Last week I told you that there was live music here in central Mexico if you followed all the protocols. The band members wear masks, except for singers and horn or harmonica players, only restaurants are allowed to have music – no bar-only venues with standing areas can open. Tables are far away from each other, waiters all in masks – you know the drill.
Last weekend we went to a wedding reception in San Juan Cosala, a small village overlooking Lake Chapala, about an hour out of Guadalajara. The wedding united two of the young staff members of the Semanario Laguna, the local newspaper I write for. It was in an event space in the hills with a sweeping view of the lake. There are many event spaces in Mexico because the typical Mexican home does not have a yard or often a dining room. Family events either take place on the sidewalk or in an event space. Given that this was a grand wedding reception with 90 or more people, a grand space was required.
People wore masks into the reception (we were not at the church for the actual ceremony) and we had our temperature checked before we were allowed in. Seating was not crowded, but not socially-spaced. Most of the tables were assigned to families, who presumably were not concerned that family members could infect them with Covid-19.
There was a band, and that was the strange thing. It was a very good Mexican trio – a woman on the sax, a female vocalist, and a guy on electric guitar. We were surprised that there was no mariachi, usually mandatory at all Mexican celebrations. But what surprised us more was the set list: all English and all rock and roll covers from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Given that the bride and groom were in their mid to late 20’s, and half the guests were their friends of a similar age, I had expected an up to the minute Mexican rock/post rock/Dance/fusion band or at least a DJ with Mexico’s top songs. Instead we got Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones and Rock Around the Clock. I am not complaining, but I guess mom and dad hired the band.
But a good time was had by all, and more importantly it was sign of musical normalcy. People danced on the grass, the sax player strolled through the tables with a radio mic, and the band rocked out. It was almost like a normal reception before the pandemic.
More signs of music normalcy returned. Local and touring jazz groups now appear regularly at Casa Domenech, an indoor local jazz hub. Local electronic groups play at the outdoor Meraki Bistro, and bands like Tommy Banks and the Soul Investors and Los Traficantes del Ritmo blast out good, old fashioned rock and roll with a little Mexican color at the popular outdoor indoor/outdoor grill Adelita’s.
But the best sign of a bit of normalcy was a jam session – a real old fashioned, pull-your-musical friends-out-of-the-audience and rock while the audience claps and sings jam session. It happened earlier tonight at the Meraki Bistro, which is becoming the in place for cool music in Ajijic. Inamic was holding forth with his guitar and golden voice in the first set. In the second set, he raised the energy level by bringing up from the tables Michael Warmuth on the hammer dulcimer and keyboard and Miguel Soto on the cajon for a jam of originals and covers. Then Inamic spotted the renowned singer Yanin Saavedra in the audience and talked her into joining the band on stage for a crack at the Bill Wither’s classic “Ain’t No Sunshine” and they nailed it. Then local singer James Twyman joined the gang on stage for a song followed by Inamic leading us all in the Stones’ “Satisfaction” as the audience clapped and whistled and sang.
We still had to observe safety protocols, wear masks, squirt our hands, and my wife and I sat socially distanced at our own table. The band tonight was a safe distance, although they did dispense a few hugs to friends and family. But it was sure nice to sing and clap and cheer the band. It felt almost normal.