“You don’t have to be bilingual to rock:
Choose a Latino music night or a battle of the bands”

By Benjamin Ortiz, Special to the Chicago Tribune
“On the Town” cover feature
March 23, 2012

Let’s learn some Spanish and rock out at the same time, with a fresh local Latino band. Repeat after me.

¡CHIDO!” Meaning “COOL! Rock on!”

Now try “¡Todo lo naco es chido!” It’s all good.

Time to hit a Latino rock show and flex your newfound rock ‘n’ roll neologisms.

You’ll mix with a largely Mexican crowd and mosh to global grooves in a mesh of lingos, then lounge at a polyglot pub that could be in Baja or Buenos Aires for some bolero or baile funk.

Opening DJ set

Sporting a Bermuda rat-pack hat and “London Calling” T-shirt, DJ Resistol Cincomil sets the sonic stage for a battle of the bands, at the Cubby Bear’s Thursday night Noches de Rock, with a smattering of bilingual beats, ranchera riffs and indie impulses, from the White Stripes to Mexican wrestling-masked surf-rockers Los Esquizitos to South American thrash a la Todos Tus Muertos to globalized disco goof-offs Plastilina Mosh from Monterrey.

Instead of DJ headphones, he cues tracks using an old-school telephone handset plugged into his gear, as if he’s calling in airstrikes. BOOM, classic rock! And BOOM, cumbia!

He’s been blowing up spots around town for years now, since he moved to Chicago from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in the 1990s, and if you can’t get out to hear him at one of his DJ residencies, then you can tune in to his long-running radio show, “Rock Sin Anestesia,” on 88.7 WLUW-FM 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesdays.

The show is a staple of the Latino rock scene that promotes upcoming shows and forges a community of rockeros through ambling playlists and irreverent Mexican slang galore.

Main event

But now it’s time for the main event, a preliminary “cage match” to decide who garners a final-four spot in this competition to crown the Most Bad-Ass Band around. Promoter Andres Meneses calls out the contenders, Chicago bands Perro Negro versus Yerba Mora, and the ornery crowd responds with the best catcalls a Romance language can muster.

Meneses calls this weekly event his “crazy idea” to promote Latino rock, as he’s been doing over the past decade around town in a nomadic search for the right venue and lineup combo. Through his Latin Street Dancing company and other endeavors, he has pitched in to bring the entire spectrum of Spanish-language musical culture to Chicago, from salsa to pop-en-espanol, though Spanish rock in particular has been a challenge.

Sustaining a popular Latino rock show “makes sense,” he says, “and in theory it should be viable.” But the reality has kept him moving, landing at the Cubby Bear with the weekly event running now almost two months, featuring Spanish rock bands, DJ Resistol and the rock-fight preliminaries that will end in a final showdown April 5.

Meneses’ “crazy idea” is a perennial notion, as over the decades self-styled Latino promoters have taken a stab at do-it-yourself rock spots, from backyards to basements, in search of a venue to rock the tunes that young Latino music fans want to hear. Latino events at various bars and lounges around town come out of that DIY spirit, with a largely Mexican flair and demotic lingua franca of rowdy street slang.

Bar 10 Doors

Born and raised in Chicago by Mexican-immigrant parents, Antonio Cordova has been on a Spanish rock quest like Meneses since he was a teenager in Little Village, throwing jury-rigged parties. Since organizing an epic Latino rock expo in the late ’90s, at a now-defunct Loop bar, featuring more than 20 bands, he has hit the streets for a regular weekly home, arriving at Bar 10 Doors in University Village on Friday nights.

Known also by his friends as “Vampiro,” Cordova has been at the helm of the Bar 10 Doors rock nights for six months, and he says he’s broken out of formulaic lineups by mixing in cover and tribute bands, such as groups that do Spanish hair metal and retro-’90s classics, as well as DJ Resistol creating a culturally schizophrenic soundtrack before and between bands. The menu includes upcoming electro-cumbia instrumentalists, Spanish ska and punk combos, and of course straight-up rock.

Cordova describes the night as an authentic rockero experience, with a boisterous audience that will shout down a band if the music doesn’t cut the mustard.

As recent rockers Conciencia Total put it to their crowd, “¡¿Listos pa desmadre?!” Are you ready to rock?

And the winner is …

Back to the rock show, promoter Andres Meneses takes the stage. Tonight’s judges include jazzman Frank Catalano and musician Angel Melendez.

The winning band will go to the finals, where it will have a chance to take the first place prize of $2,000 and a production package from Pressure Point Recording Studios. The winner also gets to play a 45-minute set tonight immediately following the victory announcement.

Perro Negro wins the toss and decides to go first, with brash psychedelic blues rock that wows the crowd into chanting “Black Dog” (the band’s name in English) all night, into and over the next band, Yerba Mora.

The latter’s polished tropical-funk rock en espanol sound contrasts with the grittier, acid-jam flavor of Perro Negro, which is tonight’s winner.

And the fans are still chanting “BLACK DOG” when Perro Negro once again takes the stage with lyrics that go something like this: “¡Todo en exceso, nada con medida!” — “Everything in excess, nothing in moderation!” The band follows this up with a meandering cover of “Gloria,” like Joy Division doing “Sister Ray,” in which guitarist Ricardo Rosales uses his beer bottle as an aid to do boozy slide guitar.

With the crowd’s cacophony still echoing in Perro Negro’s favor, DJ Resistol starts in on a hootin’-and-hollerin’ ranchera out of nowhere, later a Spanish Cheap Trick cover with accordions, then some dirty rock urbano and so on. And he’s ready to take your request.

Friday Rock NightsWhen: 10 p.m. Friday

Where: Bar 10 Doors, 1259 W. Taylor St.

Price: $5 door (21+); 312-226-1611

Noches de Rock

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays

Where: The Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison St.

Price: $8 advance/$10 door (21+); 773-327-1662 or ticketweb.com

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