A study released this week of the past 50 years of Billboard Hot 100 Hits revealed three inflection points – sharp changes in musical forms: 1964 with the British invasion and San Francisco acid rock blowing up 50’s 4/4 rock and roll, 1981 with the introduction of synthesizers and other electronica giving way to the pop and EDM of today, and 1991 with the emergence of hip–hop from Brooklyn into a national form that spawned rap and influenced American music in all genres. The audience at Gypset’s 6 de Mayo concert featuring Gaby Moreno at Silverlake’s Los Globos club, whether or not they realized it, were witnessing the emergence of a fourth inflection point in the nation’s music, the blend of South and Central American music and culture with American rock, blues and jazz. The result is, for want of a better name, American Latin Music (A.L.M.). Latin Grammy winner Gaby Moreno showed them exactly what A.L.M. looks like and why she is one of its most talented and most revered pioneers.
Moreno was the highlight of a program assembled by Gypset’s founders, Luis Polanco and Diana Carolina to forward and exemplify the cultural shift emerging from South and Central American immigrant artists in the LA music scene. The bill included Marisa Ronstadt - Linda’s cousin and a powerful jazz singer in her own right, the Austin/LA based third-generation Mexican-American rock artist David Garza, and highly respected LA guitarist Gloria Estrada , plus members of Garza’s and Moreno’s local bands and musical friends.
Moreno, a Guatemalan by birth, brought with her a huge following of Guatemalan immigrants who showered her with love, which she copiously returned from the stage. At times the Guatemalan flavor completely engulfed the joyous crowd as people waved Guatemalan flags, held up signs in Spanish and English celebrating Guatemala and Moreno. Even Miss Teenage Guatemala was there in her white gown and tiara, clapping and singing to Moreno’s tunes. It was a party!
As an early crowd streamed in and filled up the VIP chairs and the standing room floor, the Gypset MC team of Julie Isela and impresario JC Barrios set the tone for the evening with a bilingual introduction that explicitly welcome the English speakers in the audience to what was a heavy Spanish language program. This bi-lingual welcome was continued through the evening by Gypset and the musicians who embraced everyone from the Caucasian hipsters on the floor to the Guatemalan-American grandmothers in the chairs.
Ronstadt warmed up the crowd with a 20 minute set of American jazz tunes Latin-spiced by Gloria Estrada’s guitar. Obviously and joyfully pregnant, Ronstadt dedicated songs to her daughter and to the child on the way much to the appreciation of the la familia loving crowd.
While David Garza’s band was setting up on stage, Miss Teenage Guatemala posed with friends and audience members. Co-host JC Barrios, a Guatemalan immigrant himself, posed for photos with her and with the Guatemalan flag. When Garza signaled the band was ready, Barrios and Isela introduced him in English and Spanish, gave a nod to the Guatemala-American energy in the house, and stepped aside for Garza to rock.
And rock he did. With his trademark low-down guitar-walking style, Garza launched with Dylanesqe lyrics in solid blues-rock songs. Moving through a half dozen high tempo beats with low-note growl lyrics, Garza got the crowd moving and grooving. Staying mostly in English, but also addressing the crowd in Spanish, Garza was backed by a drummer and standup base player which gave him a very American blues rock feel with a aurora of Latin color. As he moved through the set, the tempo sped up and Garza straightened up so that we could see his wry grin through his longish black hair. Each song was unique in either language and demonstrated why he was voted 2nd only behind Stevie Ray Vaughan as Austin Musician of the Decade in 1999. Often compared to Annie DiFranco, Freddie Murphy and Jeff Buckley, Garza was a perfect blend of American root forms and Hispanic fusion. And the perfect set up for Moreno.
Moreno was both a coup and a flash of brilliance for Gypset. The Gypset website was founded by Carolina and Polcano over coffee late one night and launched September 15th, 2014 to embrace world culture and bring people together through style, music and travel, themes embodied in Moreno’s performances. The founders manifest their vision beyond the website through live events that showcase the emerging bi-lingual blend of Hispanic and America music forms. By doing so, they are becoming the leading platform for A.L.M music, much like CBGB served as the incubator of punk in New York in the 80’s. Snagging Moreno for the Los Globos celebration was a coup because she is routinely seen in much larger venues; it was brilliant because her unique combination of music from Central and South America and American blues and 50’s rock does more than crossover to gringo audiences, it creates a new audience of world culture lovers.
Moreno’s set was divided between her familiar songs, some from the album Postales, and new songs from a forthcoming album. She also alternated between English and Spanish, but gave especially enthusiastic shout outs in Spanish to her Guatemala-American fans in the audience. Starting off in Spanish with familiar songs she carried us along with blues rock numbers in Spanish, then pure rock in English and a few love songs. David Garza joined her on stage with a banjo to introduce songs from her upcoming album and then with guitar as Moreno traded her rhythm guitar for a tambourine. At one point she introduced a new rock number by successfully teaching the enthusiastic audience to clap on the 4th notes in 4/4 time. At the end of the evening she was joined on stage by other Guatemalan-American musicians whose Spanish songs were so well known to the audience that they sang along spontaneously. Of course, as she wrapped up and waved goodbye there were choruses of “otra” from the floor but she was quickly absorbed by the throng of fans waiting offstage to meet their heroine and snap a selfie with her.
Gaby Moreno is one a growing constellation of A.L.M. stars who are creating the new blend of rhythms, spirit, stories and fans, but she is special as the only one to win a Latin Grammy, the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and be nominated for an Emmy. She is joined by other artists in this constellation like La Santa Cecelia (also a Latin Grammy winner), Mitre, Austin-based Gina Chavez, Irene Diaz, Las Cafeterias and of course, the original pioneers, Ozomotli. Organizations like Gypset, Cosmica Management, EnclaveLA and the Santo Domingo-based platform Vents are also part of this expanding force for a fourth inflection point in American music (and global music!). Moreno’s performance at Gypset’s 6 de Mayo concert at Los Globos will not be remembered as her largest venue or most famous collaborations, but it should be remembered as a seminal event in the emergence of a new LA sound, the Latin-Gringo sound of A.L.M., a sound with a style and culture that will seep into music, art and life across the country.