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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'The Wrestler' Director: Darren Aronofsky

Written by Washington Post Express contributor Alfredo Flores
Photo by Niko Tavernies for Express
WRESTLERS PROTECT EACH OTHER from harm in the ring, sell their baby face or heel personae and, after taking a beating, they grab a beer together, maybe hit a strip club. This is what happens in the underground wrestling circuits, and in the film "The Wrestler." The story of a washed- up wrestler doing whatever it takes — performance-enhancing drugs, complete disregard for his body and his family — to reach the big time again stars Mickey Rourke, an actor with comeback issues of his own. Rourke is gaining some serious Oscar buzz for his portrayal of Randy "The Ram" Robinson. » EXPRESS: What kind of physical transformation did Rourke go through?» ARONOFSKY: The physicality was really hard. I wasn't sure if Mickey could pull it off. He's normally 190, a big guy, but not Hulk Hogan. He put on 36 pounds of muscle over six months and turned into a wrestler.» EXPRESS:Who did you base his character on?» ARONOFSKY: I'd say Randy "The Ram" is an amalgamation of a lot of different wrestlers. The more of these old-timers that we met, the more stories we'd heard before, a lot of the stories were similar, so we kind of shaped it into our own story.» EXPRESS:Who was the guy Rourke wrestles in the film's most notoriously gruesome fight scene? » ARONOFSKY: Necro Butcher is who he wrestles, an underground cult American hero. He's a marquee top villain draw. He's the last guy on the card, and everyone in the crowd goes crazy. Although now he just changed his name to Hollywood Dylan Summers, he has a manager named Aaron Aronofsky who also gets beat up a lot. He's the real deal, a hardcore wrestler, and that stuff really goes on.» EXPRESS:How come so many scenes were shot from behind Rourke?» ARONOFSKY: I wanted it to be sort of a proactive documentary — someone looks over; you react to it. In a documentary there's no way to know where they'll move. But here, it just became a language. » EXPRESS:What kind of reaction have you had from pro wrestlers?» ARONOFSKY: We brought out Rowdy Roddy Piper once and, after the movie, he stands up and all we see is a silhouette of a man. We were terrified that he hated the movie, but he basically came up to Mickey, gave him a hug and starting sobbing in his arms because it was the first time that his story has been told. For Mickey and me it was a big thrill to hear the appreciation from those guys. » EXPRESS:Where did the idea come from?» ARONOFSKY: When I graduated from film school, I had a bunch of ideas and one of them was "The Wrestler." Back in '02, me and producer Scott Franklin started working on some ideas and we read this script from Rob Siegel, who was the editor of the Onion. He ... had a lot of humor, but also a lot of darkness. And we started talking and, 25 drafts later, we shot it. It was a long process. » Area theaters, opens Thu., Dec. 25 Posted By Express at 12:00 AM on December 22, 2008 Tagged in Arts & Events , Film , Weekend Pass
Top 10 Albums of the Year
Posted: December 22, 2008 Washington City Paper
Our critics weigh in on the year's best discs.
Alfredo Flores
1. Los de Atras Vienen Conmigo, Calle 13 (Sony International)
2. MTV Unplugged, Julieta Venegas (Sony International)
3. Mediocre, Ximena Sariñana (Warner Music Latina)
4. Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne (Cash Money)
5. Evolver, John Legend (G.O.O.D. Music)
6. Sonidos Gold, Grupo Fantasma (Aire Sol)
7. The Renaissance, Q-Tip (Universal Motown)
8. Río, Aterciopelados (Nacional)
9. Radio Retaliation, Thievery Corporation (ESL Music) The “outernational” movement—a term coined by Jamaican rastas for an appreciation and empathy for all people—has kept Thievery Corporation going strong for the past dozen years, sampling from all sorts of music, both new and decades old. On their latest, the D.C. duo smartly sticks with groovy beats, but with an expanding arsenal of global rhythms.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

On Tap magazine December 2008

One of the most diverse and strangely theatrical stage performers in music today, Gogol Bordello is a multi-ethnic Gypsy punk band from New York that finds its inspiration from Gypsy music--its core members are immigrants from Eastern Europe, with Ethiopian—and former member of DC reggae band Zedicus--Thomas Gobena on bass and backup vocals. They specialize in socially driven rock music, but are best known for their stage antics—mosh pit diving, jump kicks, and an impressive display of energy. Their latest album, “SUPER TARANTA!” is a sort of gypsy speed metal dub, and ties in perfectly with their mastery of the brutally difficult gypsy two step rhythm (derived from Eastern European ska music) augmented by punk, metal, rap, flamenco, roots, reggae, Italian spaghetti, Western twang, dub, and other rich sounds generated by gypsies and rebels across the globe.--Alfredo Flores.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Tuneful Martian Invasion: Los Enanitos Verdes

Written by Washington Post Express contributor Alfredo Flores
Photo courtesy
DATELINE: Puente del Inca, Argentina, 1979. At the natural arch outside the industrial city of Mendoza, a visiting family took a photo of what appeared to be some 100 little green "extraterrestrials" wandering the highlands. A journalist friend of Marciano Cantero could only laugh when he saw this in the local paper, and dubbed Cantero's then brand-new band Los Enanitos Verdes (literally, "Little Green Men"). "We took that name as a joke at the beginning," says frontman Cantero, his nickname (Marciano means "martian") given to him by that same friend. "We honestly didn't think it'd stick for as long as it did." Turning 29 years this month, Los Enanitos are more than just veteran musicians; the trio helped bring to light the rock en español movement, starting out in Mendoza pubs, then selling out stadiums throughout Latin America, spreading their positive messages through catchy rock ballads. Among the most requested songs at Enanitos concerts include the rock-pop appreciation of good friends and not letting them escape in "Mariposas"; the hard guitar riffs in "Muralla Verde" about love lost; and "Lamento Boliviano," a powerful tribute to the indigenous races of Latin America, featuring soft guitar strums accented by Andean chants and zampoña panflute. Cantero describes Enanitos as a true "working band" and relishes feeding off the energy of a live crowd. "It's kind of like when [Diego] Maradona touches a soccer ball," he says. "It's incredible how much pure joy he shows when he plays, and our fans can truly feel it in their skin — how much we truly love performing for them." » State Theatre, 200 N. Washington, Falls Church; Sat., Nov. 15, 9 p.m., $30 in advance; $35 at the door; 703-237-0300. Tagged in Arts & Events

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

CD Review: Q-Tip, 'The Renaissance'

Washington Post Express, November 4, 2008
Written by Express contributor Alfredo Flores
Photo courtesy Universal/Motown

A TRIBE CALLED QUEST was about provoking thoughts and not producing club bangers, and its nasal-voiced leader, Q-Tip, seemed forced to come up with some on his last solo album, 1999's "Amplified." Even though the CD produced two mega-hits, "Vivrant Thing" and "Breathe & Stop," many hardcore hip-hop heads called the album too flashy, the rapper's vision thwarted by label demands. Ironically, Q-Tip's two solo follow-up albums were then rejected by his former label, Arista, which deemed them uncommercial. Which might explain why its taken nine years for "The Renaissance" to appear. The rapper's new label, Universal/Motown, has let Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, aka Kamaal the Abstract, just be Q-Tip, and he has gone back to his roots of using cerebral rhymes and classic samples fused with live instrumentation. "The Renaissance" has both the brain and the booty in mind, calling out in "Dance" that "all my people at the label want something to repeat / but all my people want something for the street." And the streets are happier for it. In the catchy disco-funk jam "Move," which is loaded with sci-fi sound effects and backed by a sample of the Jackson Five's "Dancing Machine," Q-Tip announces, "Renaissance won't quit moving cultures" and then asks, "Look at your watch / You know it's time for phat beats." The phatness comes from Sergio Mendes-esque Rhodes jazz keyboarding ("Believe," with awol R&B'er D'Angelo providing the soulful chorus), soulful piano loops ("Getting Up" and "Life Is Better" featuring Norah Jones), popping snare drums ("Shaka"), DJ scratches chopping up guitar chords ("Official"), upbeat piano chords, and a powerful drum sample ("ManWomanBoogie" with hip-hop poet Amanda Diva). Odes to the past are ever-present on "The Renaissance," not just in music, but in message, particularly "Move" and in "Life," where Q-Tip shows his appreciation to all the hip-hop greats — though it contains the somewhat awkward Jones verse, "Hip-hop is playing again / and it's banging too / and it's banging for you." Q-Tip's love for the old school is culminated in "Getting Up," which has the type of classic R&B piano sound that made hits for "Renaissance" guests stars D'Angelo and Raphael Saadiq (who's in "We Fight/We Love") in the 1990s, though the lyrics are a modern take on searching for love by sending out texts and e-mail. Q-Tip's mastery of inventive lyrical wordplay and bravado also course through "The Renaissance," with several fun boasts. He even has the gall to call his competition sea cows in "Dance on Glass": "Corny style rappers they lack the pedigree / they just a manatee / I'm unaffected / the whale / the hammerhead." Meanwhile, on "Move" he states, "You just like cold grits without the hot sauce" and on "Johnny Is Dead" asks, "What good is an ear if a Q-Tip isn't in it?"Indeed. » 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; with The Cool Kids and Pacific Division, Sun., Nov. 30, 7 p.m., $32.50; 202-265-0930. (U St.-Cardozo).

Monday, November 03, 2008

written by
Alfredo Flores
When one goes to a Carlos Mencia comedy show, one can expect raunch and plenty of it. Controversial topics include the presidential election, race relations, ethnic stereotypes, immigration, war and family. But Mencia, star of the hit Comedy Central show “Mind of Mencia,” doesn’t rely on a script or act while on stage, preferring instead to look into the eyes of his audience, gauging their interests, seeing what they’d like him to talk about next. “I wish I knew what I’m going to talk about, bro,” Mencia said in an interview with On Tap. “I like to push buttons. Sometimes, you tickle somebody and they laugh, sometimes you tickle somebody and they pee, and sometimes you tickle somebody and they say, ‘Don’t touch me there.’ I don’t know what that reaction is going to be, and therefore I can’t say I’m going to move on to another joke or whatnot. It’s all predicated on the conversation I’m having with the audience.” It’s that connection Mencia has with his audience that has endeared him to fans across the United States and overseas. He wrapped production on the fourth season of his show over the summer and immediately embarked on an 80-city “At Close Range” tour, which stops by D.A.R. Constitution Hall on November 14. The sponsor of the tour is Bud Light, his Honduran-born father’s beer of choice. Mencia was raised in the Maravilla Projects of East Los Angeles by his aunt and uncle, Mencia, the 17th of 18 kids. Fearing the temptations of gang life would be too much to resist, his family shipped Mencia to their village home in Honduras for three years, where instead of going to school he chopped down crops with a machete, milked cows and lived without running water or electricity. As a teen, humbled by this experience, he returned to L.A., started 10th grade and after a brief flirtation with a career in electrical engineering, went straight into stand up comedy with a fearlessness to say whatever’s on his mind. “I’m going to say the stuff people are thinking but they can’t say because of political correctness, or because they don’t want to get into an argument,” he said. “I do have a responsibility, to be their voice. I’ve got all this on my mind I’m trying to say.” Some of his stand up performances have featured call-and-response brand of comedy, with many audience members shouting out topics for Mencia to talk about, and, within reason, he’ll oblige. On Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin: “She has five kids? First of all, a little trailer trashy. How they heck can she afford to have five kids?” On President George Bush’s command, or lack thereof, of the English language: “How bad is it that seven and a half years into the administration that if someone told CNN ‘I have video of the president of the United States of America, not only butchering English, but making up words that don’t even exist.’ CNN’s response? ‘No, we don’t need it. We have enough of that.’ That’s sad, bro. He’s like the village idiot, but he’s been good for my industry.” On the controversial pictures of Presidential nominee Barack Obama in a turban: “Somebody should have told him, come here, not a good idea. Shhh. Take that off, dress up as a pumpkin instead.” ne of the staples in Mencia’s work, and perhaps his most controversial, is his trademark “Dee-Dee-dee!” jokes. Many consider it a slight on the mentally challenged, but Mencia defends the bit saying its meant to demean those who have fully-functional brains but choose not to use them to capacity. “If you live a regular life as a regular people, aren’t the majority of the people you come across a little dumb, mentally complacent?” he asked. “They’re lucky they’re not celebrities, but if they were I’d be on that ass.” Carlos Mencia “At Close Range,” Friday, Nov. 14, 8 p.m. at DAR Constitution Hall. Tickets $42. Info at:

Monday, October 20, 2008


Evolving Manifesto: Talib Kweli

Washington Post Express, October 20, 2008
Written by Express contributor Alfredo Flores
Photo courtesy Blacksmith
TALIB KWELI DOESN'T sport platinum chains, hasn't invented a cool dance and doesn't rap about what vodka or energy-drink company he owns. He's a meat-and-potatoes MC, more into storytelling than swagger, spreading messages about self-love, self-esteem and self-worth with his socially conscious lyrics. But because he doesn't come out with radio-friendly ringtone rap often, he's dubbed as indie. "I've often balked at the term 'alternative hip-hop,'" Kweli said. "What I do is closer to the roots of hip-hop than most of the stuff you hear on the radio. I don't think what I do is alternative, but I've become an alternative to some of the radio bullshit you hear." Kweli's first exposure to hip-hop was while listening to Grandmaster Flash and other party-rap albums growing up in the 1980s in Brooklyn, a time when MCs were doing it for the love of hip-hop, with little promise of money. But times have changed, and several rappers have come into the industry wanting to be CEOs and executives before becoming good artists. "I did it backward," Kweli said. "I was creative first and now that I've grown into a man, I'm learning how to be more business-minded. In retrospect, I wish I would have been a bit more business-minded when I first came out, to be quite honest." Kweli can laugh about it now that he's successfully made the transition from underground to mainstream. As a kid, the raspy-voiced Kweli was heavily influenced by his professor parents' jazz records. He started his career as a fist-raising revolutionary,dictating in 1998's "The Manifesto" that "if you rhymin' for the loot, then you's a prostitute." His biggest hit to date, 2002's "Get By" — featuring the beats of a then mostly unknown producer named Kanye West — features biting political commentary about those with means and those without, striving to get a "piece of the pie." And in 2006's "More or Less" he hopes for "more rap songs that stress purpose with less misogyny and less curses, let's put more depth in our versus." His highest-selling album to date came also came in 2006 with "Eardrum," his first under his own Warner Bros.-backed Blacksmith label. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard album charts in its first week, but don't start mistaking Kweli for Soulja Boy. "There are times when you need to have music that doesn't have any logic to it, you just like the way it makes you feel and how it sounds. Soulja Boy is not any less hip-hop than Gang Starr. You make beats, you make hip-hop," Kweli said. "This shit is cool for the club, but my music is the hip-hop that I like to listen to. Sometimes you need music that speaks directly to what people are going through in these times, and I've been able to be good at that. I've had radio hits before, but my strong suit is making thought-provoking music." Most of Kweli's beats come from the hands of DJ Hi-Tek, who he has worked with since Black Star — the group he had with Mos Def — and will continue to do so in Reflection Eternal, a collaborative project that expects to release a new CD in 2009. But for the Hip-Hop Live tour that stops at 9:30 Club on Oct. 20, Kweli will be sharing the stage with the Rhythm Roots Allstars, a 10-piece band that plays funk, dancehall, Latin and Afrobeat, and in the past has backed Black Eyed Peas and Outkast. It'll be the first time Kweli has performed with a live band for a full tour, and he's enjoyed partnering up with Rhythm Roots, not to mention tourmates B.O.B. and David Banner. Kweli admits that he's a fan of Banner's hit "Like a Pimp" even if his own fan base may not like the message behind the song. But Kweli relishes the fact that the tour will offer a little something for all hip-hop fans. "We're all young black people doing hip-hop music," Kweli said. "People focus on the differences too much in hip-hop. In this particular tour, focusing on the differences is great because we're all on tour together and the differences are what make it more colorful." Perhaps an energy-drink rap isn't out of the question then. » 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; Mon., Oct. 20, 7 p.m., $25; 202-265-0930 (U St.-Cardozo).

Monday, September 29, 2008

written by
Alfredo Flores
On Tap October 2008
Before getting his own ABC sitcom in 2002, many thought George Lopez’s comedy was geared toward Mexican-Americans like himself. But entertainer’s brand of comedy, which deals with the trials and tribulations of being raised by his tough-as-nails Mexican grandparents in Los Angeles, proves that dysfunctional families have universal appeal, regardless of ethnicity. Evidence of that can be found in millions of comedy albums sold, a five-year run on ABC and cable specials that have become classics. “Kids today wouldn’t last one day of our childhoods,” said Lopez on his HBO special “America’s Mexican” from last year. “(Mimicking child’s whining voice) I’m bored! (Lopez smacks back of microphone as if it were the kid, starts wobbling, falls down). There (in mock grandmother’s voice). Spend the whole day recovering.” Lopez said that not until the 1980s and 1990s did society truly understand abuse or neglect, and he often spent a lot of his time alone as a kid with no adult supervision. “When I started to get into my past in my stand up, I think I was a little embarrassed of it,” Lopez said during an interview with On Tap. “I didn’t think there was a deep well of comedy there. But when I started to do that it started to connect [with the audience]. That’s when I started to really get attention, and everybody started to get it, not just Mexicans. I’ve been told by people, Hey, my Russian grandmother is that way, or My Israeli, Middle-Eastern, Armenian so and so. It’s everybody now. I just use Latino because it’s what I am.” His family is a constant source of ridicule in his routines and they no longer talk to Lopez, which is fine with him. He’s got a loving relationship with his wife and kid in the L.A. suburb of Sherman Oaks, and has had several films released this year, including “Swing Vote,” “Henry Poole Is Here,” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.” He also hosts several charity events as a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation after receiving a kidney transplant from his wife in 2006, and he’s closing his year-and-a-half-long “America’s Mexican Tour” with three soon-to-be sold-out shows at the Warner Theater, which he finds fitting for an election year. Lopez’ s material for the D.C. shows will be political, very pointed toward ignorance, edgy and definitely not for kids — “Well, depending on what you let your kids see,” he joked. There’ll be bits about John and Cindy McCain, Barack Obama, immigration issues and E. coli tainted food. There might even be his bit about how kids no longer talk on the phone, instead texting acronyms like LMAO, LOL and BFF—with Lopez wanting to add one more item to text jargon, FTP, or “F*** that puto.” When asked who’s currently on his FTP list, conservative CNN political pundit Lou Dobbs immediately came up. “If you watched only his show, you’d think the only issue in this country is illegal immigration,” Lopez said. “I don’t know what Latinos ever did to him, but he hasn’t gotten over it.” Lopez is also not too fond of Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I’m kind of shocked we would elect someone like that with no political experience whatsoever to be governor of a state like California,” Lopez said. “That’s not politics, that’s like movies, like ‘Bullworth.’ For a person who had his voice dubbed for a movie every single line 25 years ago but doesn’t sound that much different than he did back then, for him to be [asking immigrants to speak] English only and to be so adamant about it is ridiculous when he, clearly, is not understandable.” It’s been a long journey for Lopez, and sometimes he’s in disbelief of how far he’s come in his nearly 30 years of stand up comedy, getting his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, just like the only two other Latinos before him to star in their own network television comedy series: Desi Arnaz and Freddie Prinze. “When I was growing up I never got encouraged and didn’t think I had any chance at a life that was worth living,” he said. “If someone were to ask me in the mid 1980s what I wanted to do, I never thought I’d be an actor or have a sitcom. I used to say I wouldn’t have a sitcom, because I didn’t think it was available to us. Even in my goals, I would knock myself down, I was thinking that’s not going to happen, and that’s probably not going to happen. It’s crazy the way it all worked out.”

Monday, September 08, 2008

Unplugged and Charged Up:

Julieta Venegas

Washington Post Express, September 8, 2008

Written by Express contributor Alfredo Flores
Top photo courtesy Julieta
Venegas; live photo by Mauricio Ramirez/MTV Latinoamérica

NOT MANY MUSICIANS can rock a bedazzled accordion like Julieta Venegas. Despite her petite frame, the popular and talented Mexican singer-songwriter has a large stage presence and brings a joyful, universally appealing energy to her shows, which are packed with people who know all the words to her songs. (There were an estimated 5,000 fans at Venegas' recent Central Park show.) The funny part is that Venegas is something of an accidental emo-turned-Latin-pop star. In the late 1990s she sported dark mascara, black fingernails and sang gloomy punk ballads, but starting with the 2003 album "Sí," her style evolved into catchy, upbeat, keyboard-laced pop tracks mixed with accordion and other traditional norteño sounds of her hometown Tijuana. "It was a real slow process, to be honest with you," said Venegas in Spanish in a telephone interview from her Mexico City home. "It wasn't a conscious decision. I was looking for a way to express what I felt through song, and as I got older it became clearer how best to compose these songs that dealt with certain emotions and sentiments: sadness, melancholy, feelings that are harsher. I found a way to better explain it all." Venegas also uses her videos to unload certain emotions, but they're also always playful and imaginative. In "Me Voy" she rides a hot air balloon and dumps objects she no longer needs — including a half-naked boyfriend — and as the load gets lighter, Venegas looks happier, the accordion gets faster and the balloon goes higher. In the electronica-filled "Eres Para Mi" — about a romantic interest — Venegas walks backward through the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina, smiling and interacting with a nun, a cop, an ice cream vendor and random city folk, before they all break into synchronized dance after a rap solo from Chilean MC Anita Tijoux. And "Lento"— a bubbly pop song about taking things slow, featuring acoustic guitar, toy keyboard and synthetic drums — is set in Japan and shows pink, white and red flowers blooming from street cracks, dilapidated parks and window stoops after every step Venegas takes. "I've always like to play with fantasy," she said about her videos. "I like to have a visual for every song that I can work with. I really enjoy playing a bit with images to create a reality that's parallel with my interpretation of the song." Venegas' latest work album is "MTV Unplugged" — now in its ninth consecutive week at No. 1 in Mexico. Venegas was hands-on with the project, picking her collaborators and fine tuning her previous songs for the large band acoustic setting, as well as recording four new tracks, most notably the ska-filled single "El Presente" — also the name of her current tour. "It was an ambitious project to take on," she said. "I've learned a lot through the whole process, playing with all different types of musicians I wasn't necessarily used to, how to do arrangements, being more involved in the production side of things, but I'm very happy how the 'Unplugged' album turned out. It turned out super wonderful." Venegas will bring along a 15-member mini-orchestra in her first ever performance in Washington when she plays the Kennedy Center on Sept. 9, and promises to deliver a near replica of the song list and delivery she did in the "Unplugged" special. That performance was filled with the band's trumpets, violins, cellos, banjos, ukuleles and woodwinds, and Venegas sings like a bird — very soft and melodic — and she switches between accordion, keyboard and acoustic guitar. Venegas' eclecticism is a result of her border-town upbringing. The 37-year-old was born in Long Beach, Calif., and raised in music-rich Tijuana. But she also felt fortunate to be able to cross into the U.S. to check out music and see shows — rock / norteño maestros Los Lobos being one her of favorite American bands. In her teens Venegas loved Tijuana's punk-rock scene, but has always had a fondness with norteño music. Norteño is a musical marriage born out of German immigration to north Mexico during the Prohibition Era in the U.S. The Germans brought their button accordions with them and helped created a classic country-Mexican sound that Venegas has made her own with nods toward pop rhythms. "I've always been fascinated with the accordion, and the people who played it — Los Lobos included," she said. "I think it's very similar to the piano, but I've felt the piano keeps you closed in, away from the audience, especially in this scenario, on stage. The accordion allows you to be closer in with the audience, and I like that." » Kennedy Center, South Plaza, Millennium Stage, 2700 F Street NW; Tue., Sept. 9, 6 p.m., free; 202-467-4600. (Foggy Bottom-GWU).

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Gut Buster: Comedian Ralphie May
Comedian to Laugh it Up at Lisner
written by Alfredo Flores

September 2008 On Tap magazine

Back in 1989, Ralphie May, then a college student in Arkansas, got the opportunity of a lifetime by winning a contest to open for his childhood idol Sam Kinison at a local comedy club. When May bombed and began cursing at the audience before being booed off stage, that dream turned into a nightmare and a crash course in what it takes to be a stand up comedian. To top it off, Kinison then jokingly told the audience that May would never be in show business again. Ouch.For most, hearing such a thing would be devastating, especially at the age of 17. But May has tough skin, as does his audience. May holds no punches, has complete disregard for political correctness, and is brutally honest — which caught the attention of Kinison.“Sam said there’s no edge, there’s no boundaries in comedy,” said May in an interview with On Tap. “The only rule is being funny. If it’s funny, it’s good.” Kinison took May under his wing, advising him to move to Houston and become part of the so-called “Houston Comedy Mafia.” Without much of a comedy scene in his native Arkansas, May joined the mafia, and never looked back. Fast forward almost 20 years, and May is now a long-time stand-up veteran whose wide-eyed, clean shaven, rotund, multi-chinned, baby-faced appearance makes him look far younger than his 36 years. He’s one of the country’s most popular comedians —consistently selling out venues that seat between 1,500 and 3,000 people — and was recently voted one of Variety Magazine’s Top 10 Comics to Watch. May, who has a couple Comedy Central specials under his belt, was the first to get a standing ovation on the Big Black Comedy Show, and shot to fame as the runner up in 2003’s “Last Comic Standing” reality TV show. May continues to shock his audiences, poking fun of everything and anyone: those who wear weaves and mullets, obese people, people who talk back to the movie screen, even the, um, height-challenged. “I’m an equal opportunity offender,” said May, who was heckled by some 27 little people in Baltimore a few years ago — a group he joked equaled like 13 real sized people. “It’s a comedy club, it’s a theater. There’s a reason the lights are down low… so everybody can laugh. When the lights are out, you’re not rich, poor, black or white. You’re just the audience.” May returns to D.C. later on this month for one-night only at Lisner Auditorium. The upcoming presidential election has May excited about a candidate for the very first time.“This is the first time I felt I could vote for somebody,” said May about Barack Obama. “But I gotta be honest with you, I didn’t know he was black into mid-January. I thought he was Puerto Rican. And Obama even sounds kinda Spanish to me. Como se llama Obama?” It’s not only politics that has May excited. At one point he weighed over 800 pounds — the result of a car accident at age 16 that sent him into a coma for 10 days. With gastric bypass surgery, he has shed half his weight. He’s a father for the first time, daddy to a baby girl named April June May (His friends joke it’s a stripper name, but May defends the choice by saying, “strippers have names of cars they can’t afford, like Mercedes and Lexus”); and he’s married to comedienne Lahna Turner, who opens for May when they tour together. But May’s decision for the risky gastric bypass wasn’t so he would be accepted by society, or get more acting roles, but rather something far more important.“I wanted to live,” he said. “I had a beautiful girlfriend, who’s now my wife. I’ve got a beautiful baby girl. I’ve got a lot to live for. I can’t be messing around.” Another source of his comedy is his family life, and he’s quick to defend his act.“Some people are just so reactionary,” he said. “They called me anti-Semitic because I make cracks about Jews. My wife’s a Jew, we made a Jew. I think I’m doing the work of Christ here. When’s America going to realize, why can’t you take a joke?” WHO: Comedian Ralphie MayWHEN: Friday, Sept. 12WHERE: Lisner Auditorium (730 21st St., NW, D.C.)TIX: $29INFO: 202-994-6800;

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Terrence Howard
Monday, August 25, at the Birchmere
By Alfredo Flores
Posted: August
20, 2008
Washington City Paper

Plenty of Terrence Howard’s standout film roles have showcased his love of music—he rapped in Hustle & Flow, played guitar in The Best Man, and acted alongside OutKast (Idlewild) and 50 Cent (Get Rich or Die Tryin’). That speaks to his deep musical background: His grandmother, Broadway great Minnie Gentry, taught him to play piano, and he grew up listening to albums by his great-granduncle, jazz legend Cab Calloway. On his debut album, Shine Through It, Howard, who sings, writes, and plays guitar, does right by his influences, assembling a batch of jazz, R&B, and neosoul tracks. His crack backup band, led by bassist and co-producer Miles Mosley, moves from flamenco guitar to big-band-era jazz, but the disc’s finest moments are the ballads. On “Love Makes You Beautiful,” Howard’s deep baritone nicely blends with the humming female backup vocals, and the title track is a soulful, uplifting romantic tune. HOWARD PERFORMS AT 7:30 P.M. AT THE BIRCHMERE, 3701 MT. VERNON AVE., ALEXANDRIA. $25. (703) 549-7500.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Featured: Good Stuff Eatery
On Tap magazine August 2008
written by
Alfredo Flores
A nattily-dressed crowd was on hand for the red carpet opening last month of the new pilot restaurant from Top Chef’s Spike Mendelsohn, including top-four contestants Lisa Fernandes, Stephanie Izard and Antonia Lofaso. Handed out to the attendees were samples of what the restaurant offers, including the Good Stuff Melt, the Vegetarians Are People Too ‘Shroom Burger, Sunny’s Handcut Fries, and homemade shakes. Many on hand said the burgers were delicious, leaving you full without weighing you down. Mendelsohn’s fellow cheftestants had nothing but praise as well. “It’s a great concept — any place you can have good burgers, beer and fries. Burgers have been around for hundreds of years, and I think he’ll continue to be successful. I’m a big fan of the pickled carrot (Blazin’ Barn) burger so far,” said Lofaso. “When Spike first told me about this concept, I was pretty impressed. I am so proud of Spike,” added Izard, winner of Top Chef Chicago. “I’m so glad to have all this support. You always conceptualize how your restaurant is going to work, and so far the reaction has been great during our first two weeks. We’re still tweaking our menu, getting a feel for what people like, don’t like, but we’re developing and we’re off to a great start so far,” said Mendelsohn of his restaurant’s initial success.
Good Stuff Eatery: 303 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, D.C.; 202-543-8222;

Monday, June 30, 2008

Get To Know Murs
written by Alfredo Flores
On Tap Magazine July 2008

His confidence is unwavering, his style is unique, and his songwriting, storytelling and delivery are unquestioned. The mainstream hip hop world has only merely heard the buzz surrounding Murs — until now. In his latest single “Better Than The Best,” Murs unabashedly proclaims that he’s arrived after years of rising through the ranks of independent rap. Now he has a new album, “Murs for President,” his first on a major label, Warner Bros. And after touring this summer in the premier platform for live hip hop — Rock The Bells, stopping by Merriweather Post Pavilion on July 27 — many more will surely get to know Murs. In the “President” video, where he makes campaign stops in his fictional run for president, Murs boasts that he’s “the best to ever do it, the best that ever did it. Murs is better than your favorite rapper, admit it,” all with an incredibly upbeat bass-heavy sample of the Motown classic “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” playing in the backdrop. The video is lighthearted, fun and comedic, like the other YouTube clips he’s posted. His anthem “L.A.” is about his beloved hometown where you should “come to the hood where we do the most good, Magic Johnson be owning everything like he should.” “I do what comes natural and honest for me,” said Murs (a.k.a. Patch Cannon, born Nick Carter) in an interview with On Tap. “I try to create some positive music, and put a lot of effort, heart and soul to put out a nice hip hop record.” Murs’ upbringing is diverse, starting off in Lynwood, a crime-infested L.A. suburb between Compton and Watts, between real Crips and Bloods gangs, where he and his friends collected bullet shells in the alley. But he’s also spent a few years in the suburbs east of L.A. where skateboarding, not gangbanging, was the norm. He’s seen both sides of city life, but has chosen to focus on the positive and thought provoking, what Murs calls sitcom rap, which takes elements from everyday life. His songs are about having fun, educating listeners on the historic significance of dreadlocks and the Rastafari movement, pursuing dreams, mourning friends that have passed away, the racial identities of dark-skinned white girls, barbershops, fidelity and love. His new album will feature more love songs than previous works. “I tend to rap about women because 90 percent of the greatest songs in the world are about love and women,” Murs said. “And I think rappers have tended to forget that. Love is love, it’s a real thing, and it’s really underexposed in the hip hop world.” Murs has spread his peaceful message through the years in his very own Paid Dues Hip Hop Festival, featuring himself and fellow independent rappers touring the West Coast with the promotional backing of Guerilla Union, the same group that’s responsible for Rock The Bells. This year’s Rock the Bells features a mix of indie hip hop artists, emerging talent like D.C. native Wale, and legends like headliner Tribe Called Quest, along with various members of the Wu Tang Clan. “Guerilla Union has become somewhat of a family for me, and has been really instrumental in helping me to bring my dream of Paid Dues alive,” said Murs, the only rapper with his own music festival. “I’m overjoyed to be part of Rock The Bells, and can’t wait until this summer. It’s going to be amazing.” Rock the Bells features Murs, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Mos Def, De La Soul, Rakim, Method Man, Redman, Raekwon, Ghostface, Immortal Technique, Wale and others at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD on July 27. Gates open at 11 a.m. Tickets range from $40 to $83 and are available at For more Information on Rock The Bells, visit

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Album Review

Packing Her Brags
Reviewed: Julieta Venegas' MTV Unplugged

By Alfredo Flores

Growing up in the ’80s, Julieta Venegas fell in love with the punk scene of her hometown of Tijuana, but her musical interests grew quickly. After starting out in a ska band, Tijuana No!, she moved to Mexico City, where she befriended members of the prog-rock band Café Tacuba, worked on her songwriting, and began experimenting with different sounds. The accordion soon became her instrument of choice, and her first two albums—1998’s Aqui and 2002’s Bueninvento—were sets of gloomy, accordion-laced ballads. Echoing the moody songs, she hit the stage with dark clothes and black lipstick to match.

But by 2003's Sí, both her sound and image underwent an overhaul: she appeared on the cover wearing a white wedding dress, and the music was unrelentingly happy and tender pop. By 2006’s Limón y Sal she was a bona fide Latin pop hitmaker (the disc won the 2007 Grammy for best Latin pop album). That shift has probably alienated as many old fans as made new ones, but her new all-­acoustic album, MTV Unplugged, is an successful attempt to bring everybody into the fold: the companion to an MTV Tres special filmed in Mexico City last March, it celebrates some of her newer tunes, reworks some of her older tracks, and adds four new ones. The lead single among that last batch, “El Presente,” is a cheery love song that showcases Venegas’ soulful optimism, as she sings in Spanish, “The present is the only thing that I have/It’s only with you, my love, that I can feel this feeling.” The accordion is still present there and elsewhere, but the songs are bolstered by a host of instruments, among them banjo, tuba, clarinet, and a string quartet. (Venegas plays guitar and piano, too.) The brass instruments are particularly notable, with tuba added to her ballad “Me Voy” and soft trumpet on “Andar Conmigo.” Plenty of guest vocalists step in to help: Marisa Monte lifts “Ilusión,” while Spanish MC Mala Rodríguez flawlessly injects new rhymes into the hit “Eres Para Mi.” Venegas’ first single, 1997’s “De Mis Pasos,” is almost a completely new song. The percussion-heavy original was more in keeping with her punk roots; the new take benefits from a dash of violins and harmony vocals from Juan Son of the Mexican alternative band Porter. “Unplugged” projects have a way of becoming throwaway efforts, but Venegas’ album is more than just the usual stopgap—it not only bridges her two musical personas but opens her up to a whole new audience as well.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Roots Maneuver
Reviewed: Sergio Mendes' Encanto

By Alfredo Flores Posted: June 4, 2008 Washington City Paper
Photo credit Randee St. Nicholas
Sergio Mendes

On Nov. 21, 1962, pianist Sergio Mendes helped introduce bossa nova to the United States, playing Carnegie Hall with an all-star lineup of fellow Brazilians like João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Carlos Lyra. The infectious mix of samba, pop, and jazz soon became a staple in bachelor pads and on the stereos of jazz aficionados, and as its popularity in America grew, Mendes settled in Los Angeles. There, he furthered the genre with his band Brasil '66 and collaborated with Cannonball Adderley and Herbie Mann. But the genre's popularity fizzled out in the '80s, and by 2002, Mendes had gone a decade without recording an album when the Black Eyed Peas' requested a meeting. Their collaboration, 2006's Timeless, revamped the genre with the help of guests Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott, and Justin Timberlake. His new album, Encanto, is another collaboration with, but it has a more traditional feel—unlike Timeless, which alienated older Mendes fans thanks to's hype-man work on half the tracks. It's clear that Mendes wanted to get back to his roots: The new album was mostly recorded in Bahia, Brazil, and Mendes' hometown of Rio de Janeiro, and it includes a duet with original Brasil '66 vocalist Lani Hall on the soft-jazz love song "Dreamer," which also features Mendes on vocals, Rhodes electric piano, and acoustic piano., for his part, restrains himself to just three of the album's 12 tracks. But his sharp drum programming and rapping boost a remake of a Mendes staple, Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "The Look of Love," as do Fergie's vocals and Paul Jackson Jr.'s acoustic and electric guitar, with Mendes controlling the tempo on the Rhodes. Mendes moves to clavinet on the party jam "Funky Bahia," which, as the title suggests, neatly combines funk and tropical sounds from the coastal state, particularly the heavy percussion and smooth chanting chorus. Jobim's "Somewhere in the Hills," popularized by Ella Fitzgerald in 1981, gets another remake, this time with Natalie Cole scatting and a fine fluegelhorn solo by Till Brönner. Much like Timeless, the new album is loaded with guest performers, the most interesting of which is Italian MC Jovanotti—riding the catchy swing beat of "Lugar Comum," his spitfire lyrics flow well with Mendes' piano chords and the soft sizzle of Mike Shapiro's drumming. Less successful is Latin pop-rock megastar Juanes, who tackles "Y Vamos Ya (…Let's Go),"despite having his vocals drowned out by flute, guitar, bass, drums, and a whopping five percussionists. But it's hard to argue with Mendes' overall strategy: Encanto's mix of hip-hop, tropical grooves, and classic remakes should keep Mendes' fans, old and new, happy all summer.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

written by Alfredo Flores
On Tap Magazine June 2008

Tiësto has been at the top of the trance music scene for several years: He was the first DJ to do a full-scale concert tour of arenas; the world's number one ranked DJ from 2002 through 2004; and commands the world's largest per show audience. Tiësto (real name is Tijs Verwest) is always trying to expand on the electronica sub-genre he helped bring to prominence, as well as experiment with new sounds he's picked up from his travels around the globe. In search for inspiration for his latest project, he set off to a secluded resort in Thailand, where he mixed and recorded the aptly titled "In Search of Sunrise 7-Asia," which hits store on June 10, just before his return to DC at Club Ibiza on June 28 and 29. At the X2 Resort in Kui Buri — where he stayed in an open door, sea front, stone-walled room with his recording engineer Ben Huijbregts and a small crew — Tiësto spent his days and nights in absolutely tranquil surroundings "I stayed in Thailand, sorting out records and mixing it while the sun came up," said Tiësto, who's no stranger to late hours: He once set a record with a 12-hour show in 1999. "This was the first time I worked like this, and it was very inspiring." On his last global tour, Tiësto found the peaceful and tranquil way of life in Southeast Asia a nice reprieve from the usually vigorous activity that he encounters in tours of Europe and the Americas. While the fans aren't as fervent as those in the more electronic music-crazed Western countries — where he regularly draws crowds anywhere from the tens of thousands to 200,000 as he did in Brazil in 2007 — his visit to Asia has invigorated Tiësto. Prior to his first solo show at the Gelredome stadium in the Netherlands in 2003, DJs mainly performed atop large DJ booths perched above the audience. But Tiësto's trendsetting solo arena shows are changing the mindset for those in the industry. He is largely responsible for the trend of building mixed compilations in the mid-1990s, something no one else did at the time, and is known primarily for pioneering contributions to the trance scene. Through his global travels he's experimented with trance and expanded to other types of electronic dance music. With the double-disc "Sunrise 7," he describes the first disc as featuring "high quality, vocal driven, warm and melodic" beats, and the second disc as "going back to my roots, real trancy and a little faster." His shows are a treat to electronica fans and non-fans alike, with elaborate sets, impressive light shows, and stimulating video content. Video DJing is a new trend in the industry and "a great way to tell something extra about the music you play," said Tiësto. What: DJ TiëstoWhere: IBIZA Nightclub (1222 First St. NE, D.C.)When: June 28-29Tickets: $40Info:
Catch the Grammy winner at Verizon Center
Photo credit: Thierry LeGoues
written byAlfredo Flores On Tap Magazine June 2008

In the year leading up to the release of her hit third album, "As I Am," which has already sold 2.5 million copies and received two Grammy's for the song "No One," Alicia Keys needed a much deserved break. So she headed to Egypt, sans entourage and management, to clear her mind and re-energize. "That trip really gave me a certain perspective," said Keys, during a teleconference interview promoting her "As I Am" U.S. Tour, which stops by the Verizon Center on June 13. "To climb to the top and sing at the top of the pyramids, and to sail down the Nile River, things that have stood the test of time, it gave me a new outlook on our possibilities as human beings." Keys (born Alicia J. Augello-Cook) has never let boundaries stand in her way en route to selling more than 25 million albums and winning 11 Grammys and 11 Billboard Music Awards. Raised in New York's infamous Hell's Kitchen in the 1980s — then filled with drugs and street crime — she instantly gravitated to the arts after watching her mother of Irish, Scottish and Italian descent (her father is Jamaican) work several jobs while pursuing her acting dreams. Keys got her first onscreen exposure playing one of Rudy Huxtable's sleepover guests in an episode of "The Cosby Show," trained in classical piano since the age of seven, and graduated from the prestigious Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan at age 16. She went on to sell 10 million copies of her debut album "Songs in A Minor" in 2001 and another nine million for her follow up "The Diary of Alicia Keys" in 2003. A few years later, after a death of a close family member, she became exhausted of producing, touring, acting and writing songs. Hence, the trip to Africa. To remind Keys of her experience there, she had a jeweler in Egypt custom-make a pendant out of the native Lapis lazuli stone — known for its intense blue color — shaped in the form of a pyramid. "So I can wear it near my heart," Keys said. "I just wanted to remember the fact that anything that I visualize in my mind, anything I see, I can make it real and I can make it timeless, and I can make it stand the test (of time), and it can never fall, and it can never break. People can come and be inspired by it every, every day." The reflection and time away from the studio paid dividends. Keys, with her new album, has an impressive body of work, more than enough to sell out large arenas across the U.S. and the world (she'll embark on a European and Southeast Asian tour, and perhaps South America, after the U.S. tour). "When I listen back to my albums, especially 'Songs in A Minor,' I go wooooow," said Keys, amazed at the progression she's made as an artist. "I sound like a baby!" Her acting roles have been just as diverse as her music, portraying an assassin in 2006's "Smokin' Aces," then a bohemian pal of Scarlett Johannson's in "The Nanny Diaries" last year. Next year she's set to play Philippa Schuyler, a 1940s biracial piano child prodigy in "Composition in Black and White." Musically, she embodies the best of R&B from her mom's generation and those before her, mixing styles of Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, and Nina Simone, and using piano as the base of her music. She also experiments, amplifying and distorting pianos, tweaking the foot pedals so they play like electric guitars; as well as enlisting violins, drums, synthesizers and other instruments. "I totally plan on continuing to flip it up," Keys said. What: Alicia Keys, with Neyo and Jordin Sparks When: June 13. Where Verizon Center Tickets: $49.50-$125 Info: or

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Good Stuff!..

written by Alfredo Flores

On Tap Magazine May 2008

Photos By Joe Shymanski

Spike Mendelsohn loved being around his grandfather Sunny Nakis' kitchen. Sunny had many restaurants in Montreal — his most famous was The Toit Rouge by Olympic Stadium — and young Spike absorbed everything he could. With his work at his parent's Pepin Restaurant in St. Petersburg, Florida, (busboy, dishwasher, pinch-hitting as a cook when short staffed), Spike grew up in the restaurant biz. His love for the culinary arts has sent him around the world and landed him a spot on this season's "Top Chef." Through it all, he always fondly recalled Sunny's catchphrase whenever he liked something, "Ah! That's goooood stuff!" From that phrase sprung a brand name, a new restaurant concept and a future burger franchise; Mendelsohn's "pilot" Good Stuff Eatery Is tentatively set to open in Eastern Market in June with future plans to open five more in the region over the next two years and 50 nationwide over the next decade. "We figured that was a great name and it just kinda stuck," says Mendelsohn, the very opinionated, brash, fedora-sporting cheftestant on "Top Chef Chicago." Mendelsohn lives in New York where he's chef de cuisine at Tribeca's new hotspot Drew Nieporent's Mai House — one of the New York Times' top 10 restaurants — but he has strong DC ties since his sister moved to Capitol Hill six years ago and his parents moved there two years ago. The family bought the storefront that will house Good Stuff and its Sunnyside Group, LLC corporate offices — named after Sunny, who always looked at the bright side of things — a year ago without knowing what to do with the building. Ideas were thrown around, and they decided on opening a burger / shake joint that would fill the void in the area for a quality, affordable spot to get comfort food. "I saw Five Guys grow pretty quickly in this area," Mendelsohn says. "I do like their burgers, but I find their burgers a little too greasy. It's a heart attack waiting to happen. You kind of feel like going to the gym afterwards. That's what I don't want you guys to feel when you come over to my place. I want you to feel good about eating my burger. You're going to feel good about eating a really tasty burger." Mendelsohn is not known for biting his tongue. He got into a fight with Top Chef teammates, who vetoed making his butternut squash. The group eventually went with Zoi Antonitsas's under-seasoned carpaccio. Antonitsas was eliminated from the contest, and her girlfriend, Jen Biesty, accused Spike of throwing Antonitsas "under a bus."Harsh. Mendelsohn also experimented with Vietnamese food on the show — something he's done since his travels to Vietnam as a student and his experience at the Vietnamese Mai House. Good Stuff will feature the Vietnamese staple, bahn mi — which is usually served in a baguette, but in Mendelsohn's burger form features an organic beef patty with habañero aïoli, fresh herbs, lettuce and pickled daikon. "I definitely wanted to bring the heat, the pickling, the fresh herbs on this one," says Mendelsohn. The house burger is the aptly named Good Stuff Melt — which will feature Mendelsohn's "secret Good Stuff sauce on it"— a mix of molasses, homemade mayo and a few more ingredients Mendelsohn wasn't at liberty to reveal (hence the "secret" sauce) and a special locally-made potato bun. Another item Mendelsohn was clearly excited about is the interestingly named "Five Napkin" egg, bacon and cheese burger on a brioche bun — "a burger with cheese and a fried egg with bacon. It's so good I could have one right now," he says, his mouth nearly salivating. For those not in the mood for burgers, there'll be a handful of wedge salads (iceberg lettuce heads cut into wedge-like quarters), one having a poached egg on it, another featuring Greek ingredients, another with blue cheese and red onion. He says, "I really want to bring the wedge salad back." The Greek wedge is an ode to his ancestry — both his grandparents hail from the tiny Greek isle of Kefalonia, where Mendelsohn vacations and visits family. There'll be a few draft beers and a selection of wine available, fresh ground coffee, Mendelsohn's Village Fries (seasoned with rosemary, thyme, and black pepper), as well as shakes ranging from his signature frozen custard shake, to a toasted marshmallow shake to a sour sop shake, and dulce de leche — all made at the creamery inside Good Stuff. Despite the quality and freshness of all the ingredients, Mendelsohn says his goal is to have everybody out the door at $11 for a burger, fries and a drink. He also recognizes that there is quite the buzz going around all based on his instant celebrity chef status as a result of the show. "I know I wouldn't be doing this interview if I wasn't on 'Top Chef,'" the 27-year-old admits. "This restaurant business is cutthroat and it's tough to get ahead, especially being a young chef. If you're young and very ambitious and passionate about this business, ['Top Chef' is] a great way to launch a career. It doesn't necessarily mean you're the next best chef in the world, but it definitely gets your name out there." Good Stuff Eatery - Opens June 1300 Penn Ave. SE (next to Cosi)Washington, DC 20003Eastern Market (menu to be revealed online in the summer) Here's a sampling of the selection of the food that will be part of Good Stuff Eatery once it opens in June. GOOD STUFF MELTA handcrafted natural beef burger topped with Vermont cheddar and muenster cheese, fire grilled Vidalia onions, 'shrooms and Good Stuff sauce. BIG STUFF BACON MELTDOWNA double all natural beef patty, lotsa maple bacon, Vermont cheddar, ruby red tomato, lettuce and pickles. THE GREEK WEDGEA crispy, crunchy wedge of Iceberg lettuce and farm fresh greens topped with ruby red tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, kalamata olives, feta cheese, freshly snipped dill, toasted sesame seeds and a virgin olive oil vinaigrette. You can "Shun the Bun" and have a beef and turkey patty with your wedge.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Continental Drifter
Reviewed: Señor Flavio's Supersaund 2012

By Alfredo Flores
Posted: March 12, 2008 Washington City Paper
Photo credit Vito Rivelli
Supersaund 2012
Señor Flavio

Local fans of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, one of Argentina's greatest rock exports, got a rare treat in the mid-'90s. At a time when the band was routinely selling out soccer stadiums, it played an intimate show at the now-defunct Garage club, floating on a more modest buzz in the United States. Their "hit," "El Matador," was on rotation on MTV and featured in the 1997 John Cusack vehicle Grosse Pointe Blank. Sadly, the band didn't build on the attention: A few years later, various members went solo, just as the Rock en Español movement they helped ­create—a then revolutionary mix of ska, folk, jazz, salsa, rap, reggae, and rock—began to take off, making groups like Juanes, Maná, and Café Tacuba mainstream acts in Latin America and parts of the United States. Los Fabulosos Cadillacs still occasionally tour, but founder Flavio Oscar Cianciarulo, aka Señor Flavio, is deep into his own career: Supersaund 2012 is his seventh album and first to be released here. He's recently worked with acts like Mexican ska band Panteón Rococó and Panamanian rockers Los Rabanes, and his travels have paid dividends: The new album integrates some of the funk, roots-rock, reggae, and grunge he's dabbled in for the past decades along with mellower, older sounds from music across the Americas. On "Malito," he sings tongue-twisting lyrics about bad love over a ska beat, mixes it with an infectious chant on the chorus, while a gruff-sounding reggae singer grunts over a rapid-fire drumbeat. "Polaroid 66" could easily pass for a track made that year, as smooth electric organ blends with pleasing surf guitar, both of which Flavio plays on the disc. He even pulls off a great doo-wop tune with "La Herida," bringing in Daniel Flores of the Argentine ska group Satélite Kingston on electric organ and Flavio's 10-year-old son, Astorboy Cianciarulo, on drums. (The album was recorded in Mexico and Argentina, and features a raft of musicians from both countries.) Traditional Latin sounds are mixed in with American themes: "Tropicana 50" foregrounds an Afro-Cuban swing beat, and "Cristina" features backup vocals and mariachi-style shouts from Juan Carlos Goméz of Mexican reggae group La Verbena Popular—the cumbia-ska-rap union with a familiar reggae feel, despite its Spanish verse "No todo es una fiesta de ganja" ("Not everything is a ganja party"). There's even a hint of British punk on "Lucha Libre Lovers" and "El Apagón." There's no rhyme or reason to Supersaund 2012, but Flavio makes it all work. Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, after all, were famous for their lack of a musical center, playing Caribbean music, covering "What's New Pussycat?" with Fishbone and playing with the Clash's Mick Jones. Flavio's solo career may not have the long-term impact of his old band, but he's still able to give old and new fans something worth dancing to.

Monday, February 04, 2008


written by Alfredo Flores

On Tap magazine February 2008

Molotov had separated, or so many were led believe. For much of 2007, the irreverent /rap/political/party/English/Spanish Mexico City band's Web site had little to say to refute or confirm the rumors, and their legions of fans from the Americas and Europe were left wondering if it was true. To add to the mystery, each of the group's four members released their own individual EPs in a self-proclaimed battle of the bands with fans voting for best song. But then in October, in typical sarcastic Molotov fashion, the band released "Eternamiente"—the translation a mix of eternal ("eternamente") and lie ("miente") — an album that combined these EPs."Ha, we were just messing with the industry, man," said bassist Paco Ayala from his Mexico D.F. home. "We really needed to separate so we can become isolated, to really focus on what themes we each wanted to cover. Each of us added our own flavor to the mix, and we're excited about the results of this experiment." Indeed. Molotov has never been afraid to push the envelope and has been one of the most eclectic rock bands ever to come out of Mexico since its 1997 debut "Dónde Jugarán Las Niñas." Lyrics critiquing the oppressive paternalism of the Mexican government, explicit sexual themes and raunchy lyrics (as well as a racy album cover of a Catholic school girl in a hiked up short skirt) almost got them banned from Mexico, and caused them to move to Spain for a short time. Hence the many comparisons to our Rage Against the Machine. They've also been compared to the Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers for their funk rhythms, booming bass rifts and controversial issues. The country has progressed since then and has become more accepting of their native sons, even if one member is originally from the U.S. — Louisiana-born drummer Randy "El Crazy Gringo" Ebright, son of a top-flight DEA agent in Mexico D.F. who is just happy his son is still alive at this point. Tito Fuentes is technically the lead singer/guitarist, but all four members contribute.Although their hits have incredibly catchy, head-bobbing and mosh pit-inducing beats, many are far more than just party songs. "Gimme Tha Power" stands up for the disenfranchised within Mexico ("Gimme all the power, so I can come around mess with someone"). "El Carnal de las Estrellas" protests the giant television network Televisa's refusal to air their music videos. "Frijolero," the band's biggest hit to date, which earned them one of their two Latin Grammys, decries the migratory problems between Mexico and the U.S. The song has the band portraying U.S. Border Patrol agents in a mocking gringo accent and Mexicans trying to make it across the Rio Grande ("Don't call me gringo, you f***in beaner, stay on your side of the goddamn river… Don't call me beaner, Mr. Masturbator, I'll give you a scare for being a racist and a coward.")Their latest hit "Yofo" is best known for its whistle-filled, sing-songy chorus "Yofo zafa fofo… alofo nofo cofo cofo!" a Mexican decoded slang not all too dissimilar to Snoop Dogg's "Fo Shizzle, with "yo" meaning "me," but when used in "yofo nofo" is translated into "me… no." While tough to understand or translate at times, their music has transcended language barriers. Molotov is playing predominantly in the heavily Hispanic-populated Southwest for their U.S. Tour, with DC being one of three stops on the East Coast. "We've always loved the diversity of the people in DC — all the different nationalities," said Ayala. "Whether they're Mexican or not, they can get into our punk music, get a little drunk, and have a great time."Molotov performs at the 9:30 Club Feb. 9, doors open at 9 p.m. General admission tickets are $25 and available at Information on Molotov available at and

Get the Blues

written by Alfredo Flores

Photo Credit BMP

On Tap magazine February 2008
There's no such thing as an average day for Blue Man Group performer Wes Day. What looks like an extraordinary effort to look the part of a Blue Man is actually quite simple. First, he puts on a blue latex skull cap, some theatrical glue and blue face paint. Then he slips on a black jumpsuit, black shoes and blue gloves, and in 20 minutes he's a Blue Man. You too can be a Blue Man, the point of the Blue Man Group's latest effort, "How To Be A Megastar Tour 2.1," coming to the Patriot Center for two shows starting Feb. 9-10. But while looking the part is simple enough, being a Blue Man ain't easy — just ask some of Day's fellow Blue Men in other cities who have gone down on the job. Injuries range from carpal tunnel syndrome and broken wrists from repeatedly beating gigantic drums; to sprained ankles and knee injuries from lifting heavy backpacks, walking on the back of audience members' seats and performing on slippery surfaces. "It's a dangerous show, man, a lot of pain involved," said Day in an interview for On Tap. "It's pretty physical theater, but we need to do it since it's a very technical show." Indeed. There are many moving parts in a Blue Man show. In addition to playing unique tailor-made Blue Man instruments, like the huge PVC pipes, Airpoles, Piano Smasher mallet, and Aronophonic cymbals, Blue Men make a special effort not to break from their naïve mute characters. They stay focused while stage platforms whiz by their heads, paint flys out of their drums and they toss glow-in-the-dark marshmallows into each other mouths from across the stage. The premise of "How To Be A Megastar Tour 2.1" is simple: Take an audience member's credit card and "charge" $4,000 to order the manual on "how to become a rock star." Then follow steps such as bringing a guest vocalist onstage, perfecting the one-armed first pump, pelvic thrusts, raising the roof and other dance moves to deflect attention away from shortcomings in other areas, such as singing. Once the audience member becomes a "rock star," they must develop an iconic rock persona. One can start by altering their appearance in ways to help them stand out — "like playing around with lots of make up," Day said. You'll also need to work on your personality. If you do not have a lot of natural charisma, you can compensate with a descriptive name such as "The Edge," "Slash" or "Scary Spice." "The group inspires a lot of creativity," Day said. "It's kind of a tribal experience that just about everyone can get into. People have misconceptions of the show, and see it as some weird performance art, but when those same people actually come see us they find themselves laughing really hard."