News / Culture

Rmezcla Recap 2008

What’s the end of the year without a “Best of” list? Here at Remezcla, we keep it local, taking a look back at the past 365 days in la Gran Manzana.  Read on for what we thought was the best, worst, so-so, overrated, and most outrageous of 2008 in music, film, food, and local Latino culture in general.  Click on the links to relive some of our favorite moments …and be sure to chime in with what you think.

(Not wanting to force-feed you our opinions only, we also polled some Remezcla readers and frequently featured personalities to see how they remember 2008. Check out their Best (and Worst) of 2008 here.)

Our categories (jump ahead or just read the whole thing start to finish):

CONCERT OF THE YEAR
BEST CONCERT NO ONE WENT TO
BEST AFTERPARTY
MOST OUTRAGEOUS FANS
BEST ON THE ONES AND TWOS
HARDEST WORKING LOCAL BAND
SONG(S) OF THE YEAR
MOST LATIN FILM-FRIENDLY THEATER
LATINOSPLOITATION FILM OF THE YEAR
MOST INNOVATIVE CULTURAL PROGRAMMING
BEST STREET FOOD
BEST MEAL UNDER $10
MOST INAUTHENTIC “LATIN” RESTAURANT
BEST KEPT SECRET
NOTABLE STAR SPOTTINGS
ALL-AROUND SUPERSTARS


CONCERT OF THE YEAR

Kumbia Queers at The Delancey (July 10, Nacotheque)
We had to love this band by default (I mean, a chick cumbia cover band? Hells yeah! What’s not to love?), but as soon as Ali Gua Gua and her band of (mostly) queer musicians from Argentina and Mexico took to the tiny Delancey stage, our jaws collectively dropped, and our feet started moving and couldn’t stop. Las Kumbia Queers are no gimmick—they are truly talented musicians, with a great sense of humor, amazing stage presence, and cumbia running through their veins, plus a punk rock attitude to boot. And we got quite the dose of Kumbia, as the band played at The Delancey (Nacotheque) and Studio B (Fresa Salvaje) in July, and then again at Nacotheque at Fontana’s in September. Kuuuuumbia nena!

Babasonicos at Highline Ballroom (June 26)
Four years ago they played at La Oveja Negra, last year at BB Kings on a whiskey-sponsored tour and this past June, Highline Ballroom was a fitting place for the dandies of Latin American rock. Although not that well-known outside their rabid fanbase, but once you go Babas, you can’t go back.

Runner up: Kinky at Highline Ballroom (February 29)
These cuates can always bring their raw energy into the crowd, and on this cold leap year night (February 29th!,) they went all out. It was an all-ages show, and the chavitos in the crowd were moshing, breakdancing, and just generally wilin’ out, which we must say was contagious. We took the craziness to the Remezcla afterparty at Le Royale despues.

BEST CONCERT NO ONE WENT TO

Bajofondo at SummerStage (August 15)
It was a rainy, cold August night….ok, we have no excuses. This show was free at Central Park and the only NY show of Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla’s all-star band. The few who braved the rain (which, according to Santaolalla, was the perfect setting for their performance), were talking about it for weeks. And alas, we don’t even have photos to prove it. But check out CHIRemezcla and MIARemezcla for what we missed.

Runner up: Zizek at SOB’s (March 1 , July 19)
We had the Argentine electro-cumbia-folk collective in town when they were a relatively quiet phenomenon, after South By Southwest and again after LAMC, before they exploded in Europe (and proximamente, Coachella–you heard it here first!!). Still, SOB’s was not the right venue for both nights.


BEST AFTERPARTY

Remezcla’s afterparty for Kinky at Le Royale (February 29)
As if the Kinky concert at Highline wasn’t enough, the afterparty just kept things going… Gil and Mexican Dubwiser had all the hipsters at the spot’s regular party getting down to cumbia (and cumbia mashups of all their favorite hipster songs), and it was beyond packed as Andres Levin and CuCu Diamantes were turned away at the door (oh no he di’n’t!).  Former Miss Universe (and current Miss Calle 13) was presente, and so were many of you, though you might not remember it (ah, blessed alcohol).

Runner up: Julieta/Circo afterparty at Talay (September 11)
In the rules of afterparty-throwing, you usually try to find a place near where the concert took place to head despues.  Such was not the case for the official afterparty to the Julieta Venegas/Circo concert at Nokia Theatre. Not many people made the trek from Times Square up to 135th Street, but those who did were treated to yet another amazing Circo performance, plenty of dancing to reggaeton, salsa, and all the rock en español tracks you pretend to hate, but secretly love, plus debauchery galore.

MOST OUTRAGEOUS FANS

Old dude at Kinky, Kumbia Queers

The Kinky concert at SummerStage was mostly packed with young kids, singing along and jumping up and down to the popular group from Monterrey.  But in front of us (and pretty close to the front), there was this random old white dude dancing like a madman.  We figure he must be a Remezcla reader, because he reappeared a bit over a month later at the Kumbia Queers show at Nacotheque, rocking the same outfit (white undershirt, black pants, backpack, water bottle), and showing off the same outrageous (read: jerky, sporadic) moves in the front row. We only hope to be so energetic at his age!

Runner up: Emmanuel Horvilleur crazies
We were thrilled when former Illya Kuriaki and the Valderramas/Argentine metrosexual Emmanuel Horvilleur was added to the LAMC lineup.  And we weren’t the only ones.  Now, probably all of 10 people knew who he was at his Bowery Ballroom show, but all 10 of them (er, us) sang every song a todo volumen, helping out the poor guy who had to perform without his band. All evidence has been deleted from YouTube except for this gem (“vuelveeeee!”).

BEST ON THE ONES AND TWOS

Uproot Andy
Canadian-born Andy Gillis starting making a lot of grimy noise (mixed with bachata and cumbia) from the basement of Mehanata aka Bulgarian Bar on Saturday nights, and this year has spread his infectious tropical beat mixes all the way to his own Que Bajo parties with Geko Jones, a release with Bersa Discos, and is now on everyone’s list of the best Latin music DJs in the city.

Runner up: D’Marquesina DJs
Atrevete-te-te…Buddies Glori and Hector made awkward junior high parties cool again (or perhaps for the first time?) this year with what started as an art school experiment, and has grown into a sweaty dance party (in the basement of an Irish pub of all places). D’Marquesina has a loyal following eager to dance hasta abajo to reggaeton, bachata, and popular Puerto Rican clásicos.  Fans include members of Los Amigos Invisibles and any and every Puerto Rican who ever went to a party d’marquesina.


HARDEST WORKING LOCAL BAND

Yerbabuena
We all got a little freaked out when leader Tato Torres announced he was moving to Puerto Rico. What about their legendary Thursday nights at Camaradas? Who was going to represent folk Nuyorican pride if not its most succesful ambassadors? But like a true Nuyorican, his move is not permanent, but he will be a back and forth in the air bus. Next show: January 3rd at Hostos.

Zigmat
MySpace Latino Battle of the Bands, SiTV band challenge, weekly Nublu parties, change of members, multiple EPs…some were lost, some were gained, but Zigmat continues to deliver a distinct style coupled with a strong evolution.

Runner up: The Fire and Reason
Having talent isn’t enough to make it as a band—you have to get yourself out there, let the world know who you are, and there’s no one who works harder at this than supa-hot Bella Saona of The Fire and Reason.  The girl is a social networker extraordinaire/on crack, and has been booted from Facebook multiple times this past year for “networking” a tad too much. (Espeaking of which, we’d like to give a special shout out to promoter Jean Bernabe–who has nothing to do with TFaR–who somehow has managed not to get booted, yet has stolen all our friends… and likely all of yours too!)


SONG(S) OF THE YEAR

This category doesn’t mean “best song released in 2008″ but rather which song best represented our year in Remezcla (and which we played over and over.) Obviously we can’t stick to one, so it would have to be a mini soundtrack starting with…

-“Se Te Ve La Tanga” by Damas Gratis (RE-descubrimiento since this song is from 2003) but it sure got us pumped on cold winter afternoons when we were working on relaunching the site (and taking over cyberspace.)

-Ñejo y Dalmata’s “Algo Musical” from their album Broke and Famous because they’re the best reggaeton no one knows about, and their video is ridiculous, and…

-“Microdancing” from Babasonicos’s Mucho because it’s oh so fun to sing along in a falsetto voice.


MOST LATIN FILM-FRIENDLY THEATER

Walter Reade
Latinbeat, Spanish Cinema Now, the New York Film Festival, Human Rights Watch. And that’s just the beginning… Not only did these festivals all take place at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, but there were plenty of one-offs that sparked our Remezcla interest (City of Men, the Omar Sharif Che….). Big ups to Richard Peña and crew for letting Spanish-language cinema play a major role in Lincoln Center’s programming.

Runner up: Quad Cinema
Though their day-to-day programming is not overly Latino, the Quad was a major player in both the Havana Film Festival and the NY Latino Film Festival (when it hosted the first ever Hola Mexico mini-festival).

Honorable mention: 92 Y Tribeca
This venue is too new to get a full-blown award, but we see major potential for 2009. In the two months since it’s opened, this downtown offshoot of the Upper East Side Jewish Cultural Center has screened My Mexican Shivah, Cocalero, and a Mexican sci fi film series. We’re also fans of their other programming…


LATINOSPLOITATION FILM OF THE YEAR

There was that movie about chihuahuas that made a lot of money. Andale, andale, arriba, arriba, yeeehawww!

MOST INNOVATIVE CULTURAL PROGRAMMING

NoMAA
Sandra Betancourt and the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance showed the city just how cool (and teeming with culture) upper Manhattan is. Their Uptown Arts Stroll alone would be worthy of this “award”, as it featured emerging and established artists, films for all ages, music, food, and more, but their awesomeness doesn’t stop there. They brought us the Junot Diaz/Lin-Manuel Miranda talk in September, and send out a weekly newsletter to keep us all up to date on what’s going down uptown. Thank you!

BEST STREET FOOD

Roosevelt Avenue
Take the E, F, R, V or 7 (or G, sometimes….) to 74th St/Roosevelt Avenue/Jackson Heights, and walk east. But be sure to go with an empty stomach, ‘cause depending on the time you’re there, you can choose from taco carts galore, women selling tamales and atole, fruit stands, the Arepa Lady (check her MySpace page first to see if she’ll be out!), Ecuadorian trucks, and more taco carts. Not enough of a selection? Stop into one of the many restaurants or (food) shops that dominate the strip for a taste of authentic deliciousness.

Runner up: Brooklyn Flea
When the city took their sweet time to get the whole permit situation worked out for our beloved Red Hook vendors (aah, memories of 2007… y antes…), many of them moved over to Brooklyn Flea. Not quite the same vibe as the ball fields (read: way yuppified), but when it comes to our street food, vibe is not really the first priority.


BEST MEAL UNDER $10

La Superior
The opening of this taqueria was the best thing to happen to Williamsburg this year. With (super-yummy) tacos at $2.50 a pop, you can choose between rajas, camaron al chipotle, lengua ($3), cochinita pibil, and more… Three should do the trick, though your inner glutton is likely to come out since everything is ridiculously delicious, and cheap. Exercise restraint, and you can easily keep it under $10.


MOST INAUTHENTIC “LATIN” RESTAURANT

San Loco
It’s really hard to fuck up a quesadilla.  Yet these guys manage to do so.  But they’re open late, and people naively mistake the “food” sold here for Mexican fare, returning again and again (often fueled by alcohol and perhaps other stimulants, granted). It’s really a disgrace, and we are proposing a boycott in 2009.  Do join us.


BEST KEPT SECRET

“El Cristal”
On 80th Street in Jackson Heights, there’s a house on the west side of the street on the block below Roosevelt that has a Cerveza Cristal sticker on the gate.  Walk through said gate, head to the back of the house, pass through the kitchen, and into the living room of the house, and be prepared for one of the most delicious, authentic Peruvian meals in the city. But hours are tricky (go before 7pm–after all, this is someone’s house and they need their privacy too!). Even more of a secret is yet another Peruvian speakeasy on 79th street that specializes in lunch, but we’re keeping our lips sealed on that one.

Runner up: La Superior (until it stopped being a secret)
We walked around with a little smirk on our face for the first month or so that we felt like La Superior was “ours”.  No one knew about the great tacos now available in Williamsburg, and while on the one hand we wanted to share our joy with the world, we also wanted to keep it our little secret (selfish? Totally!).  Turns out, we didn’t have much say in the end, because soon New York Magazine and The New York Times (among numerous other publications and blogs) discovered our spot and revealed it to the world.


NOTABLE STAR SPOTTINGS


Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of The Mars Volta at the LAMC showcase at Bowery Ballroom (drooling front row during girlfriend Ximena Sariñana’s performance).

Ximena Sariñana and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez at the Calle 13/Kinky concert at Nokia Theatre

Michel Gondry (wasted) at a Monday night Chicha Libre show at Barbes. We got his number.

Beastie Boys (+ Brazilian Girls, + the entire world) at Red Hot + Rio 2 at BAM.

Scarlett Johansen at Nacotheque.

Ryan Gosling everywhere …oh wait, that was the Puerto Rican Ryan Gosling.

ALL-AROUND SUPERSTARS

Junot Diaz

The Pulitzer Prize winner.  We have yet to encounter someone who doesn’t LOVE this guy.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

The man who brought Washington Heights (and Latinos) to Broadway. And he still has time to entertain us on YouTube. Ditto on the LOVE.