I first discovered Banda De Turistas while preparing for a trip to Mexico last fall. In the hopes of improving my Spanish skills through osmosis, I created a Pandora station based on El Guincho figuring it would turn up similar quality Spanish language indie music. The majority of the artists were forgettable to the point where I can’t recall any of their names at this time, but I did frequently find myself enjoying some catchy, Beatles-esque pop tunes. And whenever I checked the name of the artist it was always the same: Banda De Turistas.
So as literally the only Argentine band I’d heard of before arriving in this country, when I saw their name attached to a concert listing a few weeks back I was overjoyed. Just because a band lives in a city doesn’t mean they play there with any frequency. I live in Austin and a bunch of the bigger acts that reside there play maybe once a year, if that. Anyone heading to Austin for two months and hoping that the only band they’ve ever heard of from there will play during that time better keep their fingers crossed extra hard.
Anyways, as I’ve discovered in my two Argentine concerts worth of experience, they aren’t particularly big on opening acts here so just half an hour after the doors opened Banda De Turistas took the stage. Now, I’ve seen some flowery psychedelic bands in my time – hell, I’ve been to entire festivals of throwback psych rock – and one of the main faults I have with the genre is its sometimes lackluster live performances. Sprawling, lush pop music is great when you’re lying in a beanbag in your room with big headphones on, but watching some dude in a flowery shirt noodle on his guitar and look at his feet doesn’t really add much to the mix.
Of course, there are ample exceptions to this flaw and despite looking more like Banda De 17 years old, Banda De Turistas played with more professional bombast than I’ve seen in ages. Of course, the excellent sound quality and lighting designed by La Trastienda Club helped give their set that professional glimmer, but it was the combination of talented musicianship and obvious and infectious joy that really won me over. From the spacey instrumentals to the purest moments of PG-rated pop, the group smiled and prodded each other and the crowd with contagious enthusiasm.
I guess in an era where bands can go from unknown, to blowing up, to backlash in about three months, a group that’s been around since 2006 qualifies as seasoned professionals. This makes true rock star swagger an increasingly rare resource, which is why I was so happy to find a rich vein of it in Banda De Turista’s performance. Their energy and musical mastery could have captured an audience in a weak Sunday daytime slot of a giant festival like Coachella, but seeing a group play like that in a medium sized club was wonderful overkill. I don’t know how much Spanish my brain has magically absorbed by listening to Banda De Turistas sing in Spanish, but at least it’s more fun than doing flash cards.