Saturday, March 15, a gathering of sorts took place in a warehouse
on the south side of town. Hard rock, metal and punk bands came together
to share one stage for an evening of entertainment, but what separated
this evening’s line-up from other local hardcore acts is that
the majority of players possess a brown hue and have a Spanish surname.
In the same strain, the singing and screaming was done in Spanish in
addition to English.
The evening's line-up featured a small community of local musicians
making waves in an emerging underground scene of Latino hardcore. They
are carrying on a tradition of bands that are barely known, throughout
the United States and Latin America.
According to the documentary "Beyond The Screams" by Martin
Sorrondeguy (vocalist for Los Crudos), bands like The Plugz, The Brat,
The Zeros and The Bags were integral in the late ’70s in the East
L.A. Chicana/o Latina/o punk scene. In the ’80s, various Latin
American countries hosted homegrown punk-rock acts. The early ’90s
saw the emergence of the Chicana/o Latina/o hardcore punk scene in different
cities in the United States. These bands include Los Crudos, Arma Contra
Arma, Youth Against and Sin Orden in Chicago, Kontra Attaque and Subsistencia
in L.A. and other bands in New York and Texas.
According to the documentary, the anti-immigrant and xenophobic climate
of the early ’90s served as a catalyst for these bands to speak
out. While protest punk is nothing new, Chicana/o and Latina/o hardcore
bands protested specific issues central to their communities that no
other punks had addressed before. With the Zapatista uprising, the passing
of the North American Free Trade Agreement and California’s Proposition
187, which denied undocumented workers health care, the bands had a
wealth of material both revolutionary and critical to scream about.
Current bands, like metal masters Brujeria, Napalm Death and rapcore
innovators Aztlan Underground, are probably the most recognized hardcore
Chicana/o Latina/o underground acts of today and maintain a nationally
recognized scene. Now, nearly 10 years later, Salt Lake City is host
to its own version of a Latina/o hardcore scene.
Although Jorge Arellano (vocals), Rich Caramadre former drummer for
Aus Rotten, Iodina’s Travis Nelson (bass) and Gabe Barrett (guitar)
used the name Kontrakultura for their debut performance, the name will
likely change since they only wanted something to put on the flyer.
Their set of hardcore punk definitely stole the show and established
them as a force soon to be reckoned with among local hardcore acts.
Arellano, originally from Taxco Guerrero, Mexico, and raised in Mexico
City, has played in punk bands for 12 years and screams protest lyrics
in Spanish and English with true experience. His band mates accompany
him with exhilarating hardcore music full of interesting changes and
Of the protest lyrics, Arellano said in Spanish, “in general they
are protest songs and we try to look for themes regarding what is happening
right now.” The song “Not In Our Name” has an anti
war theme and explains the historical relationship between the United
States and Iraq and the motives behind the pre-emptive military action
taken by the United States.
“Immigrantes Muertos” discusses the risks immigrants face
when crossing the U.S. Mexico border and “Mundo Complejo”
discusses the world crisis over terrorism, war and neo-liberal globalization.
“The government gives a lot of freedom, but in reality the people
are very repressed. I see that there isn’t freedom to do shows
in your own house because they are loud and they’ll shut you down.
Shows always have to be in bars where you have to pay money and drink
and that’s kind of against the reality of the protest shows. It’s
really difficult to do shows that support everything about the underground
scene,” Arellano said in Spanish.
Aside from their excellent musicianship, the band members are really
fun to watch because they’re all animated, and you can see how
hard they focus on the music—and they’ve been able to reach
this level on just six months of practice.
Nelson’s bass parts stand strong allowing Barrett to add texture
on the guitar by harmonizing, playing riffs, letting chords ring or
messing around with feedback. For one song, Caramadre let the drums
roll while Arellano screamed out the verses and then Barrett and Nelson
played riffs in between the verses.
“I was always used to one scene, which was the punk scene in Mexico,
which is something completely different from what I came to see here,”
Arellano said in Spanish. He added that Salt Lake City has a very small
group of people taking action to keep the scene alive and that new bands
are often left with little support.
The last song of the set featured Nelson holding down the song with
distorted bass sounds while Caramadre provided interesting drum lines,
Arellano provided protest lyrics, and Barrett added texture—however,
it was unclear if he was messing around with harmonics and feedback
by choice or out of necessity since he broke a few strings during the
song. The band’s intense stage presence and energy shows they
are excited about the music they are playing.
Yaotl Mictlan, which comes from the phrase meaning “warrior from
the land of the dead” in Nahuatl, is a four-piece pre-Hispanic
metal band fronted by Alejandro Gomez on guitar and vocals. His older
brother Rene plays the drum kit, Adrian Palomeque plays bass and Alejandro
Garcia takes care of the additional percussion.
After a quick sound check, they opened their set with some heavy feedback
and some quick drumming on a huehuetl, a traditional Aztec drum that
is tall and cylindrical. Then they moved into their signature sound
of deep, heavy and fast metal while Alejandro screamed out the Spanish
lyrics. The audience really came together for them, crowding around
the front of the musicians with little movement minus the headbangers.
They played “Aztlan” to a pleased crowd and delivered a
strong set of really hardcore original metal.
The band’s lyrical subjects discuss pre-conquest Mexico and the
struggles the Aztecs faced at the time of conquest. The incorporation
of traditional Aztec percussion instruments separates them from other
metal acts, adding a distinct cultural element. California’s Aztlan
Underground also uses the huehuetl as well as flutes as part of its
There is no question about their ability as musicians. Rene is an amazing
drummer with the ability to play fast and add dynamics and create interesting
side thoughts on his set. Alejandro plays metal guitar like a pro, the
riffs are fresh and the melody lines reek of aggression—the brothers
have been part of the scene for a couple of years.
Volume was the only thing that worked against them—they were so
loud it was hard to hear the texture Garcia was adding with various
percussion instruments as well as a real distinction of lines on the
bass. Regardless, they didn’t compromise the time throughout the
set but could benefit from working out their sound levels to ensure
that every band member is audible.
metal band of the night, Oxido, played a heavy style of metal that’s
not as fast as Yaotl Mictlan’s style. But the pace didn’t
hold them back from playing a solid set of metal all the same.
Efrain, who preferred not to disclose his last name, played lead guitar
and sang while Victor Viveros played rhythm guitar, Diny Ruiz played
bass and Juan Ramirez played drums.
The set began with a cover of a song by Brazilian metal band Sepultura.
The sound on their originals was heavy with the riffs taken at a mid-range
The band’s sound is a bit more accessible to the timid ear since
they play all-riff metal, a style established by Tony Iommi of Black
Sabbath and reinterpreted by too many bands to mention.
Audio C, a trio comprised of one guitarist / vocalist, a bassist and
a drummer played a short set of tunes including a cover of a song by
The Tri from Mexico as well as a Caifanes cover. Their sound is distorted
and quick—no solos, just unison playing and an easily accessible
Arellano said that they have definite plans to record and have an LP
out in two or three months. A Peruvian label gave them an offer to include
a song on an anti war compilation, but Arellano said it’s unclear
if that will go through.
Arellano’s fanzine Exhortacion is his only project aside from
the band and the distribution he does for hardcore Latino punk bands
past and present in other parts of the country like Los Crudos and Kontra
Judging by the success of their debut performance, the members of what
was Kontrakultura are sure to wow any crowd they perform to with conscious
screams and innovative hardcore punk.
The next gig for Arellano, Barrett, Caramadre and Nelson will be
April 10, as long as Burt’s Tiki Lounge confirms the show, go
to 726 S. State Street to be a part.