Monday, August 25, 2008

Bienvenida a Tijuana

Bienvenida a Tijuana
Bienvenida mi amor
De noche a la mañana
Bienvenida mi amor

Unfortunately, I did not hear these lyrics pour forth from the musical genius that is Manu Chao at his concert last night in Tijuana. Did I think about going? Yes. Did I almost go, before being repeatedly told that TJ was pretty much the opposite of safe? Still yes. Did I attempt to convince the nice man who worked at Bank of America that he should accompany us on said trip to Tijuana? Yes, yes I did.

At this point you may be confused. You might wonder what could be so great to have me seriously considering crossing into Mexico via the most-used border crossing and then spend some quality time in the largest, and arguably most dangerous border town. I will tell you what is so great, and what might inspire me to go almost anywhere:

Manu Chao.

You might be thinking Manu Who? Too which I will say SHAME ON YOU. Everyone should know Manu Chao—if not for his status as a musical Che, a Bob Dylan-like global figure embodying principles of anti-globalization and radical leftism—but for his eerily beautiful voice, his profound lyrics, and his capacity for combining politics, love and winsome thoughts of hope in a style of music that could not be more diverse.

But I don’t listen to Manu Chao for his message or political ideals (he sings mostly in Spanish, French, a little bit of English, and occosionally Portuguese, Arabic, Basque, and a bunch of other languages so I can’t always understand what he’s saying). I listen to Manu Chao because, well, to put it simply—he gets my toes a-tapping! Manu Chao (and his band, known as Radio Bemba Sound System) blends a crazy mix of reggae, ska, punk, rock, merengue, and a bunch of other musical styles I don’t have the first bit of knowledge about. All I know is he’s probably my #1 favorite musical act there ever is or was (possibly tying The Talking Heads for that first spot in my heart) and when I saw him perform last year at Bonnaroo it was the best live performance I had ever seen.

It was killing me that I wasn’t at Outside Lands in San Francisco Friday night, where Manu was set to perform before Radiohead (talk about musical geniuses!) especially because he rarely plays in the US and usually only on the festival circuit.

So believe my excitement when I found out he was playing the Plaza Monumental (the bullring) in Tijuana, Mexico last night. And get this—tickets were only $25. Incredible! How could I pass up a chance to see to my all-time favorite musician for that price, and when he was just a three hour drive from LA? I’ll tell you how: TJ.

Let’s do a little examination of my thought process of the “Manu in TJ or Bust” idea.

Thursday night: I spend a few hours in Panera (we still didn’t have internet) to use their wi-fi and with the intention of doing some writing (I'm so LA). I ended up downloading music and watching music videos on YouTube. Then I started looking at flights to San Francisco to catch the set at Outside Lands. When I came to my senses that this was NOT a viable option (too expensive, too soon to call out sick from work) I settled on buying a very rare and hard to find copy of the DVD Babylonia En Guagua (look for it on Amazon for upwards of $94!—don’t worry, I bought my copy for $25.)

Friday night: Ashleigh and I were sitting at home, drinking some beers and just hanging out before going out when I started to look up Manu Chao online again, only to find that lo and behold—Manu would be playing in Tijuana on Sunday night. Five minutes later (after viewing the low ticket price, determining the short distance to the concert, and the likelihood of what was sure to be an epic evening) we were set on going. 100% determined. In fact, if Manu had been playing that night we would have driven right there and then. Thrown caution the wind, gotten in a car to San Diego, then taken the lovely Mexicoach bus across the border and straight to the Plaza Monumental. We were about to buy tickets online, then decided we should recruit others and get more info—buy them on Saturday morning.

Annie came home, and we told her of our planned adventured. She looked at us like we are crazy and said, “you guys are insane. And I don’t mean fun insane. I mean it’s a bad idea.” Our resident expert on border relations then gave us full details on the true stupidity of our plan.

Saturday: Somewhat dissuaded by Annie’s warnings of potential kidnapping, stray bullets, and just general high DANGER alerts, I was still determined to make it happen. As a group we went to Bank of America to open up a joint account for our apartment (a great idea btw, I highly recommend—makes things like paying rent and electric bills VERY easy). While Anthony, our well-dressed banker helped set up our new account I casually asked him if he’d ever been to TJ—and he had! He was a little surprised at our interest in going and when I declared “Manu Chao is playing!” he perked up—he’d seen Manu last summer at Coachella. After the poor kid struggled through endless questions from the three of us (mine mostly about TJ, Ashleigh's about some story she'd heard about some man shitting on the floor of that bank, and Annie asking him if his job ever made him depressed—“no not working at the bank, but at this building in particular!”) I gave him my number and said if he had any interest in going he should call us.

Next up I called my brother who freaked out BIGTIME (which definitely convinced me that calling my Dad for his opinion would be a BAD IDEA) so I listened to his advice, and stories of people getting raped and shot and what not and then decided to call around to few more friends to get some info.

Putting my plans on hold I went to Malibu (listening to Manu Chao all the way there, bien sur) but that night, still determined to go, I decided I would take it easy—I mean if I were going to spend my Sunday night in TJ then maybe I should spend my Saturday night doing normal Sunday night things like laundry and cleaning my room and passing out in front of the television early. All were accomplished but laundry and cleaning my room. (Wow, what an eventful Saturday night!)

Sunday morning: I wake up and go to yoga, and at this point I sort of felt it in my gut—TJ wasn’t happening. Sure tickets were cheap and it would be incredible to hear this music icon singing “Bienvenida a Tijuana” IN Tijuana, but it wasn’t worth being packed in with 10,000 rowdy Mexicans in one of the most dangerous cities on the continent. So much for staying in Saturday night. Oh and Anthony, our banker, never called—if we’d had a Spanish-speaking male with us, chances of the journey happening would have been much higher. I think Anthony was scared of by our barrage of questions. That or the fact that 3 girls he didn't know were attempting to convince him to go to Tijuana with them.

Driving back from Malibu Sunday evening we blasted my favorite Manu Chao album, the live Manu Chao Radio Bemba Sound System and I wistfully imagined catching the show. I vowed that I WILL see him in concert again, and soon.

Until that undetermined date, my Manu DVD is set to come in the next week and there’s always YouTube--I guess I'll have to settle for the next best thing.

In fact, here are a few of my favorite songs—definitely worth your time.

Could Them, Rumbla de Bacelona, Mr. Bobby

Welcome to Tijuana and El Viento

Mala Vida, Radio Bemba, Que Paso Que Paso

And last but not least, Bienvenida a Tijuana

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