The last quarter of the year in Mexico is usually jam-packed with celebrations and music. We have the two-day Day of the Dead celebrations, copycat Halloween celebrations, and the usual parties for various saints and gods, Revolution Day, the December Solstice, All Saints Day, All Souls, Day, and of course Christmas. And on Dec. 12, there is the monster celebration for the Virgin of Guadalupe, which can bring as many as a million people to Mexico City. All of these events are accompanied by, or led by, music.
Here in Ajijic, the weekend was jammed with cover bands, alt rock bands, mariachi bands, show tunes, Americana concerts, classical quartets, and a Flamenco night featuring a famous Spanish dancer visiting Mexico. Further complicating things for my scheduling was the fact that many of the artists playing were friends, so unless I could be in several places at once, I would have to skip some friends’ performances. I thought about moving back to LA where things were simpler.
My wife and I opted to see a few friends in concert configurations I have not seen before – something both new and familiar at the same time. Since this required visiting three different venues, all of which served food, we made the evening a moving feast.
We started off with an all-star duo made up the front women from two of the area’s hottest bands: Fernandra Parra, leader of the band Mary’s Island, and Elizzé Navarro, leader of the band LYXR.
They were set to play in the outdoor venue of the 4-month-old Casa Treeskel wine bar and restaurant. I know both women well and have reported on their bands here, but to see just the two of them, harmonizing sans bands, intrigued me. They had only sung together 3 times, so this was a bit of an experiment. To complicate things, it rained, driving them inside to a small dining area and bar, where they had to squeeze between the bar and the open front door – where I had to photograph them because of the poor light in restaurant – and dodge waiters coming in from the kitchen below.
But it worked, very, very well. Two angelic voices, backed by soft chords from Fernandra’s electric guitar, the vocals weaving in and out and around each other, coming together in harmonies, and filling the tiny space with beautiful melodies in English and Spanish. Music included the Beatles, popular Mexican songs, and a few American oldies like Stand By Me, sung in Spanish. The playlist fit their voices beautifully. I hope they continue the experiment and even record a song or two.
After appetizers and tequila at Treeskel we moved on to Casa Domenech, a jazz supper club that has gone through some changes but is now back to being a central music hub – and not just for jazz. My friend Scott Henrich of the band Old Souls was singing Americana songs solo and he hit it out of the park. I often see the Old Souls band at its usual Friday night gig at Scallions, but hearing him solo was a treat. He poured on the emotion with songs from John Pine, Dolly Parton and others. As I told Scott afterward, I listen to 200 or so songs a week for my Hot Half Dozen column and only a handful move me; he moved me.
Plus it was great to get the old gang – i.e., Casa Domenech regulars – back together for music.
After a delicious dinner at Domenech’s we moved our food and music feast to La Estación, a cavernous venue attached to an upper crust pizza place where we saw the last half of the Art and Rock Sensorial Fest 2023. We arrived too late for the cover rock band, Mr. Marbles, but in time to peruse the photographs and art – some by photographers and artists I know – and a medley of Broadway and Great American Songbook tunes by another all-star duo, Christy Carter Caldwell and Amaranta Santos.
Both have astounding voices and brought them to bear on the songs, accompanied by a strong sound system that filled the cavernous concretes space they performed in. We heard many familiar classics, like “I am a Woman” and show tunes like “When You’re Good to Mama” from Chicago. We enjoyed dessert (crem brulé) and cappuccino while the two women traded off at the microphone (no duets). Mr Marbles came back on for an “otra” and we tapped our feet to two final rock and roll songs.
It was still raining lightly when we left, but no amount of rain could put a damper on our food and music progressive feast. We may do it again.
banner: Fernandra Parra and Elizzé Navarro pose in the doorway of Casa Treeskel
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