to buy music. I knew if I liked them and their radio staples were available on a single disc. Minimal risk there of spending fifteen dollars on an album and only really liking one song.

Classic rock was also a boring choice, and that was part of what made going to college so exciting and getting away from I knew and was comfortable with. I had friends who hated classic rock and country. They introduced me to new genres and bands. I listened to Pandora and AccuRadio and followed them up. I downloaded weekly free singles from iTunes. I heard "Tamacun." I discovered Rodrigo y Gabriela. I bought their self-titled album from iTunes. I saw them perform in Munich. I bought re-Foc in Oxford. I downloaded Live: Manchester and Dublin. I bought Live in Tokyo the day it was released, and Demetra had to bring back 11:11 from the States because I was in Kenya when it was released. To be waiting for, anticipating, counting down the days to their next album, this was exciting. It was not something I had done before.

To a degree, I felt possessive of them. It's kind of ridiculous. I didn't discover them on the streets of Dublin. I found them through a free iTunes download after their third studio album debuted at number one in Ireland. I was, however, the first among my friends to listen to them and was the one to make them listen in turn. It's not enough to say I liked them before they were popular, but it's close enough.

When I saw them in Munich, it was a rough performance. There was no opening act. The concert started nearly an hour late. Gabriela asked for requests, and Rodrigo played with a Heineken in hand. I don't know what the deal was. They had been touring for years already at this point. Maybe it was their first time in Germany, and they had nerves. Maybe they didn't like Germany. Maybe it had just been a bad day. It may not have had the form of the perfect concert, but it was excellent, the best I have attended. The people who came to see them there cared. Rodrigo and Gabriela fed off the energy, and it was returned to them ten fold in a beautiful loop. Emmett got Rodrigo's pick when he threw it into the audience.

Seeing them last weekend outside Seattle as they begin an American tour, something had changed. In the years intervening they had played for President Obama and made the rounds of late-night talk show music segment. I heard one of their songs on a Bozeman radio station. City magazines picked out the concert as one to look forward to. Ticket prices had doubled. They didn't play in a club that held some two hundred people but a park that easily held ten times that many, and there was reserved seating closest to the stage. They still rocked, but it was definitely something different.

I don't want to say that they've been ruined by success because I don't believe that. 11:11 was an excellent album with new sounds, and I will be excited when they announce their next release, live, studio, instructional, whatever. Beside, without this success, they would be limited to tours in the United Kingdom and occasional forays into continental Europe, and I would never see them in America.

I don't want to say that casual fans ruin them either. I may not appreciate that they prefer to stay sitting on their blankets and picnicking or making out rather than bounce around, but at least they are hearing and supporting two superior musicians.

I don't know. I'm glad they're receiving the success they deserve. I'm glad more and more people are discovering them, but I am disappointed that I'll never see them again in a small club bouncing with people who care intently about them just twenty feet from the stage.

Oh well. Things change.

Enjoy this solo by Rodrigo. Spread the good word about them. Keep bringing them back to America.

No comments: