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New York Cool - Music

Latin Alternative Music Conference
July 4-10, 2008
New York City

Written by John Proctor

Opposite Photo: Sabina Sciubba
of the Brazilian Girls
Photo Credit Amy Davidson

July 10, 2008

It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a music conference, and I have to admit I’m a bit rusty. Every time I was approached by a musician telling me how great his/her MySpace page is I wanted to tell them all I gave up on MySpace the last time my profile was hijacked to pimp Macy’s gift cards. I stopped counting how many times I unwittingly stepped in front of someone’s camera space, and the only use I found for the majority of the merch was to bribe my Writing for the Media students to turn their work in on time. But I have to admit I also feel vaguely self-important every time someone looks at my namecard, sees I’m press, and tells me their story using words they hope I’ll repeat, like “beyond categorization, really,” or “beyond trendy,” or “playing at [insert venue] with [insert headliner] next month.”

But as music conferences go, the Latin Alternative Music Conference , in my first year there, was actually quite fun. I even went to one of their panel discussions, something I rarely have the attention span for these days, about blogging and its place in the industry. Not too shabby. But the highlight of the conference for me was the Thursday night Acoustic Showcase, where up-and-comers played for industry execs (sitting at tables) and media (standing).

Ground rules for the Acoustic Showcase were two songs per act. The acts were divided pretty evenly between leaving me wanting more and having me thank the management for the limit. I arrived a few minutes late , what with the day job and all, and walked in on an august woman in shiny purple tights – which I never thought could go together – hammering her keyboard and alternating between a coo and a holler. When she finished her song she announced her name, Francisca Valenzuela, and said, “You just warm up and you have to leave, what’s up with that?” then switched to acoustic guitar – this being an acoustic showcase and all – for her other tune.

The next guy, Alex Cuba, was actually from Canada, but had a nice Afro-Cuban beat (with emphasis on the afro, which was huge) which he punctuated with gently machismic hip thrusts. He not only survived but thrived on some repeated mic difficulties during his two songs, so powerful was the thrust of the music and his hips.

Bobbyblue y Patricio were up next, joined also by a violinist who lent a nicely Grapelliosity to their 2 tunes. Bobbyblue, who also runs the Williamsburg Spelling Bee (where I recently placed third in the season finals, by the way), displayed a decidedly un-macho hipsway to go with his uniquely feminine voice through most of their set, with the first song in English and the second in Spanish. Bobby even threw his hat to the crowd in a fit of passion during the second song that really won over the crowd – after his set I told him how nice a move that was, and he told me how he wished he wouldn’t have done that, it was his favorite hat. Luckily,I’d seen a guy in the crowd with similar taste in headwear snatch the hat, pointed him out, and Bobby was able to convince him to give it back.

All this was happening while a guy in jeans and a hot pink shirt was singing his two wispy songs, and was followed by hands down the strangest act of the showcase – a guy with crazy hair who was dressed like he was doing a children’s show jumped up from the crowd onto the stage and started talking and talking and talking in Spanish. I asked someone from one of the earlier acts what he was saying. “I dunno,” he replied, “I’ve been working my Spanish for this conference.” Then Crazy Hair Guy started playing, and he was actually really good – a human noisemaker with a gravel voice, he got the crowd to repeat nonsense syllables after him (or maybe they were in Spanish) that obviously held sexual undertones judging by his lascivious grin and gyrations that were almost making me blush. He was quite the storyteller, though – I don’t even understand Spanish, and I got the gist.

The Acoustic Showcase was rounded out by a decidedly non-acoustic combo of electric bass, keyboard, and a crazy-haired female lead in a tan jumpsuit a la Shadow of the Night era Pat Benatar. They reminded me more of Shallow , a mid-90s alternapop band from my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, than anything Latin, with the singer similarly prone to vocal histrionics.

After the bands finished the DJs took control, with rest of the night devoted to dancing, mingling and card-sharing. The crowd was a worthy mix of tight jeans and baggy pants, and the oppressive heat kept everyone cozy inside.

Note: The Brazilian Girls (top photo)performed at Brooklyn's Prospect Park as part of LAMC on July 10, 2008.

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