The Force Is With ‘Tenochtitlan’ : Pop music review: The second major <i> rock en espanol </i> festival of the year showcased three of the most interesting young bands from south of the border in powerful performances.


“Empty your pockets and get rid of your gum” was the security policy on Saturday at the Hollywood Palladium for yet another Mexican rock concert, as guards confiscated everything from Wrigley’s to ballpoint pens. But despite the uneasy atmosphere at the door, the party--which drew about 1,500 fans--lacked any major incidents and went on as expected: wildly peaceful.

“Rock de Tenochtitlan,” the second major rock en espanol festival of the year, was a showcase of three of the most interesting young bands from south of the border--Guadalajara’s straight-ahead rockers La Cuca and Mexico City’s multifaceted La Lupita, plus Puebla’s punk-ska sextet Victimas del Dr. Cerebro. The popular and improved L.A. power-trio Ley de Hielo, which opened, made a strong impression in its first major concert.

While the show wasn’t as colorful and big as February’s “Revolucion ’94" at the Universal Amphitheatre, “Tenochtitlan” (the indigenous name for Mexico City) easily had the edge in intensity, even though the Palladium is not the best place for listening to music. That didn’t matter for those in the frenzied pit, who staged one of the most aggressive slam-dancing displays in recent memory, while the four bands were busy trying to make up with power what they lacked in sound quality.

Victimas, a father-and-sons act whose use of skeleton masks and other symbols enhances their humorous, very Mexican look at death, solidified the popularity they had established here with their major-label debut album and a previous small-club show.


But La Cuca (or simply Cuca, short for cucaracha --cockroach) was the band that everyone wanted to see. Almost two years after its debut album, the band was the only major Mexican group that hadn’t played Los Angeles, and the long wait seemed worth it.

Singer Alfonso Fors (who recently replaced his brother Jose) had no problems communicating with the banda (rock fans) in the pit and proved that La Cuca still is one of Mexico’s most powerful and entertaining groups. The quartet, which has a Ramones-like aggression and image, strikes a tough stance, but it’s really a self-parody that’s ideal for its irreverent, crude and often plain dirty humor. That package makes them their country’s best band from outside the capital.

Despite the anticipation for Cuca, it was fair that La Lupita was the closing act. The quintet has a soaring mix of grunge, pop, funk and metal, and even offers punkish renditions of original and classic nortena songs. Again, however, Rosa Adame--arguably Mexico’s best female singer--was the victim of the faulty sound, and her voice couldn’t equal co-singer Hector Quijada’s raunchy, powerful presence.

Among their new songs, La Lupita was at its best with “Cada vez peor” (“It Gets Worse Every time”), a pessimistic, Led Zeppelin-meets-Santana take on Mexico’s political situation, the funky “Tu y tus tatus” (“You and Your tattoos”), and “Me cae,” an original nortena by Los Tigres del Norte. Too bad none of these bands--unlike the genre’s biggest stars, Caifanes, Maldita Vecindad and Cafe Tacuba--have been able to match the quality of their live performances with equally powerful recordings. The goose-bump-producing sound and original songwriting style these acts display each time they go out cries to be properly documented