The Roxy is one of Hollywood’s top hotspot clubs and one of my favorite Hollywood Boulevard venues. The club’s semi-circular stage is large, but not too high — you can climb on it pretty easily, a feature appreciated by three of Caloncho’s fans who made the trip up and down. The lighting is generous, the sound is especially good, the vibe among the staff is genuinely positive and parking is next door and only $6.
It was chilly Monday night but the lineup at the Roxy was Latinx and hot. The Mexican singer Caloncho was headlining with opening sets from the New York 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 Stephanie and Oscar who told me they drove down from Fresno, over three hours each way just to see him onstage.
Singer-songwriter Rudy De Anda started things off with love songs and fun songs., His mellifluous voice and high-wattage smile filled the room with so much resonance he could come back the next week as the headliner himself. 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 cell cams. He finished the set back on stage with lots of twangy guitar notes.
When the black stage curtain opened, Juliana Ronderson and Nicolas Losada, known as Salt Cathedral, got the audience clapping right off the bat. Ronderson called for a shout out for the Columbians in the building (she and guitarist Losada are from the same neighborhood in Bogotá) and cheered the Latino crowd, giving herself permission to talk and sing mostly in Spanish. Bringing together guitar riffs, samples, and Ronderson’s wonderful voice and sense of humor, the duo kept the energy and fun going nonstop. Juliana’s black sequined top glittered in the red stage lights as she moved and bobbed around the floor, delivering light-hearted melodies and conversation, returning to her computer occasionally to launch the next sample.
When the curtain rose on a stage bathed in subdued green light, the final band of the night was in place and the crowd sound was almost deafening as they spotted 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 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 on stage and managed to get two selfies and a good-natured hug before she was escorted off by security. All in good fun and one reason why he is so beloved.
I hope to see Caloncho in his hometown, Guadalajara, close to our studios in Chapala. In the meantime, there is nothing like the Roxy in Hollywood, and nothing like Caloncho on its stage.
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