While anti-immigrant right-wingers have stepped up xenophobic rants about preserving "American values" as they push English-only agendas, a funny thing has happened to the so-called rock en español genre: It's losing the Español. One only has to tune in to MTV's Latino-focused channel, MTV Tr3s (pronounced "tres"), to see this transformation.
Relaunched in 2006 as Tr3s, the Spanglish-speaking channel's featured artists have dropped almost all traces of traditional Latin music--and many even sing exclusively in English. For the MTV Tr3s-sponsored Circo Rocktastico summer U.S. tour, the channel chose an unsuspecting Tucson as an early stop at Sharks nightclub.
Rocktastico headliners Monte Negro actually opened the Sharks show, possibly reacting to the thin crowd in attendance. Los Angeles' Monte Negro are the most traditional rock en español act on the tour, sounding similar to U2, Soda Stereo or a hipper version of Maná. As exemplified by their latest single, "Give Me Love (No Llores)," the band are bilingual, preferring to use English during chorus anthems. Of special note was Monte's lead singer, Kinski Gallo Rodriguez, who sings like Sting while using a Six-Point Bono Stance, which looks like a sexy crouch while one searches for lost contacts.
Fellow Los Angelinos Astra Heights dig deeper for their influences, at times coming off like a Bowie or T.Rex tribute band--English accents and all--as if they nicked Hispanic icon Morrissey's record collection. Astra impressed from the get-go, looking like the Strokes and throwing pitch-perfect harmonies during a quick sound check. Glammy stomps like "The March" also brought Louis XIV to mind.
Despite being the only female-fronted band of the night, San Francisco's the May Fire closed with the ballsiest performance, lead by the Chilean-born Catty Tasso. I'm suspecting Tasso's older siblings passed on a crate of CDs they purchased during the late-'80s heyday of MTV's 120 Minutes, as the May Fire channeled alternative rock acts like the Pixies, the Breeders and Sonic Youth.
A midevening monsoon dampened the turnout, as did MTV Tr3s' poor promoting--a common MySpace friend of mine on the Rocktastico's MySpace Top 16 wasn't even aware of the show. You'll never erase our American way if you can't even master the bulletin function, MTV Tr3s!