Guadalajara’s hypothetical love bastards of Malverde and Peaches, Los Master Plus swooned Turista Libre’s mangueritos with their cumbiatech covers of Daft Punk, Kings of Leon, No Doubt, Radiohead and the Bee Gees at their first performance in Tijuana.
But first things first: What's a manguerito? It comes from "manguera," which literally translates to your average garden hose. But in this sense it refers to Mexican narco bottom-feeders whose form of dress generally teeters between two realms. Realm 1: knockoff Abercrombie, Hollister and Aeropostale T-shirts that are three sizes too small, topped off with Ed Hardy hats on their heads and rosaries around their necks. Realm 2: cowboy glam. Tonight, taking cue from Larry Mon and El Comanche, whose combined vibes create Los Master Plus, the look was all about the latter.
San Diegans made up the majority of the 35 or so concertgoers, but also along were a pair Italians, an Argentine, a Spaniard, a strong fort of Mexicans, two half-Bolivians and a recent Kentucky transplant who had never been to Tijuana before. Turista Libre claims great pride in having saved her from the typical first-timer's lushy stumble down Revolución.
After meeting up at the usual spot just south of the pedestrian border crossing in Colonia Federal, the group deadheaded west aboard Turista Libre's red-lit fun bus, piloted as usual by husband-and-wife chauffeurs Benjamin and Pilar. From there we headed to two blocks from the beach for a pre-show bite at Playas de Tijuana staple taqueria Tacos El Frances. Located on Paseo Playas de Tijuana, the place always seems to draw a crowd and is cool with brown-bagged beers smuggled in from the Modelorama across the street but has nothing to do with French food, as the name might suggest.
Then, just a block north, came another round of pre-show beers at staple dive La Tapatia, hidden behind the restaurant of the same name. Black lights and neon posters bathe the bar, also equipped with a small dance floor and a big sound system, and two lone cerveza options reflect the low-frills clientele: Tecate or Tecate Light. Perched at the bar, the turistas nursed tequilitas alongside the few grizzled regulars who were surprised by but no doubt welcoming of the fact that their otherwise quiet Friday nightcap at their local watering hole had been commandeered by unexpected gabacho company.
Back on the bus and finally en route to the show at Ibero, a university situated in the hills surrounding Playas, it was time for Turista Libre's regular prerequisitory dosage of fun and games. Candy rings, Hotwheels sunglasses, packets of Tang and other supermercado delicacies were unloaded to those turistas flaunting cowboy boots and cowboy hats or who actually knew the words to LMP's version of Daft Punk's "One More Time" (Una vez mas, vamos a celebrar, ooo si, muy bien, no pares de bailar).
We pulled in to the venue to catch opener Point Loma, the solo project of Ramon Amuezca (aka Nortec Collective's Bostich), finishing his set with the city's musical ambassador of 2009, "Tijuana Sound Machine." Then Los Master Plus assumed their positions behind their keyboards, slid into their Foakleys, flipped a few switches and turned us into dancing gringo islands in a sea of Tijuana college kids. Among the set list: the Bee Gee's "Stayin' Alive (Quiero Bailar)," King of Leon's "Sex on Fire (Sexo en Fuego)," No Doubt's "Don't Speak (Mami)," Radiohead's "Creep" and, of course, Daft Punk's "One More Time (Una Vez Mas)."
Most critics would probably blah off even any semi-cover band (LMP totes a few original tracks, too) as a big cliche. But the fact that they’re mimicking stuff like Daft Punk a la cumbia makes them a sort of transgenre wonder, if even a cheesy one. Cheesiness is entirely subjective anyway.
More important than the transgenre aspect, however, is the duo as a transborder pop culture phenomenon. Regionalized covers of First World Top 40s are anything but mere covers. These guys are nothing short of Mexico's post-NAFTA reaction to iTunes imperialism, accented with the occasional "que suena, que suena, que sueeeeenaaaaa!" The trade off for an American audience would be seeing a Mexican band in Mexico and not feeling completely marginalized. Music brings the people together, or so she said.
LED belt buckles, gold crucifixes and Foakleys aside, who’s to say whether they’re intentionally ironic or if it’s all a sincerely unknowing display of tacky pride. The video for “Mamarazzi” was filmed mostly in the back of a pimped-out pickup outfitted with a Rolls Royce hood ornament. So who knows.