I was blessed with a cornucopia of great music this weekend – three of my favorite bands all played the same venue, two on Saturday and one on Sunday. And my town was blessed with rain, which Lake Chapala needs, but is not great for outdoor music. No problem – the show went on, both of them.
The venue was a restaurant called Baja Nore which is rapidly gaining a reputation as the home for very good bands from mariachi to rock to pop to ballads. The BN is a large, sprawling place with indoor seating for the rainy months -like this one now- and a large outdoor area with a covered alcove and a dance floor.
Saturday night’s lineup was unusual- the locally popular progressive jazz group Triálogo and the tropical pop group Mary’s Island. Both are excellent bands and I know them well. Triálogo has a devoted following and two albums out. Mary’s Island is starting to get national traction with over 135,000 streams on Spotify and an album coming.
Audiences for progressive jazz and tropical pop rock are usually pretty different, but in this case they were pretty much the same. However, what might have been a sellout was dampened considerably by off and on rain all day and the threat of more, but fans still showed up, wiping down the wet tables and chairs. The bands were moved into the covered alcove and beach umbrellas were set out for the audience tables. One very large group that was set up right in front of the stage cancelled, knocking down the attendance numbers significantly.
But the rest of the jazz fans stuck it out, some inside and some (like me) under umbrellas outside, and were treated to a world class jazz concert for our effort. Eleazar Soto was in top form despite the weather, and wailed on the sax like there was no rain and no tomorrow. The band – Giberto Rios on bass, Miguel Soto on drums, Soffia Ramirez on keys – was also in top form, scaffolding the sax at times and going off on their own riffs as the music called for it. The solos were impressive, especially Soffie Ramirez, whose touch on the keys was pure joyful communication.
Mary’s Island set up and started rocking. The jazz fans stayed and a younger crowd moved in , rearranging chairs and umbrellas into a lineup of fans in front of the stage and spreading back almost to the bar. Fernandra Parra and the band did not disappoint, despite the weather and being a bit cramped in the alcove. They delivered their popular songs, like “23”, “Dreams”, and “Bloom”, plus their latest hit, “Away From Paris” . As usual, Fernandra exuded pure fun, with her trademark flashing smile as she played. The night went late and I actually did not stay for the final few songs, heading home so I could upload video and photos.
But I was back at Baja Norte Sunday to see one of my other favor artists, Elizzé Navarro. The BN staff told me the party went on for a while Saturday – another Mary’s Island trademark. I know Elizzé Navarro through her band LYXR, a technically very good rock band lifted above the crowd by Navarro’s astonishing voice and audience connection skills. Sunday she was playing with her other band, ALBADUO, an acoustic ballad band just taking off but loaded with talent, The duo is Elizzé Navarro and Val Orendain on vocals, who also plays exquisite guitar, backed by drummer Dante Jiménez.
They don’t just make music; they make emotion.
When I say Navarro’s voice is astonishing, I mean it. Her range goes from deep belt to opera. Combined with Orendain’s honey-sweet, breathy, counter vocals and harmonies, the experience sheer heaven. They took me from pain to urgency to love to nostalgia and back again. It was the first time I had heard them and it felt like a trip to the dark side of the moon and back, I had to put down my phone and stop taking videos and just listen (I did get a couple of videos).
I also had to put my phone down to help the band move out of a rain squall that came up. I my perfectly placed table back under the umbrellas and moved chairs while the band scrambled to get the drums and cables and other gear under the eaves next to the bar and out of the rain. But they did and continued with what turned out to be a 29-song performance, including a cover of “Cry Me a River” that brought the house down.
All together a great musical weekend, despite the rain. I am looking forward to a sunshiny weekend – who knows what musical treasures will appear.
Banner: Eleza “Chuco” Soto relaxing before the Baja Norte Concert
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