Saturday, November 17, 2007

Notes on a musical journey (not mine though)

When you've been following a band from very early in its career, there's an odd sense of ownership you feel about it. Even though you don't know the artists personally, you still feel that because you heard them ply their trade from a time when it was (arguably) free of artifice. It's special to you because you 'knew'  them before most of the world did.

I've felt this way about Howie Day in the past and I definitely feel that way about Rodrigo y Gabriela now. I first heard Rodrigo y Gabriela on that fount of indie music in the Northwest, KEXP in July 2006. The track was a fabulous cover version of Stairway to Heaven. I, however, didn't pay the duo much attention.

In December '06, I heard an original by them (Tamacun, if you must know) on another radio station. I was instantly hooked. I bought their full-length debut album. It's called Rodrigo y Gabriela (duh).

Rodrigo and Gabriela make up the band. Just the two of them. They play acoustic guitars in what may be loosely called the flamenco style. But it's not really flamenco. Their playing is frenetic. But they churn out surprisingly good melodies. Genres? I'm not sure they ever learnt what that meant.

It's at times hard  to realize that it's just two people on acoustic guitars who are creating so much of a ruckus. Also, they use their guitar boxes as percussion pretty well. Figures, considering they got their start busking on the streets of Dublin. Their dueling styles makes it seem like they are doing a complicated dance, one leading with the other content to play second fiddle. Then they change it around.

The love affair with their music continued. Stairway to Heaven on MP3 was followed by Wish you Were Here that I saw on YouTube. Their original Diablo Rojo is on my playlist all the time. But that live show was ever-elusive.

I somehow learnt of their show in December '06 the day after it took place. In April, they played in Seattle again. I had sufficient notice, but the show got sold out while I was on vacation in India. They then played at Bumbershoot which I didn't go to. I watched as they played bigger venues, selling them out at higher and higher prices.

Then, this October, my chance came. On October 31st, Rodrigo y Gabriela played The Paramount, tickets costing almost thrice what they did last year in a venue that was at least two and a half times the capacity. The auditorium was packed, a sold-out show again.

Were they worth the interest? Absolutely. Dressed in their Halloween best, they took the hall (normally host to musicals and the like) by the scruff of its neck and gave it a thorough shaking. If you can believe it, in addition to a lighter-fueled Wish You Were Here and crowd favorite Stairway to Heaven, they did a version of Metallica's And Justice for all. All acoustic, with a small bit of distortion to help. It was un-effing-believable.

My love affair with them may end if their sophomore effort isn't great. But for now, let the guitars rule.

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