Jarabe de Palo, Carlos Salvo
The Pour House, Raleigh
Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014

The first thing to know about rock en español is that the term itself is completely insufficient; while describing everything, it describes nothing. Spanish rock group Jarabe de Palo’s trajectory is perhaps the most positive example of what proudly being a rockero en español can mean, though. During the last 18 years, the group has cultivated and honed their sound with genres as varied as funk, blues, jazz, flamenco, reggae, ska and a dose of power-chord pop, too.

The group’s current tour for their Grammy-nominated Somos is their most extensive in the Americas. Touring from New York to Santiago, Chile, the group was enthusiastically, almost ecstatically, received during a quickly sold-out show Thursday night at Raleigh’s Pour House. Local Chilean troubadour Carlos Salvo opened with a six-song set of nueva canción, made stronger by understated keyboardist Alexa Franco. At the 8X10 in Baltimore earlier this week, upbeat DC alterna-rockeros Zakke opened for Jarabe de Palo; they may have more easily captured the swarming crowd’s attention with their blasting trumpet and danceable beats. The subtleties of Salvo’s songs were lost in the commotion, but the soloists injected some much-needed groove into the last songs of the set.

The DJs took the task of getting the party started, spinning artists from the transnational rock en español canon, including Hombres G, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, and Maná. So well did they know their audience that the vocals for verses and choruses of the songs were dropped so that the waiting crowd could add them. By the time sound check was complete, the homey venue was abuzz with anticipation.

The band took to the stage amid the shrieks of women and the fist pumps of men. Wearing a red Sex Pistols cutoff, black jeans and sneakers, tattooed singer Pau Donés grabbed his guitar and rolled through the first three songs: “Ilusinaciones,” “Tú mandas” and “Hoy no soy yo.”

Pausing to greet the crowd, the salt-and-pepper yet boyish Donés admitted his delight in arriving at a full house in Raleigh, grinning as he exclaimed, “Who would have ever thought that we would be in North Carolina?” The crowd responded with overwhelming cheers.
The precision and passion with which Jarabe de Palo plays depends in no small part on the theatrics of lead guitarist David Muñoz and the amp-leaping antics of Donés. The strong rhythmic backbone provided by Alex Tenas and Jaime Burgos on drums and keyboard kept it all under control. The crowd’s energy was reflected back to the performers. At the first notes of the ska-tinged “¿A dónde vas?,” several audience members skanked like they were in a 1960s Jamaican dance hall.

The band itself took every opportunity to dance, sometimes in old salsa-line style, sometimes turning to funk, sometimes pogoing. Their moves revitalized the set after they performed two songs while sitting down. The high point of anticipation and energy came after the fast-paced “Somos” transitioned into Donés explaining why his trip to Cuba inspired the next song he was to sing—a small clue, but the crowd knew the band would be playing the immensely popular “La Flaca.” Everyone went wild.

Before the two-song encore, Donés announced the October 10 show at Motorco, and the crowd, again, went wild. Energy, charisma and infallible graciousness for the warm reception characterized the group’s stage presence and performance. If this is any indication of where Jorge Zuluaga and Juan Chávez’s Raleigh Sónica project is headed, the Triangle is in for some electrifying and diverse shows.


Set list
Tú mandas
Hoy no soy yo
¿A dónde vas?
2 días
Lado oscuro
Bala perdida
Déjame vivir
Te miro y tiemblo
La quiero a morir
A mi novia le gustan las…
La flaca
Me gusta como eres