Last Friday I went to see some live music at Casco Viejo in Panama City (Panama). I had heard from my cousin Clarisse and her co-worker Picho (Pureza Natural bass player) that this band called “El Papo Vecino” was going to have a gig at la Casona de las Brujas venue, place which I love for its bohemian/indie/rustic vibe.
I got there late, at the end of the musical interlude by Carlos Mendez, a rock solo artist from the local scene. I could not appreciate much of his music, because I got there right at the middle of his last song. People cheered at the end of the song so I assume he must have been good. Prior to the concert I kept on asking what type of music “El Papo Vecino” played, and the only adjectives I got were “weird”, “experimental”, and Stereolab-like music. At that time I hadn’t heard of Stereolab, but I do like weird/experimental stuff, so I was kinda looking forward to hear this local band. I also had positive references from the main singer (“whose singing sounded more like another instrument”), and from the drummer (who seems to have a really good reputation in the local scene).
So there I was with a few expectations, waiting at a place that in spite of the rainy night, was quite crowded given the La Casona standards. Off they went and started to play. The high harmonics played with the guitars immediately caught my attention, and it only hit me afterwards that the main singer was singing all along. Sometimes the captivating synchronization between her voice and one of the guitars was such, that it felt like the voice had a tremolo-like effect, when I presume it was the guitar alone. I caught myself in several occasions trying to see if the microphone was connected to some type of pedal or special effects device, but I could not find anything. Two keyboard synthesizers also added some variety to the music and these would be played by what I think was the lead guitar (who would also chorus at times) and by the lead singer.
Even though the sequences played by the 2 guitars and the bass were repeated constantly and were not utterly complicated in principle, the final product was a rather complex and rich sound that never left the clean tones and its beautiful simplicity. At times I would get caught by the bass whose riffs where fairly long using a broad range of high and low tones. The drummer complemented the neat sounds of the stringed instruments with complex sequences, that ranged from soft rock to heavier sounds, and that were deliberately thoughtful and carefully designed to preempt the listener to perceive a monotonic sound caused by the other instruments. In a few words, I would describe their music as an interesting, surreal, hallucinogenic experience with a minimalistic undertone (as WikiPedia would suggest).
It was also interesting to see how the crowd reacted to the music. I think they didn’t really know how to react, I myself did not know how to react. Sometimes I would be dancing, but this is not really music at which you can dance to, so I would stop, but a few seconds later I would find myself moving again. It happened likewise with other people (most of the guys were checking out the female singer!). Some of them were dancing as if it was electronic music (which it wasn’t), others moving with more of a latin rhythm (which was not either). This all tells me that the music did evoke some type of foreign feeling for the crowd which does nothing to the local scene, but to add more diversity and make it evolve to the next level. It takes lots of boldness for musicians to jump into non-mainstream projects like these, especially in these pop-culture times. Well done Papo!
In all, if you are in Panama –and you are into new sounds and experimental music, “El Papo Vecino” is a must if you want to check out the local rock scene! I wish I was more into this genre to draw some more similarities with similar and more known bands. I also wish I could understand more of the lyrics, to have a broader opinion on their philosophical influences.
This is a short video I took from the band, but please do not take it as a reference, it doesn’t capture the rich sound produced live (feel free to check out more videos from them at YouTube (la Aventura sounds a lot like what I heard at La Casona).
More pictures from the event