I know what you’re thinking–what the heck is a Caipo?
I have written once before on the subject of the aresteia: that brief passage of time during which an individual suddenly, astonishingly, not only performs at a level far above his/her previous best, but actually becomes the best ever. Ozomatli came to the Fillmore Auditorium for their annual Christmas shows this weekend, and as usual they blew the roof off the building, More on that later; the time has come to praise Caipo.
Ozo loves to showcase opening acts so good they might make you forget that Ozo even exists: Cumbia Tokeson in 2011, Los Rakas in 2012, and for 2014 they brought in Bang Data, most famous for the inclusion of their song “Bang Data” in a classic scene from Breaking Bad (the one where Gus poisons the entire Mexican cartel–yeah, that classic scene).
Anyway, most everyone I asked didn’t know the name of the opening act: one of the Fillmore employees said “Ben Data,” while another audience member thought it was Deuce Eclipse, actually the name of the vocalist.
But when Caipo hit his bass drum, he got everyone’s attention. Tokeson brought the dance, Los Rakas brought the energy, but Bang Data brought pure power, and that power came from the drummer. Of all the solo drummers I have ever seen perform live (as opposed to teams of percussionists such as Ozo’s), this was the absolutely best performance I have ever heard. Seriously, better than Charlie Watts, Jack DeJohnette or Bill Bruford. Even a song like “Calavera Life,” their best song of the night and normally a swinging dance tune, sounded like the offspring of a happy marriage between rap and heavy metal thanks to Caipo’s thunder. I have no idea if Saturday night was a fluke performance, but Bang Data will perform at The Addition on 1/22/15, so perhaps I’ll visit then.
However, someone else performed at the Fillmore on Saturday night–I have not forgotten about Ozomatli. Unlike the 2012 show, which featured among other things two Wushu masters demonstrating their rope dart techniques and a dancing banana (not a misprint), the men from LA also chose to play a simple, no-frills, pure power sort of show, playing their hits with a quicker tempo and more of a rocking sound than normal–even their famous closing number featured a Chuck Berry riff, something I’ve never heard them do before.
All these pictures came from my iPhone 4, which theoretically cannot take still photography in darkened concert venues. I prefer to convert the weakness into a strength; please think of these pictures as Instant Expressionism.
Ozomatli chose to acknowledge the holiday by bringing a bare Christmas tree onstage and then inviting a pair of volunteers from the audience to decorate it. They did a good job. Ozo also produced their latest invention–official, genuine Ozomatli Christmas sweaters (not a misprint). I am not making this up, and admit it; until you read “Ozomatli Christmas sweaters,” you never realized that you never realized that you ever realized that you never thought you would ever read the phrase “Ozomatli Christmas sweaters.” Or something like that. In 2012, I stood so close to the stage that the band literally sweated on me, so this time I stood further back. Big mistake; the sweaters they threw into the audience came nowhere near me.
The band concluded with their famous drumming circle in the middle of the audience; never gotten this close before. They then led the audience in one giant conga line to the bar–very considerate of Ozo, insofar as the fans needed refreshment after all three hours of dancing, and the bar hadn’t sold much beer because of all that dancing (and it was close to the merchandise table). Just another incredible Ozo @ the Fillmore show, and I’d like to thank the band for having the guts to bring in opening acts good enough to challenge them. Especially when that opening act has a drummer giving us the performance of a lifetime.
Vonn Scott Bair