The Latin Grammy Award-winning conjunto, Primavera, from the Mexican state of Chihuahua, took over the Chumash Casino on Thursday, August 13. They are known for a romantic style of norteño and sound like a cross between the Mexican legends Los Tigres del Norte and Los Bukis.
Primavera’s line up includes a saxophonist, a six-string guitarist, an accordionist that doubles on the keyboards, and a vocal soloist. However, it’s the addition of drummer Adrian Anthony Regaldo since 2007 and bassist Francisco “Frank” Mata since 2008 that gives this conjunto something special underneath the hood. Their rhythm section has a surprisingly Metallica-esque vibe with a creative display of 32nd note endless rock flams, machine gun cymbal triplets, and upper-stratosphere Red Hot Chili Pepper funk-slap baselines.
Primavera is a stoic six-man group that held its position on the stage like a battle regiment in shiny black suits. Leading the troops was singer Tony Meléndez, who somewhat resembles a Mexican version of Mario from the Nintendo video game franchise. He holds the mike diagonally, tilting it to the right to control his vocal dynamics. His left hand rested mostly on his chest as he closed his eyes to emphasize his swiftly changing lyrical style. Between songs he and guitarist Manuel Rolando Pérez exchanged rapid comedic banter like auctioneers. To an untrained Spanish listener, the fast paced “bid calling” of song requests and announcing of songs they’re about to perform can be shocking. They spoke at breakneck speed, intimately joked with the audience, identified every Mexican paisano by region, made birthday announcements, and even serenaded on stage couples celebrating their wedding anniversaries.
The show, however, didn’t start until it finished: When they closed with a norteño version of disco hit “Funky Town,” the previously well-behaved crowd got out of their seats and rushed the front stage for a real Mexican quinceañera with Primavera providing more hit songs.
Even though Primavera has a wide range of rhythm and musical styles to draw from, including boleros, rancheras, and cumbias, it is their unique version of corridos that really shine. The combination of an aggressive rhythm section backing up a sweet delivered vocal style, gives this ensemble an interesting edge to their romantic and nostalgic lyrics. If they continue to capitalize on their musical dynamic, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had more Grammys in their trophy case the next time they play Santa Barbara.