viva la corrido!

March 26, 2010

originally written for my L.A. Weekly West Coast Sound blog writer application, but eventually posted here

It thumps through the streets of Los Angeles like a sonic Godzilla — blaring from the cabs of rusty trucks waiting at stoplights and coming full-blast from our neighbor’s backyard quinceanera parties. But while the familiar umpa of traditional Mexican music has become the most prevalent of our city’s global soundtracks (so much that local white boy rock band the Bronx paid ode on its most recent album), it still remains largely ignored by mainstream music outlets.

Billboard calls it “Regional Mexican Music,” but that term would elicit “jajajas” from anyone in regional Mexico. Fans know it more affectionately as corridos, a poetic song form created in the 1800s that thrives today (thanks to a valiente named Chalino Sanchez) as politico-emotional border music. Readers of depressing news stories about “Mexico Under Siege” might be more familiar with the controversial sub-form narcocorridos, which were banned in Mexico last year for lyrics that reflect the country’s ongoing drug war.

But it is exactly because its subject matter wavers between cartel glorification and outcry against the border fence that there is much underground love for the corrido. The old musical folk tradition has been updated to speak to the identity of a new generation of Mexican-Americans and, for one day a year, it gets the ultimate Hollywood treatment.

Now in its third incarnation, the LiveNation-hosted Invasion del Corrido brings together the best crooners, players and bandas of the corrido and narcocorrido styles for a night of bailando y cantado at the Gibson Amphitheatre. This year’s lineup features Voz de Mando, El Potro de Sinaloa, Gerardo Ortiz, Cartel de Sinaloa, Enigma Norteno, Azabache and more.

Good luck finding tickets, though. Despite the event’s violent imagery (or maybe because of? The show’s flyer is covered in ammo-infused logos and one of the performing bands bears the name of a Mexican drug ring), the concert has been sold out for months.

Of course if low-key is more your corrido style (or $410 is too pricey for orchestra seats), hold out for a few weeks until Voz de Mando plays the unaffiliated-yet-similarly-titled event La Explosion del Corrido, which takes over at the Fox Theater in Pomona April 10. Or just hang out at your local major street intersection — a turned-up-to-11 ranchera-lover is sure to drive by.

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