As with a number of activities, drumming is generally more fun to do than to listen to. I´ve always been slightly baffled as to why people gather around large groups of people playing percussion really badly. It´s like they´ve been hypnotised into standing in the midst of the cacophony by a subliminal message in an aspirin advert.
That said, despite its billing as ¨The Trance of rhythm in its pure state¨ (gulp!), La Bomba de Tiempo on Monday nights at the Konex club in Buenos Aires is a good night out. The venue is a fantastic, huge, disused factory, there’s a great atmosphere and the drumming is actually quite compelling to listen to and watch thanks to a system of improvision invented by the band leader Santiago Vazquez. The percussionists take it in turn to direct the rest of the band with series of around 70 established hand signals. Every piece played is invented on the spot and communicated to the musicians through the gesticulations of the conductor. It’s quite something.
On the other hand, just because you mix two good things together the result is not automatically double-good. Tangoloco falls into that unfortunate category of music where the whole is definitely not greater than the sum of its parts. These guys are absolutely top-notch musicians, but they’re playing Beatles covers in a style somewhere between prog-rock and Tango. It’s awesome, but not in a good way.
Our excuse for being there in the first place is that a friend of ours (who’s great – obviously) was filling in for the off-duty bandoneonist. To be fair, about half way through the show they managed to play a couple of great tangos without nod to Maxwell’s Silver Hammer or a screeching guitar solo in sight. Beef flavoured ice-cream anyone?