On May 5, 1862, in the tiny Mexican state of Puebla, Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín won a battle over an advancing French army. Essentially ignored in Mexico, some wise U.S. beer distributors decided that this event was something to celebrate annually, thus giving us the binge-drinking holiday of Cinco de Mayo.
As 2008's Cinco de Mayo fell on a Monday, this past Saturday, Club Congress held a Tres de Mayo celebration, starring local Latin-flavored acts Tesoro and Salvador Duran. Later that night, Che's Lounge hosted The Jons, who perform rock en espanol covers and Fab Four-inspired originals, sung in English.
Salvador Duran, who is famous for his recordings and tours with Calexico and Iron and Wine, opened the early cabaret-styled show with his unique brand of folk music, featuring the gusto of traditional flamenco. Combining his booming operatic baritone, foot-stomping rhythm box and harmonica, Duran comes off as a combination of Pavarotti, Willie Nelson and a one-man Gypsy Kings. Covering numbers from Los Tres Panchos to contemporary Manu Chao, Duran becomes most passionate in his originals, focused on the plight of indigenous Mexicans.
Founding Tesoro members Brian Scott and Andrew McClarron take another route with their modern flamenco, as popularized by the Gypsy Kings and fusion artists like Ottmar Liebert. Accompanying Scott on dueling guitar is local Latin music fixture Manny Brito; his brother Danny is on percussion as well. Scott and McClarron (both Caucasian) revealed their true roots with a Pink Floyd instrumental encore. (Ironically, Brito blew McClarron away with his David Gilmouresque solo. ¡Viva la raza!)
The highlight of the night came when Duran joined the band on stage, riffing with his glorious voice over the Spanish guitars.
Meanwhile, The Jons were tearing the house down at Che's Lounge with an unannounced guest--Calexico's Jacob Valenzuela--sitting in on trumpet. Valenzuela, usually seen backing up jazzy Calexico downers, was out of character as he rolled with covers of Latin groups such as Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. Even more surreal was Valenzuela participating in party anthems such as OutKast's "Hey Ya!," and "Shout," a song popularized in Animal House, thus driving the holiday's binge-drinking theme home.