Last week we were able to enjoy a jazz gig by the Juan CasteñonTrio at Merakis, an outdoor restaurant that brings in the cool crowd with great mescal drinks, a wide ranging menu, and hip music.
But it’s a small space and the audience is spaced out (geographically, not mentally – at least not until the third or fourth tequila and eating dinner, so the excitement and volume is sort of muted. It is music with dinner; not a hopping music venue like it was before the pandemic when Eros the Fool and his full band packed Meraki’s inside lounge with swaying, sweating dancers.
But with the closure of the Spotlight, Lakeside’s largest inside club which could hold up to 200 people, and the remodeling going on at the 800-seat Auditorio, we are left without a large pure music venue – 100 seats or more – to host local bands and touring artists. Adelita’s, Mama’s et. al. are all great, but they are smaller, mostly inside and serve dinner. Even the larger La Bodega and El Barco restaurants which regularly hosts the red hot bands like Los Traficantes del Ritmo still do not have the size and feel for exciting live music when they are set up for a socially- distanced dinner crowd.
To the rescue comes the Lake Chapala Society (LCS) with a vast lawn, large gazebo, and – most important – a Board President who formerly ran a company in the USA that produced rock concerts and Grammy events. Plus Ray Domenech, a local music entrepreneur, formally a record executive who now operates a jazz venue and a couple of restaurants – one at the LCS. Is o board and makes sure things work. Together, they have the space, the music connections, the equipment and the backing to bring in top talent and fill 100 seats, no problem.
Which is exactly what they did this weekend.
A full house – or lawn – greeted a casually-clad Spencer Day, a tattooed Effie Passero and a sparkling Zoe Wood as they made their way from the green room to the outdoor stage on the LCS lawn Sunday. Over 100 people, half at tables with their friends, sipping palomas and wine and beer, cheered as the trio mounted the stage. They were hungry for a show and the artists were hungry to give it them.
Spencer Day is a Billboard #1 singer and songwriter best known for his hit jazz single “Till You Come to Me, ” as well as appearing on the CBS television network show Star Search . Effie Passero was an American Idol star who was originally trained in opera but is well known in the US and Mexico for her powerful pop vocals and joyful stage presence. Many in the audience had seen them on TV or YouTube or streamed them. Zoe Wood is a fixture in Puerto Vallarta music scene as a world class guitarist.
The artists absorbed the love from the audience and returned it with a slew of their own applause-generating originals like “Movie of Your Life” and “My Prometheus”, as well as covers like “Come Together”, “Runaway” and the Mexican classic “La Llorna”.
Yes, everyone was masked, except when drinking and eating, and even the intrepid dancers in the wayback kept their masks on. But, masked or not, the excitement was there. Finally , a big live audience that could clap and cheer and stand up and even rock out a little. Yes, the audience was older than the usual crowd at the Guadalajara clubs, or even Meraki’s, and the set list tended toward the middle rather than the smoking edges, but it made no difference to the audience – they were stoked.
The musicians performed two sold-out shows, keeping their energy way up, receiving standing ovations at the end of each set, and staying after each show to chat with audience members. Because it was outdoors, the gigs were early – one in the afternoon and one in the evening, but that left time for plenty of drinking afterward.
More concerts are scheduled, including the five-time West Coast Music Award nominee, Kim Kuzma and her band later this month. And I will be talking to the producers about brining in some of my fusion music friends from LA for a gig at the LCS Concerts on the Lawn series and another in a club in Guadalajara. Big audience music is back, its outside and I love it.
Patrick O’Heffernan, Host Music Sin Fronteras radio
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