MACUILXOCHITL: Five Flower,” the Aztec god of music and dance
By Francisco H. Ciriza
Mexican Rock en Español pioneers, Fobia, played San Diego’s premier all-ages venue, the reincarnated Soma concert venue last week. The band, looking fresh and rather youthful, skillfully presented its more than 90 minute set of classic favorites and two new songs to the crowd’s delight. Fobia is currently playing select dates in support of its most recent release on BMG U.S. Latin, the aptly named 8704. The title refers to the years (1987-2004) from which the songs were selected.
With its inception coming during the earlier part of Mexico’s 1980’s Rock movement, Fobia’s which then included members, Paco Huidobro (guitar), Leonardo de Lozanne (lead vocals and guitar), Cha! (bass guitar), Iñaki (keyboards) eventually earned themselves a career which has served to establish near legendary status and a rightful place among such seminal bands as Caifanes, Maldita Vecindad, and Café Tacuba. Drummer, Jay de la Cueva has only recently joined the group.
Well known and revered by many in and out of Mexico, the groups early songs captured the freshness and excitement of the early Rock en Español scene. Later, the group took their music to a higher level as it began writing more complex arrangements and showing the band members’ ability to skillfully play their instruments. Fans stayed loyal and their numbers increased as the group’s lyrics addressed universally common themes. Yet, the time came when things became difficult for the group. After some time away from the limelight, Fobia has returned to once again deliver its brand of invigorating and quirky pop and cutting edge rock.
Evidence of the band’s renewed vigor came in many forms and appeared genuine and more than sufficient to sustain it for some time to come. Most obvious was the group’s high level of professionalism as it played an enthusiastic show although the venue was only half full. Fobia’s focus on the approving fans who cheered, clapped, and danced non-stop turned the event into an intimate and boisterous celebration of the group’s music and them returning to share it. The band’s ability to initiate and sustain a running dialogue throughout the night furthered the sensation that all in attendance were at a party rather than a formal concert setting.
Front man de Lozanne was charming and charismatic often taking the opportunity between songs to make jokes and play up his bad/party boy rock and roll image. Adding much to his all ready strong presence, de Lozanne also contributed to the evening’s intimacy by sharing his thoughts such as when he introduced “Hoy Me Da Miedo,” one the group’s new songs. He did so describing his mindset when writing the song’s lyrics. “I was driving to our first rehearsal after we had decided to start playing again,” he said partly distracted by the recollection.
Musically, the band was in fine form. Drummer, Jay de la Cueva, has fit in nicely. The good relationship between him and the rest go the group was evident during “Descontrol” as the band approached a complex transition in the composition. All looked his way as he smoothly lead them through the change and smiles turned to approving chuckles as they finished up the popular tune. Guitarist, Paco Huidobro, gets high grades for his style which really is what sets fobia’s sound apart from the rest. His signature quick-fingred riffs often are the backbone of songs. Cha! has an unassuming approach to the bass. His notes are placed in order to have the most profound effect on the beat with punch and finesse.
In fact the entire band was sharp and played the set with the utmost precision. Still, the group was not content to remain in safe territory and played an impromptu version of at least one song and included the subtle changes their songs have taken on naturally since they were first recorded. Because of that dynamic, the versions of the previously released material on 8704 vary, however slightly, from the original versions. “They are a little different,” said Cha!. “As musicians, we’re always hearing something in our head. It plays over and over. We decided to to update the songs and re-record them for this release.”
After releasing the live document On ice in 1997, which itself came after a brief break, the group went on hiatus leading many to conclude the group was finished. “We just had to take a break because of where the band was at that time after releasing the last record.” According to the group’s management, Fobia plans to return to the studio to record its first full-length studio effort since 1995’s Amor Chiquito. “We keep hearing that we’ve reunited, but the truth is we never broke up. We took time off. None of us looked at it as the end of the band,” continued Cha! backstage, after the show, as the band enjoyed post show festivities that from all indications were only beginning. That scene along with what the band had demonstrated earlier on stage were punctuated by a large contingent of fans still waiting, an hour later, for a chance to meet the band members. Fobia is alive and well.