Tuesday, March 24, 2009

El Gran Combo in The Carolinas in April

According to this flyer, the "musical flag of Puerto Rico" is coming to Bongo's in Greenville on Friday, April 17:

Oh dear, here we go again: the club domain name is expired. I called the promoter and will let you know what I find out.

And wouldn't it be nice if the band's website listed their itinerary? It does not. Bummer.

I feel like begging at this point. Just how DOES one ascertain with authority where Grupo Niche, El Gran Combo etc. are going to be playing on a given night? Must the fan's pursuit of information remain as mystical as la clave?


Hay que tener fé. What do you know, sometimes it pays to go to the top. The contact number on El Gran Combo's webpage goes directly to Señor Rafael Ithier himself! Holy frijoles. Well, he says YES, babies, El Gran Combo is playing in South Carolina on April 17. And he says, there are MORE tour dates through North Carolina...I am to call him back tomorrow afternoon to get that information. I imagine I probably tapped him unexpectedly (that makes it mutual) as he was taking a nice lunch on his patio in Puerto Rico, or something like that.

Old School...you've got to love it. The band's founder still handles the business calls himself after all these years. God bless Don Rafael!

UPDATE added 3/26:

Willie Sotelo, who plays piano with the band on tour in Ithier's place, emailed me back that there's another date somewhere in North Carolina around July 10 or 11 (?). Hopefully details forthcoming. Willie also wrote that the band hopes to get a calendar page up on the website soon.

happy to be here
Oh, and he also said thanks for the picture. :-)

This is Willie Sotelo at the Rumba D'Cache show in October. There has been a lot of complaining about that show from the point of view of the venue and logistics. Promoter integrity matters, yes, a great deal in fact, but I go to shows primarily out of loyalty to the band. I was not at all disappointed in this show. I knew from talking to Richie Bastar (bongocero) before the performance how exhausted they were, and how far they had travelled that day: from Vancouver to Chicago to Charlotte, with flight delays, then bussed to Greensboro. The day before that, they were in Alaska. (Which, of course, put me in mind of the great 1984 album that yielded "Azuquita Pa'l Cafe.")

This the touringest band in salsa; travel and logistics are not always going to go smoothly, but when they don't, my sympathy is more often with the band than for myself. Trying to find some venue in Roanoke or Greensboro at night can be a harrowing experience if your bus driver gets lost, your flight connection is late, your instruments didn't arrive or whatever (all of which has happened). There is this assumption circulating that the promoter was to blame for their late arrival, when in fact I'm sure the guy was sweating bullets until they arrived. There is no reason why El Gran Combo would want to go on stage that late, either, so I'm sure it was just circumstances beyond everyone's control.

By contrast, I drove only one hour to this gig, and while waiting, I danced and hung out with some of my favorite people: the musicians who make our own local scene happen. There was a nice feeling of community that night.

As you can see by the look on Willie's face, once El Gran Combo took the stage, they did so with love for the fans and gave a full court press. I feel sorry for the folks who didn't have the fortitude to stay through the encore, but dancing to "Un Verano en Nueva York" at 4 am was the high point of my night.

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