Julieta Venegas concert review

Julieta Venegas at Ace of Spades, Sacramento

Julieta Venegas at Ace of Spades, Sacramento

It was all about the music on Sunday night’s Julieta Venegas’ concert for her Los Momentos tour at Ace of Spades in Sacramento. Venegas has always been a humble artist and never quite fit in with the other pop divas in the Mexican music scene and last night’s show proved, that for her, it’s the music that matters.

With a simple set up with her four musicians, she took to the stage and opened with “Hoy” from her latest album Los Momentos, an album she’s received critical praise but little air play especially on this side of the border. Los Momentos is a richly infused album with electronic pop and piano driven sound which is a departure from her signature pop and accordion style that launched her career in Mexico and much of Latin America.

The crowd was silent and a little stumbled when she opened with “Hoy” a synthesized piano driven song about letting true love in, which was most likely written about her new born daughter, and unless they were die-hard fans, they probably hadn’t heard this catchy tune, which is a shame.  Dressed in a simple pink dress, Venegas addressed the crowd after her second song and told the audience she would be performing more songs from Los Momentos.

With her quiet demeanor, she jumped right back into singing. To some this might be oft-putting, however, she is not one to bring a big spectacle show with outfit changes or backup dancers. She kept it simple throughout the night with the only major changes were her musical instruments from her guitar, piano, and her famous accordion.

The crowd finally started to get into a rhythm when she addressed her audience for “Despedida,” a song she said she wrote about acknowledging a relationship that didn’t work out but accepting and even toasting the end of the relationship just like how it started.

When she played hits from her 2006 album Limón y Sal, the crowed livened especially in “Eres Para Mi.” She let the crowd sing right along with her and smiled when her fans pointed at her when she sang “Tu eres para mi/yo soy para ti” (“You are for me/I’m for you”) and even rapped Anita Tijoux’s part.

Venegas continued to speak throughout the night and told a story of a friend who asked if it was safe to travel to Mexico. “Don’t let fear be the reason you don’t take a chance on doing something,” she told the audience before performing “Vuelve.” Translated into “Return,” the song speaks about her concern with the recent drug-related violence that plagues Mexico.

She picked up her accordion several times throughout her set list including in the crowd pleasing “Me Voy” and “Sin Documentos.” It’s a heavy instrument but she played it so effortlessly even as she danced on the stage.

The show ended with an encore of 2 more songs “Algo Está Cambiando” and “Andar Conmigo,” which the crowd ate up. Although the show seemed brief, it was a modest yet pleasing performance of Venegas, one that not just her die-hard fans would enjoy. She is still on tour and I highly recommend catching her before she heads to South America.

New year, new resolutions

402416_10150658978137306_1802578978_nTwo years ago I started a ‘tradition’ for myself to give up something every year starting January 1st. I put TRADITION in quotation marks because it’s a loose tradition. This is only the second year so I’ll call it a tradition 5 to 10 years from now if I am still doing it. I want to continue to give up something that I really like which mostly likely involves something to do with eating. Two years ago I started by giving up chocolate and cookies. Since 2012, I have not had an ounce of chocolate and let me just say it has not been easy staying away: from my family and friends torturing me with chocolate cake and waving Snicker bars in front of my face at every chance they can; every time I walked down the grocery store’s candy isle just to look at it; Halloween terrorizing me with mini-size chocolate bars; or just any day I stepped outside into the world.

Giving up chocolate was like a junkie giving up drugs cold turkey. I ate it almost every day because, let’s just say it, chocolate is probably like being in heaven. I haven’t been to heaven yet but I imagine it having fountains of chocolate with strawberries gardens, the benches made of Kit-Kat bars, and when it rains, little chocolate chips fall. For a few weeks I was having withdrawal symptoms. I was grumpy, moody, and wanted chocolate so badly that I would go to the corner of the office and rock back and forth, sweating profusely (Okay, so this last part didn’t happen but it sure felt that way). I had dreams and still do of eating chocolate and they feel so real. And when I wake up, I can taste it – the smooth, creamy chocolate melting in my mouth… Worse, I wake up feeling guilty because I really think I have been eating chocolate, and I felt bad I had given up so quickly. But I have been clean for 730 days now. And yes, I miss chocolate every day! It was like my best friend. It made me so happy, made me forget all my problems. And dear I say, it is better than sex. Okay, maybe not but it is darn close to it.

A Nice cold Lagunitas IPA

A Nice cold Lagunitas IPA

Last year I gave up potato chips. It wasn’t as hard as giving up chocolate and it was mostly done to try to lose some weight. This year I am stepping up the challenge by giving up cheese and beer. I have to admit that I love these two things. I love how on a hot, California summer day, a drink of a nice cold IPA beer is the perfect way to relax and cool off against the 98 degree heat. I am a social drinker so it’s not like I’m giving up beer because I have drinking problem.  I like to go out and be social and have a beer as I socialize so I know this will be a challenge. I don’t like drinking hard liquor, and this isn’t me giving up one thing and picking up on another. I want this to be a real challenge just like chocolate has been. I want to have dreams of beer rivers and lakes and swimming in a beer ocean.

Melted brie and other cheeses

Melted brie and other cheeses

Cheese on the other hand is not a social activity. I like eating it at home whenever I can have it. I make quesadillas with my mom’s homemade flour tortillas with Tapatio hot sauce, melted brie on ciabatta bread, or gorgonzola cheese fries. I am a cheese fiene. I am already regretting giving up these two lovely things as I sit and write this blog. It’s been less than 24 hours and I am salivating just at the thought of eating cheese and can literally smell beer. And I only have 364 more days until I can taste them again! Will I make it? I sure hope so.

An imperfect family sticks together

I got to spend five days with my family over the holidays. I wasn’t planning on staying this long but since my brother, whom I hadn’t seen in over a year, made a last minute trip home, I decided to stay the week for Christmas. I grew up with what I consider a close family. We are not the perfect family. We don’t always show affection to each other but it doesn’t mean that we don’t care for one another. It has taken a lot of growing up for my five siblings, parents and myself to really appreciate the type of family that we have become. A family that is diverse in the way we think but ultimately united by our familial bond.

I sometimes look at other families and I notice how grateful I am for the one I have. I hear friends complaining about how they don’t get along with their siblings or their parents. I don’t always understand it but I am not in their situation. I have always seen my family like those few people who will share this unique life experience that no one else will ever understand and who will always have my back no matter what.

I don’t know if this is an Anglo thing or an American thing, but I notice in American media how families are portrayed as this complex unit who doesn’t always get along especially during the holiday season or funerals or any big family gathering. I notice how it seems like a forceful situation to go home to visit family. I get it that it’s the media and it’s make believe, but it comes from the culture because Americans relate these themes in movies or TV shows. But it’s not just the media. I often hear co-workers (mostly white) complain about their families. For me, it has always felt the opposite of forceful. If I don’t get to see them for periods of times, I feel like I am missing out. I don’t know if this is a Latino thing because family is usually an important aspect of who we are. And I am not saying that all Latino families get a long and it is just one big fiesta and everyone is all happy taking shots of tequila (although this latter part does happen at get togethers quite frequently). But what I have noticed in many Latino cultures is that, no matter what, family is number one especially during times like the holiday season. We go out of our way to be with family.

We want all of our family members to be gathered and just be there reminiscing about when we were younger and how back then we really couldn’t stand each other. Now in times of reunion, we look back at those moments and laugh at the stupid things we did. All those little moments that we couldn’t appreciate while we were growing up, we can now see them as fond memories. Memories that will be passed on to the nephews and nieces and the ever expanding family from those who are being introduced into our family. I appreciate my family and the moments that we have because I know this won’t always be the case. One thing I can say for certain is that I love my imperfect family just the way it is.

More blogs and literature for the Latino LGTB community

When I started my blog a few weeks ago, I wanted to write about many different topics. One of those topics I wanted to approach was to write about the gay Latino/Hispanic community. I am a gay Latino and figured I would find other blogs dealing with such a topic. However, when I searched for “Gay Latino,” no blogs appeared. I was a little surprised that WordPress had no blogs dealing with such an issue. There were plenty of blogs when I searched “gay life” or “gay men” or other LGBT issues but zero blogs relating to this topic.

The lack of blogs got me thinking. I am gay and Latino and, well, maybe I should try to focus a part of my blog to this. A recent report by the William’s Institute stated there were 1.4 million Latino/a adults who consider themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) in the U.S.  This number is huge and not considering the many more closeted Latino LGBT not represented in this report.  As many know, the Latino/Hispanic community is not as accepting or as open to the LGBT community.  There are many issues such as religion, family and culture that are very prominent in the Latino/Hispanic community that sometimes hinders the progress of the Latino LGBT.

Many Latinos fear coming out because family, more than often, is one the most important parts of their lives. To not have your family’s support while you are being honest is devastating and this applies not just to Latinos but to anyone coming out; however, in the Latino community, the family bond seems to be greater.  I know this fear because when I came out to my six siblings I feared losing my family. I feared not having their support. It was a risk I took and I am grateful for them supporting me. However, this isn’t always the case.

Machismo also seems to dominate the Latino culture which draws many setbacks to the coming out process. For men, being gay is considered reducing your masculinity. You are no longer the man you were before. Unfortunately, many Latin American countries carry this stigma. I could go on discussing this but for now mentioning these issues will allow me to bring them up later in different blogs.

Part of what I want to do with my blog is to talk about all these topics that seem to plague the Latino LGTB community. I just touched on a few issues but there are many more that can be discussed and having an ongoing dialogue is important so that it opens the door to more blogs. I am not saying there aren’t blogs out there regarding this issue.  One of the best-known bloggers discussing such topics is Andres Duque, a Colombian American gay rights activist. In his blog, Blabbeando, he discusses many LGTB issues such as politics and life issues from around the world.

What I hope to accomplish is to continue to speak about issues that are important the Latino LGTB community so there is more literature out there for the community and invite others to share their stories and experience through this medium.

 

Peaches

When I was growing up, my family worked in the fields picking fruits in California and sometimes would travel to other states as well to perform this laborious job. It is a tough and physical job and being a kid and even as a teenager, I often questioned why my family had to be performing in this type of work. At times there was resentment towards my parents for dragging me to work. I sort of wanted my parents to be white and successful. However, working in the fields made me appreciate many things and the importance of having an education. It made me realize there was more out there besides picking peaches or cherries. As much as I disliked picking fruits, it inspired me to write and more specifically, it inspired me to write some poems.

Here is just one that I wrote a few years ago. It’s titled “Peaches.”

The moon peaks through my window in this

Warm summer morning calling me to work.

“Wake up, wake up we have to go to work,” it says.

Hoping it’s just a dream, I close my eyes again

Dreaming of wealth

Until a cold drip of water splashes on my face.

Quickly I get up and put on the working clothes

Old pants,

Ripped shows,

An itchy flannel shirt

Begging my mother to let me stay and sleep

Like lazy kids do all summer days

She rubs caladryl on my face that’s still asleep

“To protect you from the sun and itch,” she says

We arrive to the heavy smell of peaches

That will later be thrown inside my working sack

With the scorching sun extending its rays

Sweat runs down my face attracting the peach

Fuzz to stick on my skin.

Fuzz itching on my forehead and neck

I rub the cool dirt from

Under the tree’s shade

Imagining myself in a mansion

A pool

Or beach

And no working for me

Not questioning my family’s state of wealth

Feeling my brother’s wrath rubbing a peach on my neck

He fixes my attention back to where I am

“Get your ass back to work. Money don’t come from the dirt,” he says.

The best things about the 90s

I was a teen in the 90s and listening to music from this decade last night took me back to a much simpler time and made me miss the hell out of them. Things were great. The nation was growing, the economy wasn’t in total chaos, and Bill Clinton was President. It was an awesome time to be growing up. Because I can and have too much time on my hands, I made a list of the things I miss the most from this slammin’ decade.

  1. High school – Yes I know high school still exists and will continue to exist but I grew up as a teen in the 90s and even though I grew in a small town surrounded by peach orchards where I would work during the summers, the experience is not like anything else. Yes, it got boring and the highlight of high school was going to the Friday night football games and going out drinking in the orchards. But isn’t this what high school is all about? Now I mostly worry about money, jobs and unemployment.
  2. 2. Gangsta Rap – I am not much of a rap person now mostly because it’s boring and doesn’t really speak about anything but having money and Gucci wear, but back in the 90s you had artist who would rap about the struggles of living in poverty. We had rap artists like NWA and Arrested Development who made social commentaries about gang violence and race which plagued urban cities. And sitting in the back of my brother’s Buick with wolf speakers and cruising in the streets just adds to the nostalgia.
  3. No cell phones – Yes, those giant cell phones existed a-la Zack Morris and Nokia came out with a bunch of smaller phones towards the end of the 90s but the most you could do was make phone calls with them. They didn’t have all the gadgets the smart cell phones carry and people would actually have to communicate with each other. I know that this concept has left main stream society since now we are mostly looking down at our phones to check out our social networks that we forget to be social with other humans surrounding us.
  4. Friends” – It had 6 very attractive people to watch but most importantly it was funny! It brought the Rachel cut and Phoebe’s “Smelly Cat” song.  It also gave us the Ross and Rachel will-they-or-won’t-they get together that gripped the nation for 10 years.
  5. MTV – Back in the day’s it actually played music videos unlike the reality shows it now tends to air. I haven’t watched MTV in recent years but all I know is that they air shows like Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant. Back in my day, they had Yo! MTV Raps and Alternative Nation where they played music videos and had VJ’s hosting. I remember staying up late to get to watch the shows and see if my favorite music video would pop up. I guess YouTube is our new MTV.
  6. TGIF – The TV shows on ABC not the restaurant. I wasn’t the most popular kid in high school so on Friday night I would stay home and watch the Step-by-Step gang and my all-time favorite Perfect Strangers! I didn’t need to be hanging out with the cool kids when I had this going on on TGIF.  Now all I want on TGIF is happy hour drinks!
  7. AOL – That was the place to go for the internet and to chat. It gave us all the acronyms were now using when we text. LOL would not exist without AOL. Just saying.
  8. Alanis Morissette/Shakira en Español  – I miss Alanis who rocked the 90s with her feisty lyrics in “Jagged Little Pill” about going down on a guy in a theater and about an old man winning the lottery and dying the next day.  Isn’t it Ironic? Well, not really but it was so awesome that  I used to play this record on a cassette player (which I also miss but not so much) over and over until the tape wore off.  Now we have Miley Cyrus who thinks she’s punk. I miss Alanis! Shakira rocked when she sang in Spanish. She also had that angst and earthy kind of lyrics.
  9. Napster – I know this caused many problems for music companies and musicians but for many broke kids this was perfect! I didn’t catch onto it right away but once I realized that I could download music for free I jumped on the bandwagon like everyone else.
  10. Tae Bo – Yes I ordered Billy Blanks tapes and worked out in the privacy of my Nino’s garage when no one was there. I am not ashamed to admit to it (maybe just a little). Billy had me kicking off the pounds my senior year of high school.

Where you a kid of the 90’s? What do you miss the most?

The Blackout Experience

The Hangover” was basically a movie about the every-man/woman experience of a drunken night out in Las Vegas and waking up the next day with out a trace of memory of what occurred.  I call it the blackout experience where you don’t remember what happened during a night of excessive alcoholic libations. When I watched the Hangover, I thought it was alright. It had some funny moments but I didn’t really quite understand what that experience of blacking out was all about.

Every time I drink or have been drunk, I have always been a responsible drunk who at least knows how to get back home (walking of course) and can remember exactly what happened during the night out.  I remember what was done and said including intonations. All that changed this weekend. I experienced the infamous blackout that was portrayed in “The Hangover.”  I was, of course, not in Las Vegas, but just celebrating my birthday in my town. I thought it would be like any of my other birthday’s or any other weekend I decided to go out. I’d get a few friends to go out to the bars and have a few drinks and come home and have the room spinning for a bit, possibly vomit (responsibly in the toilet) but I would know exactly what I did the night before when I’d wake up.

But that all changed at the ripe old age of 35! Yes 35! I know all who experience this do so in their twenties but like I had mentioned before, I have always been a responsible drinker. Always puking in the toilet and never in anyone’s car or carpet– always responsible.  However, this past weekend, I don’t remember pretty much anything from the night. I am not exactly sure how to feel about that. Should I be proud that I finally had a night of irresponsible drinking and managed to let loose? Or should I be sort of ashamed and worried that I let myself drink to the point of not remembering what I did during a night of drinking?Drunk Man Funny Sleep

When I woke up the next morning, I was in the bathroom (responsible puking still in me) but could not remember how I ended up there (not responsible). I tried to remember as hard as I could what had happened the night before and why there were so many leaves in my house: in the kitchen, the bedroom, the closet and the bathroom. However, my mind drew a blank to all of this and my pounding head wouldn’t allow me to think of much else but my pounding head. I remember the initial going out and meeting at a bar and having a few beers, but after that nothing. All memories wiped out by alcohol. Now if alcohol could only work to wipe out other memories one does not want to recall.

After waking up mid-afternoon, my friends, who I thought had spent the night, had left and I could not find my house keys. Details of the night slowly began to emerge since Facebook can now help with that by the many jokes my friends were posting about soda. I, of course, had no idea what they were talking about. I asked one of my cousins, where my keys were at, and I finally found them hanging on the door (the last place I would have looked). I asked a different friend what had happened and he sent me a picture since pictures speak louder than words. When I looked at the picture, I was still a bit drunk; I laughed, but then realized I was rolling around in the street. My friend not only told me that I rolled around in the street but also fell into some bushes and most of the walk home I crawled, not walked. He also said I fell asleep outside, vomited on myself (irresponsible puking), and I was cut off drinking at the bar, and he ordered me a soda.

I, apparently, thought this soda was the best alcoholic beverage ever! And this is where the soda jokes were coming from. Hey, I am a happy drunk, what can I say? I also woke up with bruises all over my body, probably from falling down so many times as I was told. Although this night may not have been quite the experience like “The Hangover” with no missing tooth or tigers in my bathroom, it was fun to see pictures on my phone that I don’t  remember taking and making it home without  losing my wallet or phone and dignity. The responsible drunk was still in me. Again, I am not sure how I should feel about the  experience, but I can say without a doubt it was a fun night out with friends celebrating and for once letting my inhibitions loose.