Blending metal, mariachi and a bunch of moxie
THE SANTA CLARA
October 29, 2015
Dia de Los Muertos and metal music both celebrate death. So Metalachi, “The World’s First and Only Heavy Metal Mariachi Band,” made an appropriate headliner last Friday at the Ritz in Downtown San Jose. The band pumps out suave, yet worshipful mushings of the two genres.
But in their early days, they operated as a traditional group, crooning old standards at funerals, weddings and quiñceaneras until they discovered a more seductive sound.
“(One time), we decided to play Black Sabbath tunes,” said lead singer Vega De La Rokha. “And that’s when everything went crazy. We saw a couple of boobies, so we decided ‘that’s us.’ So maybe the boobies were the last push to do this. But also the love for music, and our love for what we are doing.”
They field a traditional five member mariachi band: Pancho Rockafeller thrums the big bulbous guitarron, El Cucuy huffs heroically on his trumpet, Ramon Holiday tickles a nylon six-string and Maximilian “Dirty” Sanchez melts faces with his violin. Vega captains the outfit with bravado-laden vocals and the vaguely European Warren Moscow flits about as hype man.
Their inspired renditions secured the band a spot on a 2015 episode of “America’s Got Talent.” They waited 11 hours to perform a peppy cover of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Going To Take It,” pumping it full of their signature zest and compositional ingenuity. They weren’t called back, but impressed the panel.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “We got a standing ovation from the audience. We got three yeses. Howard Stern was very stoked about it. He looked at us like we were his best friends.”
For reasons of privacy and grandeur, they employ robust alter-egos. Their website claims the members were conceived in a night of horse-tranquilizer-fueled passion between their mother and a local Jai Alai team. Then, they came to the “sweet amber of American soil” through the Sonoran desert on the back of a donkey. When they arrived, fate placed a copy of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” at their toes, an album that acted as mentor, teacher and muse.
There lies some truth in the tall tale. Everyone but Warren Moscow did come from one “promiscuous,” but beloved matriarch. And they did drive a crappy Dodge nicknamed the “Burro” to immigrate from Juarez to East L.A., where they marinated in metal and mariachi.
“A lot of metal and mariachi songs are very similar in the chord progression—three chords, four chords,” Vega said. “We look to put that Mexican flavor into the metal songs. You can make a very Spanish bandido type of sound, or change it into cumbia or huapango. It actually shows the passion of each song to hear it in a twisted way. We always wanted to do mariachi, but we wanted to take it to the next level.”
Friday night’s show at the Ritz opened with the sonically amorphous San Jose natives, Molkahete. Their pallid, greasy-locked guitarist had a demonically-affected microphone made for growling that juxtaposed pleasantly during banal intersong chit-chat like when he said, “Nice costume you got there” to a 250-lb bald, bearded man in a Jake the Dog onesie.
As roadies flurried to declutter the stage after Molkahete’s set, I spotted an undead Einstein, a Jason Voorhees who pretended a plastic machete was his member and two different Wolverines, one in the Hugh Jackman leather jacket and the other in the comic book’s fluorescent, muscle-padded zip-up. The latter grazed me with his aluminum-wrapped claws and apologized with disorienting sheepishness.
The stage set-up left only five microphones draped with cannonball bras. Then, mounds of fog steamed into the void before Metalachi bounded onstage in a giddy swarm. Their shoulder-length locks swung in arcs as their heads helicoptered. Their faces bubbled beneath Dia de los Muertos skull-masks. They shimmied in form-fitting black tights.
They didn’t need the metal-requisite drum set. They compensated with unstoppable, lusty zeal.
Warren Moscow paced around, MC’ing and hype-manning, looking like a black-haired Bret Michaels. Pancho balanced the guitarron on his belly and slapped stomping basslines. Ramon chopped into galloping strums and skipped about like a show pony.
Maximilian oozed sleazy sexuality as he sawed his bow and skittered his fingertips, skying to dog-whistle heights and weaving through serpentine, smooth solos on his skinny electric violin, ocassionally clawing at the air and snarling a la cougar.
El Cucuy donned skull-adorned armor complete with a bulging codpiece and trumpet-translated the broad strokes of fiery riffs, his instrument wheezing and weeping, then peaking and proclaiming, then fizzling and refilling.
In the center, Vega lorded over us with manic glee, marrying the machismo of mariachi with the utter raunchiness of hair metal. Vocals leapt from his diaphragm. His arms and legs flew with the force of ancient ritual. His black-smeared eyes filled with bent fervor as he fell to his knees and uncorked his high-pitched loping mariachi scream-laugh that became my new favorite sound in music history.
The six of them peacocked around the stage with outlandish panache. They shouted out all the fine “chi-chis” in San Jose. They waggled their tongues and fast-pumped their pelvises at least 600,000 times.
They imbued “Thriller” with dusty pomp. They swayed tauntingly during Epic’s “Faith No More.” They sauntered through the mariachi classic “Malaguena Salerosa.” They exalted in Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again.” They commandeered Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” And they saved souls with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”
Then, they brought a chesty birthday girl onstage named Kia. They tip-toed into Extreme’s tender acoustic ballad, “More than Words,” before mounting her.
Cucuy, Maximilian, Pancho and Vega tag-teamed a medley of straddles, humps and twerks, bouncing the overstimulated, tousled gal between their thrusting hips. They sandwiched the microphone between her cleavage, guided her hands to their bulges and, according to Warren Moscow, probably made her “very, very pregnant.” I stared gape-mouthed, not sure whether to cheer or check up on her.
They finished with a nutty breakdown, demolishing a three-story-tall wall of sound and bringing it all down on our heads. They dropped their instruments as the audience buzzed off their lingering aura and chanted “Mota, Mota, Mota!” (Spanish for a certain soft drug).
Warren Moscow remained and spurred us to near-riot levels of delirium before bringing the boys back for an encore. They cooed the Tenacious D song about tender intercourse, then concluded with a caffeinated version of “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night” laid over the sizzling pace of dueling guitars. They exited after two head-bangers dapped them up and a pretty nose-ringer scurried backstage.
I left the Ritz and ordered a bacon-wrapped hot dog from a street-side vendor. I requested a roasted chili on the side. Even the best American staples need some spice.
Contact John Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.