The Mariachi Ghost Phillips Backyard Weekender, Victoria BC, July 28

The Mariachi Ghost Phillips Backyard Weekender, Victoria BC, July 28
Photo: Lindsey Blane
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If there was any doubt, the Mariachi Ghost prove that Canada's (comparatively) welcoming immigration policy is one of our country's greatest strengths. Guitarist and vocalist Jorge Requena was born and raised in Mexico City, but he emigrated to Winnipeg, found a small collective of likeminded individuals and formed a band that organically incorporates the finest elements of classic progressive rock and traditional Mexican music into something uniquely Canadian, and we are all better for it.
 
This PBW set marked the band's first time in Victoria, and they earned a warm welcome. They certainly made a striking visual presence in matching mariachi pants, with their faces half-painted in a minimal Catrina sugar skull style. In particular, Alexandra Garrido was impossible to ignore, as she performed a series of dances amidst four impressive costume changes, all completed on the stage on the fly.
 
One minute, she was wearing a black dress, tied a red blindfold around her head, and danced around all twitchy like a tortured marionette, the next she used the blindfold as a belt on a white dress and danced around with lavender, red and yellow veils, wrapping them about her head and shoulders as she swayed like a whimsical ghost.
 
Musically, the band did everything they could to match Garrido's theatricality. Ethnomusicologist Gabriel Fields brought "Cascabel" to the table, and delivering jarana so fiery that I half-expected his little guitar-like instrument to burst into flames in the afternoon sun. Grant Trippel let loose a scintillating guitar solo on "Susana," and a truly spacy one in the lengthy crescendo to "Cascabel."
 
The keys of Tim Friesen were beyond swanky on "La Bruja," a rock waltz with a bluesy classic rock sway lyrically based on the legend of a witch who eats the feet of children who don't willingly go to sleep, and later he impressively played trumpet with one hand and a Korg with the other on "Cuerpo Mortal" from their upcoming sophomore album, Puro Dolor, due October 25.
 
Jorge Requena was the key piece to this puzzle, though. His supporting guitar work and strong lead vocals, at once manly, sensual and folksy, elegantly balanced the flowing femininity of Garrido, who was doing her thing next to him onstage. Altogether, they made Victoria's hips move, and hips don't lie.