Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

…whereupon the omniscient gray-bearded gods of good husbandry and fatherhood grant one gringo’s petition of relief from bad Brazilian weather, extortionately priced Panamanian airport chicken wraps, and an encroaching swarm of Mexican airport mosquitos, behind the soundtrack of the world’s finest trampoline-pouncing epic metal.

Flying from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Saturday, May 24 has been a day of precipitated and inexplicable awesomeness. A 50-megaton downpour engulfed Rio this morning, strapping up every taxi in town. Three hours before my flight departed, and I still hadn’t left my apartment. My hand wringing was well underway. Then a one-legged man (another story altogether) stepped (yes, with one leg) into the street on my behalf and, his kindly and knowing booger-pickin’ finger jutting into the inundated avenue (where I spotted a robed man gathering two of every mammal and leading them toward a wood-framed flotilla), hailed by Divine Providence an unoccupied cab. That taxi-hailing finger served as a figurative weather vane for the good fortune to come, for we got to the airport in 30 minutes. No traffic, no delays, the taxista driving at a steady and legal clip, peppering me with inspired queries about (!!!) the ease of handgun purchase in the United States, Stand Your Ground laws, and how he wished that Brazilians could shoot each other when, you know, “one feels threatened”.

At the Galeao International Airport in Rio, then, a series of fortunate occurrences transpired, each one compounding into the next like interest accumulating in a cleverly selected index fund. First, my flagging self-esteem got a long-overdue boost. While in line at the Copa counter to check my luggage, I met a Colombian dermatologist who assured me the vitiligo spots on my head are barely visible and probably “all a figment of your imagination”. Next, said Colombian and I went for cafe before heading to our gate, and whereas I generally despise the Brazilian devil bean for its overly-robust roast, this was actually a cup I’d take home to mom, my beseeching lips seizing upon it greedily with two big-assed buns of pao de queijo. Third, our gate was practically devoid of human presence and our flight to Panama City consequently empty, so I had an entire row to myself. I spread out and read Pantera’s ex-bassist Rex Brown’s autobiography in its entirety. Find me a better way to begin a long trip.

In Panama City, I have to admit, my mood soured somewhat. I paid 11 bucks for a spring chicken wrap, the terminal’s air conditioning was on the fritz (I invite you to try this in tropical Panama; ‘tis an unpleasant experience by any measure), the announcement system may as well have been a Motorhead concert for its ear-shredding volume (even the Brazilians present were covering their ears, so you KNOW it went to 11), and my connecting flight to Guadalajara was delayed due to an electrical failure on the plane’s navigation system. Once in Guadalajara – into which I rolled bleary-eyed at nearly 2 AM – I stood in line at customs and immigration being eaten alive by famished mosquitos, an invading swarm of Biblical proportions, and watched Mexicans slap at the air and each other amidst comments regarding the pinche dengue we were all sure to contract in the aftermath.

But just as with the morning’s sudden taxi luck, the gods of good husbandry and fatherhood, those ageless graybeards grinning down from their benevolent diaper changing thrones, smiled upon me when I reached the customs/immigration x-ray and declaration point. I presented my tourist passport and explained, when queried why I’d be two months in Ciudad Juarez, that I’m here to wed the hot tamale to whom I am betrothed and assume charge of my demon seed. She examined me dubiously, and I thought perhaps she required additional identification, at which juncture I produced my diplomatic passport with a sheepish grin and shrug of the shoulders. She waved the diplo passport away, informing me that her shock was merely over the fact that I have come from a continent away to do something which, in her words, “I couldn’t even get a guy in my same barrio to do.” And so she waved me through without x-ray, body cavity search or further ado on a tourist passport.

Emerging on the other side of the electrical door to the terminal, what should greet me but a Starbucks. Whereupon I presented the Starbucks gift card my mother sent me last Christmas (which the Brazilians will not honor), ordered a white chocolate mocha (which the Brazilians have not yet made correctly for me), and noted that on the Starbucks house sound system was playing “Through the Fire and the Flames” by DRAGONFORCE, sending me into spasms of Guitar Hero.

Next stop in a few hours is Ciudad Juarez, where I’ll be received by the hug-starved arms (and kiss-starved lips) of one Maria Vega. We’ll proceed with all haste to the Chulo Vista Hotel, whereupon I shall slumber after 26 sleepless hours in airports and on planes. Tonight I shall sup loudly at a plate of nachos, my first in 13 months, for a long-anticipated return to living Mexicanishly.

Tomorrow, at my office talent show, I’ll strap on a 6-sting, jam the cord into the amp, gradually twist the volume knob up (though lamentably not to 11, seeing as how it’ll be in a government office), and commence strumming, my right hand’s kitten-light touch across the strings plucking tonal magic from the musical ether. Yes, you have surmised correctly: tomorrow I will play guitar live for the first time since 2002. That time, I was living in China and a friend’s punk band was in dire straits and in need of a stand-in guitarist, as their regular axeman was down ill a fortnight prior. Following a tight rehearsal in an even tighter chicken coop (literally, that’s where we rehearsed), I took the stage with them in an Christian church gutted during the Great Cultural Revolution and later refitted and reopened as a night-spot for Chinese punk and metal youth. We performed one of the band’s originals, the name of which I cannot recall, and the NoFX song “Angry Young and Poor”. I was woefully out of condition to perform live – I was singing as well, which smoked my lungs blacker than a burnt BBQ frank – that when we finished the warp-speed abbreviated set, I was winded beyond description. Hence realizing that my time had long passed and I didn’t have “it” any more, I foreswore playing live anew, heretofore restricting my live musical activity to concerts I have paid to see, and air guitar before every reflective surface I encounter.

The specific piece I’ll play tomorrow is one I wrote at age 14 in 1991. I had just listened to the b-side of Metallica’s Black Album and upon indulging a virgin ear-voyage into “Nothing Else Matters” was suitably inspired to pen a softer piece to balance out all the corpse and war tunes I’d been writing up until then in a failed teenage bid to eclipse Slayer as World’s Most Evil Songwriter. Writing the piece came easily; in fact, you might say it wrote itself, though unlike Black Sabbath I cannot readily claim divine (or un-divine, as it were) intervention. It flowed from me as effortlessly as, say, Taco Bell leaves one’s intestines, to paraphrase Swedish band Dismember, “like an ever-flowing stream.” I have since perfected the passage: pseudo-classical and dealing heavily in minor keys, with finger-picking lending me the appearance of being far more skilled than I actually am at the instrument, it’s the song I’m most singularly proud of composing. And it’s ironically the piece the fewest people have ever heard. The last time – and ONLY time – I played it live was January 1995, also at a high school talent show during my senior year.

I was 18 years old then. Now I’m 37; it’s been nearly two decades. I had a waist-length lion’s mane of blond metal locks then; now I have a bald scalp peppered with spots from sun damage. (Thank you, 2nd-degree sunburn in Puebla, Mexico). Before I had dreams of head-banging stardom; now, 19 years later, I’ve made the full transition from metal head to walking dead, being a professional bureaucrat, and a federal one, at that! So on the surface, in every conceivable way, things have changed.

And yet none of the essentials have morphed over time. The night before a live performance is eternal: random nerves are the accepted price of dealing in live music. And let’s not forget the stress-eating: I just put down an entire block of Minas cheese. But most importantly, just like in the old days, yet again I find myself pissed over perceived equipment malfunctions that could adversely affect my performance tomorrow. I just changed guitar strings and I’m CERTAIN something isn’t right. Is that a buzzing E string? why is the sound so thin, is the cable not pumping enough juice into the amp? Why isn’t the chorus function on the multi-effects board giving my guitar the choir-like boost I desire?

And yet tomorrow it will all fade to the background and the joy of performing will reign supreme. Until, that is, a string breaks. Or a cable dies. Or a bum note is struck. Any of which will suffice to derail the entire show and, verily, ring in the fifth death of my macho.

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico: until very recently, the world murder capital. And it’s hardly much better now. Sitting just south of El Paso, Texas, in recent years this city – one of Mexico’s largest and by far the biggest and busiest border city on the planet- has boasted homicide rates worse than Iraq and Afghanistan, accounting for a full third of the 45,000 murders countrywide since 2006. City residents see an average of 40 stolen vehicles daily, half of which are carjacked. Extortion, kidnapping by organized criminal groups, among other crimes, and have led to the closure of 10,000 small businesses locally. Nearly 230,000 tired of looking over their shoulders, have opted to flee the city since 2006. That’s nearly a quarter of Ciudad Juarez’s population.

It is a well-established fact that artists of all ilk look to their surroundings for inspiration. And metal as an art form is no different: Ciudad Juarez has perhaps one of the most thriving extreme music scenes on the planet. Riding top-tier of that brutal talent is Limerance. The band – formed in 2008 by brothers Ricardo and Eduardo Guerrero – practically sprinted onto Ciudad Juarez’s scene and rapidly spread its metal tentacles comfortably while gigging throughout Mexico in cities like Torreon, Guadalajara and Monterrey, in addition to the US Southwest region. The band’s reputation as a dependable live unit has garnered Limerance opportunities to perform alongside globally-recognized acts like Unearth, Born of Osiris, Emmure, Carnifex, Within the Ruins, and As Blood Runs Black, in addition to some of Mexico’s finest, like Here Comes the Kraken.

Limerance’s music dexterously melds a multitude of metal styles; nowhere is this more evident than on the band’s first release, 2009’s “the Aftermath” EP. While emphasizing their death roots, a discerning ear will catch hallmarks of progressive, thrash, and classic metal, among others. Unpredictable and chaotic like the stray bullets striking down Ciudad Juarez’s innocent, Limerance’s tunes are simultaneously executed with a talent and maturity reserved for veteran outfits. Arpeggio runs punctuating intricate buzz saw riffs, vocals characterized by inhuman rasp, blasts and breakdowns alike are counterbalanced by melodic interludes, clear lyrical enunciation, and even the occasional Latin-styled guitar overture.

2013 will see Limerance taking its music to the furthest reaches of Mexico, including cities like Culiacan in the state of Sinaloa, infamous as the stomping ground of cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The band’s “we’ll-play-anywhere” DIY methodology stand assured to raise its profile and a few eyebrows along the way. In a still conservative Catholic nation that has drawn even further inward as it reels from the violence of the drug war, Limerance hopes to force itself closer to the metal’s mainstream, perhaps one day playing on equal footing with some of the scene’s finest the world over. For more info on the band, check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LimeranceMetal?fref=ts.