OK, let’s get the garbage out of the way: as usual, the sound at the Korova sucked last week, to the point that, just before Molotov’s set, a roadie for the Mexican band sat at the drum set and, in Spanish, twice asked for “the mentally retarded person who runs the sound at this joint.”
Also as usual, the almost-capacity crowd and the bands themselves relied on guts and sheer energy alone to rise above all imperfections and turn the show into a memorable party—it’s because of nights like this that the venue continues to exist. This particular occasion was more than just a strong night of music: it was a nostalgia party for anyone who lived in Los Angeles during the late 1980s-to-mid-’90s rock en español boom.
The all-ages, mostly Latina/o crowd showed up early and sang along while DJ/emcee Gran Karim, a friend of the band, spun old hits by groups like Soda Stereo, Caifanes, Café Tacuba, Control Machete and Illya Kuryaki & the Valderramas. It was a flashback to when L.A. first became the U.S. capital of rock en español and, when Molotov finally took the stage shortly after 11 p.m., the crowd saw a well-oiled band with enough ammunition left to relive its golden years. The metal-rap-Latin foursome opened with “Noko” and closed with “Frijolero” and “Puto,” their two biggest hits, and there was no need for the usual “Rastamandita” encore where dozens of girls jump on stage. It was a loud statement from a band that has no local radio airplay and which hasn’t released new music since 2007.
All the other bands on the bill deserve a special mention: psychedelic blues-based power trio Crown (with members from Mexico, Venezuela and San Antonio) ripped the place apart with three songs and left jaws on the floor. They’re all capable musicians, but bassist/beast Josh Borchardt is an unusual mix of John Entwistle and Divididos’ Diego Arnedo; Los De Esta Noche had the unenviable task of following these guys, but they pulled it off when they focused on the hardest-rocking cumbia-punk I’ve seen them play (and Julio López’s primal screams) instead of unremarkable ska; Piñata Protest suffered more than anyone with the sound, but eventually steered the ship and their punk version of “Volver, Volver” could be heard from Alabama; and California’s Sangre (“Blood” in Spanish) preceded Molotov by jumping from thrash and speed to a sort of neo metal-rumba flamenca Del Castillo could only dream of duplicating.