I'm standing outside with a scratchy throat, letting the drizzle and the cigarette being smoked by the guy next to me wash over my body. I've got a cold. This wasn't supposed to be part of the story, but it's kind of an appropriate narrative for the fourth day of a five-day music festival. Nobody here in Boise has the same pep in their step. Showgoers over a decade younger than me have bags underneath their eyes so big they might have to be checked when they hit the airport. I ran into Cheryl Waters on the way to the gas station to pick up some DayQuil.
Y La Bamba are playing selections from their recent (and, might I add, stellar) album Mujeres to a crowd mostly seeing them for the first time. Or maybe the second, since the band played the main stage earlier this afternoon. Their songs ranged from reverb-drenched psych-rock to Spanish-language electric folk guided by finger snaps from the four members sitting out from their instruments and peppered throughout the crowd.
During their main stage set earlier in the day, the Portland band's massive sound filled the western edge of downtown, rising and falling and sometimes pummelling. In the more intimate setting of the Radio Boise stage setup (a mere three blocks or so from where they played hours before), passersby couldn't help but stick around and fill out the area.
The songs of Luz Elena Mendoza contain such immense beauty, they sounded equally at home in the slight overcast of their early set and the mist and chill of their Radio Boise stage performance. The woozy shuffle and radiant harmonies of "Cuatro Crazy" was one of those songs difficult to get out of my head even before this weekend and even more so upon hearing them cascade through the open air.
Parts of the crowd are thinning out a little as the rain picked up slightly right before Tres Leches' Radio Boise stage set, but it's funny how a spate of great rock tunes will corral people and call for attention. When the band took the stage, I thought about slipping Zander Yates a $10 for his white rain slicker. It was pretty snazzy and probably very functional.
Less than 24 hours prior, the band played a set more than worthy of being hosted by a venue called The Shredder. Amorfo is an album full of rippers, and most of the album was represented dutifully as the Seattle trio did what they do: frequently switching out languages and instruments, summoning noise just as often as infectious pop melody (and being able to blur the line between them just as well as any poppy art-punk band worth their weight in effects pedals), and comfortably existing onstage like your affable friends playing in your living room and a few notes away from getting the cops called on everybody behind a noise complaint.
A girl no older than five years old stood just outside of the assembled crowd at the Radio Boise stage, smiling and shuffling in her colorful rain boots.
"Nueva York" plowed through the air like a runaway train car, Alaia D'Alessandro's guitar glittered through "No Llores," "Doing What Are You/What Are You Doing" jolted people walking by as if the question posed in the chorus was directed at them specifically. The band played their cover of Leadbelly's "Ha Ha This Away" during both sets, causing crowds to bounce around to the blues legend's cracked iteration of a children's song.
I'm always amazed by the mastery of tempo the band displays, speeding up and slowing down without warning or visual cues for each other, running a trail without need for communication. The trio is made up of three very different musicians (por ejemplo: D'Alessandro and Yates' respective solo projects), but onstage it's almost as if they share a brain, uncommonly in sync no matter how far they diverge from the beaten path.