If you’re wondering what Guadalupe Plata sounds like, picture this: you’re a petty criminal, quiet type with too short a fuse. Not well kempt; hair straggly, grease stains on already dirty clothing. Fouled up your last job, folk got hurt. Now you’re one step ahead of the law, driving down a long highway in the American South, travelling somewhere in the neighbourhood of ninety miles/hour. A sawn-off shotgun tucked halfway under a couple of rags on the seat next to you. Distractedly, you switch on the radio.
The music you hear – that’s Guadalupe Plata. Drums rhythmic and sleek as an all-night freight train; staccato bass, thudding, insistent, as percussive as the drums themselves; a guitar piercing both of them, momentarily wild and contained before erupting into screaming feedback; intermittent bursts of hypnotic lyrics sung entirely in Spanish. Nothing even remotely calm or controlled about any of it; music that is rough around the edges, primal and slightly dangerous.
Hearing this music live only enhances its excitement – not least of all for the chance to see Paco Luis Martos switching back and forth between his handmade bass guitar and an authentic washtub bass. For those who haven’t seen the washtub bass in action, it consists of a single string connecting a) a metal washtub and b) a large stick. Put your foot on the washtub, pull on the stick, stretch the string – then pluck away. It’s a sight to behold, a sound to intoxicate.
No less impressive a sound came from the one-man Lonesome Shack. Armed only with guitar and rapid-fire blues licks occasionally bordering on bluegrass, Ben Todd is firmly in trad vein apart from the fact that his voice is about an octave higher than your typical blues howl. But the dirty, guttural nature of the guitar playing more than balances that out. With lyrics a panoply of timeless blues preoccupations – lost love, early death, you know the sort – there’s plenty of opportunity to let the fine-tuned craft sink in.
Guadalupe Plata, meanwhile, are on a whole other plane. Cinematic barely begins to cover it – and doesn’t let on at all how severely danceable it all is. This is a band that, however clichéd it is to say, doesn’t fit any given genre. Part fuzz metal, part pool-hall juke-joint dirty wallpaper, they are a full-on free-for-all unapologetic sonic barrage. When it ends – as abruptly as it begins – the audience is chanting: ‘otra, otra, otra’. Another. Another. Another. But no other is forthcoming.
For more on the band and their tour visit their site.