The Tri in Warfield: 50 Years
The Warfield opened its doors in San Francisco, in 1922, as the most important vaudeville theater in the city. In those years Louis Armstrong, Charles Chaplin and Al Jolson paraded around, among many more. In 1979, Bob Dylan presented his Gospel Tour fourteen times and in 1980 he repeated with twelve performances of A Musical Retrospective Tour . It was also the favorite scene of Jerry García and his acid band Greatful Dead that made that space his lysergic house. Then they passed by Guns & Roses, Nirvana and multiple heavy metal groups. A theater with history.
What is the secret of that enclosure? His capacity. With only 2,300 seats, at Warfield the concerts are more intimate, almost as if you were going to the movies; that is to say, there a rock is distilled for initiates who seek to listen to their favorite band, up close, at a tolerable volume, and simply enjoy the songs they already know. Do not get carried away by the mirage of the crowd, the shrill horns or the phosphorescent and insomniac lights. That is why the Tri came to these latitudes, without pomp and circumstance, to celebrate their golden wedding. And the Chicano band (and guests) who live in the Bay Area received them. Welcome to the land of Aztlán.
Night expected months. The city of San Francisco, where only the fog is real, cleared its mists and gave us a transparent and temperate air, ad hoc for musical delight. We move from Oakland in the BART, an underwater steel snake that crosses the sea for about ten minutes, ten kilometers, a portent of gabacha engineering . Upon arriving at Powell station, I remembered Papasquiaro’s verse: “Metro Stairways: My Smiles.” And we ascend. Powell Street is famous for the tram that goes up and down narrow and steep streets of San Pancho since the beginning of the last century. An urban symbol that attracts thousands of tourists annually. However, when it gets dark, there are other, more brown cats around: homeless, drugs and prostheses (of all genres) that cross the street of Market and roam the Tenderloin of the city; the tender tenderloin of San Francisco.
We do not stop and go straight to Warfield, about 500 meters from the station, where Tri shirt vendors are already installed. A golden skull and the announcement of “Half a century rockanroleando”. No more no less. People form a first-world and well-organized line in front of the theater. After an airport search, we started to enter.
* * *
Ladies and gentlemen: the Tri. Alex Lora and his notebooks leave after his guests: the Castañeda and the Victims of Doctor Cerebro, two groups with decibels so high that they invited the race to go out into the halls to wander and talk, buy a chela or visit the bathrooms before of the stellar concert. It goes without saying that there were not many juniors out there and that the youngest were around forty or more. It is a reality: the followers of the Tri are already ruined . Nihil obstat , wave the tricolor and flutter the eagles, standing in his cactus. Rola the medicinal and recreational, although discreet and tangential. What a nest of tigers cannabis. The little green smoke, always an ally.
How to explain to the young people that these fat, bald, sore chilangos, with their plump and courageous girls, were the boys and girls who coined the terms “the boy against the mummies”, who imposed the flared pants and the miniskirts, the tufts long and greñas on the air, those who went to the concert of Avándaro or heard it on the radio, paraded down Insurgentes Avenue and visited Hip 70 or walked on CU on roller skates, abolished the dance of couples and listened to Radio 590, “ The Panther ”or Vibrationsin Radio Capital, 1290 of the Modulated Amplitude quadrant. Also, when they left the acetate records of their favorite groups, they opened them in a ritual way, they sat down to listen to them in front of the magnetic (and magic) needle of the turntable, to comment, rate them and later dance with them at parties, under the strange effects of black light or the multicolored oil lamps.
Those were the days in which the chaviza , to the rhythm of the flower power of Sausalito, under the motto of “make love not war”, and with the V of the victory high, threw herself to the subway station Insurgentes to rolar , to Coyoacán fair to share an ice cream or a cotton candy or even funkies holes in the periphery of Mexico City, to hear the best rock you could find.
Then came the Government Ferocious Wolf, imposing his power to brutally bruising the trauma of October 2, 68, the Falcons, the disbanded and the dream is over that generation.
Something remains: the Tri, one of the few surviving relics of that time. And tonight we celebrate them.
* * *
Alex Lora demonstrates why he still serves as head of that tribe sixty and today sixty. Yes, at the Warfield in this battlefield where today the latinx again become foreigners in their land, displays a flag of Mexico in the gringo territory and makes 2 thousand throats sing the national anthem a capella . The armchairs of the theater tremble to the loud roar of the band. Then the mother lies to Trump and invites his clientele to lie to her in chorus. The race shudders, roars and insults: “Fuck your mother Trump.” He immediately sends an official greeting, from soccer goalkeeper, to AMLO, so that the shout of fucking “is heard until the Zocalo”. The effect is cathartic. All the spectators are standing. After the anthem people stand still, no one can sit anymore.
The concert starts with a classic 12 bar blues: “The coolest race”. The public on and in full nationalist euphoria sings in unison: “We Mexicans are made of a very special fiber / we are made of the mixture of tequila and mezcal.” El Tri knows the blues tricks well. Repeat each verse twice, with a rhyme that is easy to remember. If you did not know the lyrics, you learn the second and sing it: “We are the coolest race / of the whole animal kingdom.” And on the stage there appears an Aztec dancer who undulates to the beat of the rola , with a tricolor plume of living feather. Burst the harmonica solo , followed by a requinto liquid that dents the bones. And the bandregurgitates, jumps, rises. Then Alex Lora, with some of Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan or Rod Stewart of the poor, says that his mother wanted him to be a respectable man, architect or doctor: “My mind said no / my body said no / my Blood said no / and here you have me in rock and roll. ”
The show was full of mint, cheers and live. With his black T-shirt , the Tri in front and the Guadalupana in the back, Lora becomes disillusioned and shouts to his audience: “Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe”, “Viva Hidalgo”, “Viva Morelos”, “Viva Villa” , “Long live Zapata”. He has his idols well chosen and ends with a thunderous “Long live Mexico, you bastards!” That makes the race more fierce.. Then it is released with a very old boogie: “I am a black dog and street / homeless, without owner and without money”, one of the most remote pieces of the set that then obeyed the name of Three Souls in My Mind. He follows it with another old rock, in which he mocks himself … and us: “Poor of the old ones / they can’t understand it / that I’m a wave guy / and rock and roll happens to me”. Oh, that expression “your wave passes me”. How far it sounds today.
Like sets like Mana, Caifanes or Molotov, the Tri throws a couple of rancheros, rockanroleados refritos. So, suddenly we heard a “De la Sierra Morena, cute little sky, come down / A pair of black eyes, cute little sky, smuggled”. Ay, ay, ay, ay. The rock solidity of the band saves them, very tight, and Lora’s aguardentosa voice that leaves no free space for the cursilería. And when we begin to think that they are making time or are already scratching themselves, we hear: “Nice and dear Mexico / if I die far from you / that they say that I am asleep / and that they bring me to the Tri”. Another of Lora’s qualities, her precise humor and the fair spirit. “You can’t hear the palms, band / with eggs … or what, they don’t have?” Take advantage of the laughs to greet the ladies and demand applause for them. Ask for “a pincha ola”. Ululean arms on the rocky ship: A sail: a veil a wave upon the waves that Master J’ice would say. Thanks for the presence of the beautiful, comme il faut: “To all the rockanroleras girls that came tonight to celebrate with the Tri, to all the biscuits that accompany us”. The band roars, jumps and impacts. “And those who don’t scream, they don’t like them, or what?”
Already more relieved the public, Chief Lora, with good boards and aged, takes an acoustic guitar and begins to sing his classic hits, which he knows electrify memory. Start with another 12 blues bar at intervals of harmonica, requinto and piano: “El cantinero”, a song that seems written by José Alfredo Jiménez: “Hey, bartender / pour me another drink please / I want to be drunk / I want to feel the worst / because the woman I love / with another one went to patch ”. A drunken blues blunt, whose end is resolved with high comedic: “Hear me, sir / I can serve you nothing / this insane asylum / has no bar service / and I’m not a bartender / I’m the loquero of this hospital.” The band laughs, shudders, celebrates its wanderings to the chief Lora, for her humor, her energy and her ability to continue satisfying the fans.
Then the nostalgia begins to hover. He pays tribute to Rockdrigo González, who died in the 1985 earthquake: “There in the Balderas metro station / there my heart was muddy.” Continue with “Sad song”, started with a violin solo that rises through the air. The race sings with him: “She existed only in a dream / he is a poem that the poet never wrote / and in eternity the two / joined their souls to give life / to this sad love song”. The theater is one voice. If there is a song that everyone knows, it is this. And the Tri knows it, and savors it with his old followers.
Chela Lora, wife of the singer, leaves and urges us to celebrate 50 years of El Tri. The “Agustín Lora” of our generation returns to save the cheesy moment by calling his better half, “my tamer” and planting a kiss to which everyone agrees. For the good of the show, this celebration is short and without excess. Chela retires to the side and accompanies the band in their two final songs, full of youthful nostalgia. “The ADO”, pure lamenting blues in which the harmonica, the requinto, the piano and even the robe look. “I haven’t been able to comfort myself / since my girlfriend left me / I’m waiting for my truck / at the ADO terminal.” And Lora, with her trembling and patriotic greña, takes the opportunity to present the accompanying group: Rafael Salgado, harmonica; Eduardo Chico, guitar; Oscar Zárate, guitar; Carlos Valerio, bass; Lalo Toral, piano; Chela Lora, choirs; Alex Álvarez, violin; Felipe Chacón, drummer.
* * *
The public knows that the concert is over and Chief Lora announces that those of the Warfield gave him until eleven o’clock at night and goes the last, another distant piece, of his musical beginnings: “Turutu / turututurutu / turutu / we were part of the same story / we were in the same high school / I was always a scourge / and you were the honor roll. ” Perhaps the coolest thing about this song is that, in truth, we were in high school when we first heard the Tri: “The rolling stones meet / and you and I will someday find / meanwhile take care of yourself / and that you God bless / do nothing wrong that I did not do / Turutu / turututurutu / turutu ”And so it is, hic et nunc , so many years later, we meet again.
The Tri bows and says goodbye. And he doesn’t return it with whistles or applause. There is no encore . Not a poor Mexican pylon. Minutes – seconds – later, the Warfield bouncers , disguised as civilians, wait for those who went to the bathroom to escort them down the stairs to the exit of the theater and close the doors. Strange vision, upon reaching the street, the theater marquee no longer announces the Tri, but the group that will play the next night. “How ephemeral is this,” says a comrade of the group.
With that phrase, we threw ourselves thoughtfully towards the subway. To paraphrase Papasquiaro: “Metro Stairways: my sorrows.” We descend We say goodbye. Each one goes in a different direction: Richmond, Vallejo, Lake Merritt, North Beach. ” The night is still warm and transparent, although now more lonely.
Already in Oakland, outside the subway, the October moon shines on high. I walk to the ship , to return to the chante . “Could it be that the Tri and its rock and roll are as ephemeral as the three hours the concert lasted?” I wonder as I open the car door. Masons of memory, we build pure triumphant failures. Like today. “No,” I answer. “It is not the Tri or rock and roll that is ephemeral, we are ourselves. And there is no encore . ” With this thought in mind, I start the engine. And I go.