It was chilly Monday night but the lineup at the Roxy was all Latinx and all hot. The Mexican singer Caloncho was headlining with opening sets from the New York-based band Salt Cathedral and local Long Beach Latino rocker, Rudy De Anda. I had not seen Caloncho live when he recently sold out major theaters in Mexico, including the Auditorio Nacional and two consecutive nights at Teatro Metropolitan in Mexico City, so I jumped at the chance to see him while we were both in LA. He had sold out the Mexican shows and it looked like he was going to the same at the Roxy. By 7:30 pm the crowd around the stage was three layers deep and filling up quickly as the entry line stretched down Hollywood Blvd.
The twice Latin-Grammy nominated tropical indie-folk troubadour had pulled fans from all over Southern California and beyond to pack the 500+ capacity club on a normally slow night. The crowd was all ages with grandparents scattered throughout the crowd of millennials, families, and young couples. It was mostly Latino, but there was a sprinkling of gringos who knew Caloncho from his albums and streaming. I got a dose of the dedication of Caloncho’s followers Monday night when I talked to fans like Stephanie and Oscar who told me they drove down from Fresno, over three hours each way just to see Caloncho.
Singer-songwriter Rudy De Anda started things off with his mellifluous voice and high-wattage smile behind songs of love and fun. The audience especially loved it when he jumped down from the stage and sang and danced while he moved through the forest of people and cellcams. Juliana Ronderson and Nicolas Losada, known as Salt Cathedral, played next and got the audience clapping right off the bat. Bringing together guitar riffs, samples and Ronderson’s wonderful voice and sense of humor, the duo kept the energy and fun going nonstop with light-hearted melodies and conversation.
Caloncho, dressed in a black and white horizontally-striped sailor shirt with a captain’s hat taming his unruly hair Caloncho waited a minute or two for the crowd noise to subside, gave a thumbs up to the band, and kicked off the set with mirthful guitar licks introducing “Fotoíntesis” from the Bálsamo album. He segued into “Pasa el Tiempo”, co-written with Jorge Siddartha González, and was joined by the audience who knew every word to that song and most of the others. From then on, the set featured a leaping, dancing, exuberant Caloncho and 500 or so of his adorning fans making great music together. Towards the end of the night, three of the women cheering from the edge of the stage could contain themselves no longer. One invited herself up on stage to dance with Caloncho, one was brought up by Caloncho to sing with him, and one very agile woman jumped onstage and managed to get two selfies and a good-natured hug before she was escorted off by security. All in good fun.
There is nothing like the Roxy in Hollywood, and nothing like Caloncho on its stage. If he is within a 3-hour drive, make the trip – he is worth it.
Patrick O’Heffernan is co-host of the LA-based, nationally syndicated weekly program, Music FridayLive! and is a music reviewer for online magazines Vents, The Hollywood Progressive and MusicJunkie. He has also co-hosted a national political talk show, The Fairness Doctrine, and hosted the “Uplinks” media segment on Saturday All Things Considered on NPR. He holds a PhD in International Relations from MIT, has been awarded an Emmy, four Addy’s, and a Webby-Honors, among other awards. He has published 5 books and ghost-written others. A project he co-launched, the North Asia Nuclear Free Zone, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. He serves on the Board of Netroots Nation.