Get used to it, cabrones
Let your penis do the talking:
I realize it’s hard for a band to shed the “rock en español” image. Especially because Diciembre Gris is made up of five Mexican dudes. Who rock. En español. But there is something that makes you want to separate them from other American rock bands—the way they squeak out tunes like honorary Brits, full of booze and vinegar. I mean, there were times during Saturday night’s Luigi’s Fun Garden show when Coki Villegas’ guitar, Beto Villegas’ bass, Dani Villegas’ whine and Cassidy Garcia’s drums were so perfectly melancholy that I closed my eyes and imagined I was in a small, dimly lit Liverpool pub. Although, really, I’ve never been to Europe, so what the hell do I know?
We arrived at Luigi’s in time to hear the Kelps banging out their soulful rock. Three slices of pizza later, when Diciembre Gris began its heavily Brit-pop-influenced set, is when the girls started to pour in, some of them mouthing Diciembre Gris lyrics, word for word. It’s impressive, considering this question: How many bands in Sacramento have a group of girls who follow them from town to town (some dragging their boyfriends) and know all the lyrics to the songs? I’ll just say none. Although, once at a Secretions show, I did watch a 10-year-old-ish boy mouthing the lyrics to “Boner.”
After seeing Diciembre Gris perform for several years, it’s safe to say that Coki is a superb guitarist. He’s so easy on that thing. As the band floats in a pool of very murky water, with occasional air bubbles provided by Beto’s fun, poppy bass lines. Yeah, the music is heavy, but there’s reason for the melancholy. After all, the band is no stranger to tragedy (they’re from Woodland, for God’s sake), but Diciembre Gris makes a fine art of turning struggle into very thoughtful—dare I say emotional—tunes.
The band bio says the “simple yet fantastic performance style that each member contributes” makes for an overall sound that “supplies a mesmerizing live experience.” That’s true, for the most part, but there are exceptions. For instance, I noticed a lack of keyboard parts for El Dude, which leaves him standing there for most of the show, looking bored with his tambourine. While Garcia bangs on the drums as if he’s playing along with an ’80s hardcore band, Beto and Dani ham it up for chicks in the crowd.
At times, the band seems to exist on completely different emotional planes, which is intriguing to watch, but not necessarily conducive to a cohesive stage show. At one point, Dani even mentioned that he didn’t “have good stage presence.” And then he pointed to his guitar and said, “I just let this do the talking for me” (it turns out my sister laughed at that part because she thought he was pointing to his penis).
Also, it’s evident that at times Dani cannot hear his own voice, which leads to some very off-key moments. Dark, moody songs where the fuzzy guitars scream through the speakers (like in the song “Artificial”) are where the band works best. Dani can whisper and yell with the best of them, keeping up with the band’s frenetic energy when they decide, in certain moments, to come together as one.
It’s really hard not to make a Mexican-version-of-the Cure reference here, so instead I’ll just say that because half of their music is in Spanish doesn’t mean they should be quarantined in some rock ’n’ roll ghetto. It just means that we’re in America, so get used to it, cabrones.