Published Nov 25, 2008On the surface, playing a chilly Vancouver club in the dead of fall is hardly the perfect time and place for El Guinchos live Canadian debut. The Tropicália-loving Spaniard simply reeks of summer, his joyous, sun-baked exotica being the ideal soundtrack to sultry sand and surf, or at the very least, a warm day. But heres El Guincho in a subterranean dance club basement on one of the coldest nights of the year, and yet bringing back the summer in full force, perfect conditions or not.
However, he didnt warm up the night alone. Vancouvers tropically inclined No Gold took the stage first and got things going with their melting pot of sound, combining equal parts new wave, Afrobeat and indie pop, and sounding very much like New Order doing Graceland (in a good way). The set perhaps wasnt as full-on as those No Gold usually break out during their late-night DIY dance parties, but you couldnt have asked for more fitting openers.
And while No Gold did inspire some movement on the dance floor, it hardly compared to the hands-in-the-air freak-out brought on by El Guincho. With the bands only permanent member Pablo Días-Reixa set up behind a blinking console of synths, samplers and god knows what else, he quickly whipped the entire venue into a constant state of motion. And this went for everyone: the party kids at the front, the arms-crossed scenester to the side, and even the burly gym rats at the back, only there waiting for the venues post-gig club night to begin.
For his live setup, the cheery Días-Reixa only added one extra body, who helped beat out fast-paced polyrhythms on a set of electronic drum pads. It was hardly the full-band setup he hinted at earlier this month to Exclaim!, but Días-Reixa did make good on his promise to give the audience a "cooler sound. Always playing it upbeat, the onstage duo amplified El Guinchos trance-y, repetitive drive, playing up the electronics and, believe it or not, making for an even denser, more hypnotic experience than that of his break-out album, Alegranza.
The tracks also came packing a bigger pop punch, with Días-Reixa taking bigger chances with more ambitious and varied melodies. They were often unfamiliar ones, though, with the pair playing almost exclusively new material and only a handful of Alegranza tracks, such as "Buenos Matrimonios Ahi Fuera, "Polca Mazurca and the stand-out single "Palmitos Park. And even then, the old songs were remixed, refashioned and given a club-oriented makeover, which only improved on what was already a stunning approach.
El Guincho ended the night with an Alegranza medley that condensed all that was great about his 2008 album into a tight five minutes, easily reminding you why he made one of the years best first impressions, endless summer or not.