Calle 13 at House of Blues, 5/26/2014
"So how are these guys?" asked my security-guard friend at the House of Blues as I entered the photo pit Monday night. "I hear they are a reggaeton group, but that's all I know."
Photos by Marco Torres (L-R) Brothers Visitante and Residente of Calle 13
"I guess that's technically true" I answered. "They are from Puerto Rico and have roots in the reggaeton movement, but these guys are fundamentally different."
If the reggaeton made famous by Daddy Yankee and Tego Calderon can be compared to mainstream rap, then Calle 13's version is more like Public Enemy: underground, political, and socially conscious.
"It makes you dance, but it's not booty music," I said. "You'll like it!"
And then, as if on cue, El Residente jumped out onto the stage with "Fiesta De Locos,", a fun, mysterious, and somewhat neurotic track that was met with cheers from the predominantly Latino audience. "Yo soy el unico que no estoy loco!" rang out during the chorus." (I'm the only one who is not crazy here!)
PG-13, half-sister of Calle 13.
The song eventually ends with a line that explains the group much better than I ever could:
Esto no es Reggaeton, pero como quiera bailas un monton! (This is not Reggaeton, but you will still dance a ton!)
"Estamos vivos, Houston?!" asked Residente. A roar of positive response was felt from his fans, already sweaty from the dancing and jumping during the early parts of the set. In the front row, a pair of young girls, maybe seven and four years old, were held up by their parents during the show. They sang along to every song, and carried a sign that read "Sofia y Nathalia...We <3 Calle 13!"
With a mix of traditional Caribbean sounds, as well as rock and cumbia, Calle 13 took us on a journey from their beginnings with the song "Atrevete" all the way to their latest single "Ojos Color Sol" (Sun Colored Eyes) from the album Multi_Viral, which was released earlier this year. "Ojos" is a collaboration with Silvio Rodriguez, a legendary Cuban trova singer and guitarist. Both Rodriguez and the Calle 13 brothers have expressed their mutual need for self-expression and education, as well as the responsibility toward the continued development Latin American culture.
Which brings us to the track "Latinoamérica," a litany of the trials and smiles that effects the people of the Americas, and included the fantastic voice of half-sister PG-13 during the chorus. It takes guts and honestly to create such a powerful track, one that is both heartfelt and emotional, serving as an anthem of pride and struggle to all that hear it.
And that is the beauty of a Calle 13 performance. It is so many things all at once, but in the end, its a celebration of the people, one loco at a time.
Review continues on the next page.