We were off to San Jose, that close yet distant town from Emerald City. It was a Saturday night, the car was filled up with our homegirls, and we guzzled down Fat Tire in coffee thermoses with the same merriment as frat boys doing keg stands. (Except for my ruca, who was designated driver.) We were going to see La Santa Cecilia, a Latino band from L.A. who my ruca has been raving about since she saw their last show. I wasn’t thrilled that she wanted to go again, or rather that she wanted to take me with her. Concerts aren’t really my thing. Besides getting nervous in huge crowds, I don’t dance salsa. Or merengue. Or cumbias. Or…well, you get the point. That’s not to say I can’t dance—indeed, I can bootie-shake like no one’s business. But anything that involves a 1-2-3 step with a partner, a dip, a twist and a twirl, and I am lost. I didn’t grow up salsa dancing at home—I grew up listening to my parents’ Beatles and Elvis, and watching my mom bust the Mashed Potatoes, the Watusi, and the Twist!
Needless to say, going to a concert where I’d spend the evening as a cute lil’ wallflower surrounded by flocks of Latinos who really know how to cut a rug, did not sound like a fun night—but I decided to go. While I powdered my nose and glossed my lips, I promised myself that tonight, I would enjoy a different taste of life out of my comfort zone. After all, I am too young to be a 30-year old “square;” a helpless homebody who’s life is consumed only with work and writing. I needed to break loose a little—live. I needed to color in the black and whites of my soul, and feed myself a new adventure.
We arrived at our destination early. Or maybe the show started late, whatever. Sipping cocktails in the lounge of an uppity hotel, I admired the two striking women sitting next to us who chatted with our homegirls. One was dressed in a stunning autentica blusa with brightly embroidered flowers. A long elegant trensa hung down her back like a crow’s feather. The other woman had cute curly hair and chic framed glasses that would’ve looked silly on me, but looked unfairly cool on her. Conversation flowed easily with them, which is how I quickly found out that they had not come to see the band—they were the band! I took a big gulp of my vodka on the rocks, keeping my cool yet completely blown away. These rockeras were down to earth, cool as shit—raza—and they shared awesome stories of their international travels. We congratulated them on their Grammy nomination for their song, La Negra. I was mesmerized by their humbleness. I was in complete awe of their super chill vibe. I was…already a fan.
When it was time for them to go on, we raised our glasses, threw them back, and made our way inside. Lights simmered low with the spotlights glowing only on the band. All at once, their music filled the room, heating up the hazy club like steam in Mama’s kitchen. Between the guitar and the drums and the accordion, all of the instruments blended together vibrantly, a tie-dye spiral of sounds. The singer’s voice was incredible, switching high notes to low as easy as a snap, her Spanish and Spanglish a melodic sizzle.
The booths along the wall emptied out. Glasses clinked, toes were stomped on. Girls wiggled in their mini dresses and stilettos, their heels skinny as a needle, and eager guys scanned the crowd, searching for whichever girl would say yes to them. Two girls got kicked out for almost fighting, and another girl in the tightest animal print dress I’d ever seen fell face-flat on the floor not once, but twice. (I almost caught her drink on the second timberrr down, but missed.) I was hardly fazed. I didn’t need to know fancy footwork, like salsa or cumbias—my hips were fluid on my body, riding the rhythm of the songs like a surfboard coasting along a wave. Between me and my homegirls shooting up our pulses in sync to the beating songs, a warp of time captured us, and swallowed us away. Too soon they were performing their last song. The slosh of crowd almost turned rowdy, demanding more as they hollered back at them: “Otra, otra!” The band shrugged, giving their fans what they wanted. And their last song they left us with? A beautiful rendition of the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields.
Gratified, I reflected back on the night. I’d not only gotten out of my comfort zone and tried something new, I’d genuinely enjoyed myself. I tossed my arm around my ruca, swaying gently to the final song as the mood shifted to a mellow flutter. And in case you were wondering, I did not bust out the Mashed Potatoes, or the Watusi to this song…just a very mild Twist to my signature bootie-shake.
Check out the band! Here’s a link to their homepage, and a YouTube clip of them. Good luck at the Grammys, guys!
© Sarah C. Jiménez, All Rights Reserved 2011