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June 25, 2008



This topic could go on forever, but it could go on forever because its not as simple as “the bands sucked”, or “the labels sucked, “or the promoters sucked” it was a million issues going on with a bunch of different types of music, and people under the umbrella of “Rock en Espanol.” Back then, and still today, everything that was not merengue, salsa, cumbia or vallenato ( etc) and had an electric guitar was “Rock en Espanol” or thrown under that umbrella (i.e king chango, and the numerous ska-wanna-be-acts its spawned) That’s already a whole new topic.

Most of the “big” bands (if not all) that came from Latin America, were not only already huge in Latin America, they were also signed to huge labels. So they didn’t come here to play at La Kueva, they came here to play at places like the Academy (I believe 47th St) which was were I first saw Maldita & Caifanes in ’93, and at that time they came as “Rockstars.” I also remember seeing Café Tacvba performing in “Siempre en Domingo” which was not exactly a show for “indie” bands.

Another big issue is the fact that most of the fans of “Rock en Espanol” were exactly that! “Fans of Rock en Espanol” or whatever someone told them was RNE, not fans of rock music. So you had a crowd at a show throwing “metal horns” and banging their heads but eagerly waiting for the DJ to play another crappy merengue-wannabe song by “Vilma Palma y los Vampiros” so that he can dance with his girl and her fat friend with a Mana shirt on.

La Verdad

It is ok to say that RNE died as it is not just rock - it is so many different things. To say that there are no good bands out there is just plain ignorance of all the good bands out there. Saying that a whole market was not growing and pegging it on some local bands that were never good enough to really get bigger than the local pub is being silly. There is still a market, there are still shows, there are still parties going on and yes, there is still alot of general market press for this music. Getting the word out is so much more scattered today and if it is not getting to the folks who think this genre is dead, then maybe they were not the target for it in the first place.


Sovietiko, I think you and I basically agree. As for the distinction between "hard-core rockeros" and "fans of RNE" I always found that amusing, very much like the factional splits within punk/hardcore. Were you straightedge? Were you a peace punk? I mean, if people were supporting bands by buying tix to their shows, their records & merch, does it really matter?

Verdad, I have as much of a problem with the category of "Latin" music as I do with "RNE" -- it slaps a single label on a huge variety of stuff.

Yes, there are good bands out there, but the better bands that could remotely be called RNE are not doing, strictly speaking, rock (this is one of the reasons the term is so useless). And it's true that finding good music in general has changed -- no one, even old people like me, relies on radio or tastemakers in record stores or the press for advice.

I guess I find things less diverse than they used to be -- basically bands have to be from the Mexico-Aztlan continuum or they have little chance of being noticed. Record co. don't look elsewhere. And the aesthetic for successful bands has shifted in interesting ways too -- eg, how does electronica function as a genre that avoids the language issue by making samples simply sound?

And what's wrong with there being a space for bands that play in their local pub? Outside of LA, there's not much space for that -- that's what I mean about lack of infrastructure for a grassroots.

Thanks for the comments. Clearly I'm not the only one with a lot to say on this subject.

Kiko Jones

Great post, Caro. You should consider part 2.

Sovietiko is on point. If I may, I'd like to add an anecdote that might help clarify the "hard-core rockeros" and "fans of RNE" distinction, and at at the same time, shed light on why rock music sung in Spanish is dead here in the US, regardless of what the quite defensive "La Verdad" might say:

While recording their Plomo Revienta album in LA in '97, Desorden Publico were invited to perform at some RnE-related gig--perhaps a Banda Elastica awards show--and decided it would be such a coup to bring out Fishbone frontman Angelo Moore during their set. They did. Unfortunately, THE CROWD HAD NO IDEA WHO HE WAS. In Los Angeles. There it is in a nutshell.

(That may have been the moment DP decided to disregard the US market.)

Btw, I doubt that would've happened in Latin America. It's been my experience that fans there are WAY MORE knowledgeable about rock music in general than the RnE crowd was here. Which leads me to...

A huge chunk of the RnE scene was about nostalgia. (Don't think so? Walk into any joint that plays the music on a regular basis and you'll be serenated by "Lamento Boliviano", "Oye Mi Amor", “De Musica Ligera”, "Puto" etc. in no time. In 2008!) Both the audience and the bands came from a pool of young people who—for the most part—had been here a short time, followed the bands that were big back home and supported (and/or formed) the local versions that reminded them of their recent past lives, regardless of quality. (Some of these bands so ignorant, more than a few believed ska was a product of Latin America! And that’s the crap the gate keepers ushered in. No wonder you still have to clarify things at this late date for the Anglo media, Caro.) If you were a band that didn’t fit the above description—homegrown or otherwise—good luck. (Sorry, Jumbo.)

So, "La Verdad", I call bullshit.

Ignorance and nostalgia—on all levels—killed the US scene. Period.


PLease part 2 !!!

.....and another thing (hehehe)

I will always defend Jesus, owner of La Kueva, because he did more for the NYC RNE scene than what any label, promoter ever bothered or claimed to have done, and that was that he actually treated local bands with respect.
At La Kueva you could expect to play a 50min set, and get payed at the end of the night.
Was it a chessy spot?? of course! but your band could play and they will give you the respect you deserved, and if anybody was around La Kueva in the late 90's then they should rememember that that place was PACKED every weekend so he didnt have to book bands to get people to his bar, he booked bands because he believed in live rock en espanol music...you know as in with a guitar and an actual drumset...not a LAPTOP !

Another interesting thing (which goes along what Kiko said about nostalgia) is that when La Kueva was at its peak every time the bands played, which was around midnight, the "RNE Fans" would generally leave the dance floor and even go as far as to just chill outside while the bands played, and guess what? as soon as the band finished they would come back in for their "healthy dose" of "...de aquel amor !!"

The reality is that good music will always be played in all its forms and there will always be people into it regardless of the scene or "movement" (i love that one)but the reality is that the "RNE scene" of the 90's was mostly about the scene, not about the music.

Is there still a RNE scene?? of course, I bet theres still a Lambada scene somewhere also.

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¡A la lucha!

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