Rodrigo y Gabriella are an interesting pair of musicians. They’re Mexican, and they cut their teeth playing in Mexican heavy metal bands. But since then they’ve switched out to dual (and sometimes dueling) acoustic guitars. The metal roots are still visible, but are now overlain with what Rodrigo referred to as “crazy latin shit.” Naturally, they first achieved commercial success in Ireland (huh?)
The concert started with the pair expressing some amazement at the venue. “I thought ‘The Zoo’ was some kind of club”, Gabriella wondered. Nope- the Oregon Zoo holds outdoor lawn concerts. You stroll past sea lions, tigers, and monkeys on your way to your seat. They didn’t appear to know what to think about the crowd. “We will have to be careful not to say fuck- there’s children in the audience,” Rodrigo started. They made it abundantly clear that whatever the audience might have expected, it was time for a rock concert.
As for the music, there are plenty of good guitar players. There are great guitar players- Rodrigo is one of these. There are even guitar players who you suspect might have done some business with Ol’ Scratch at the road crossing outside of town. And then there’s Gabriella, who is none of these things, but who is clearly a banshee straight from the Abyss itself. Human beings don’t play the guitar like this. To say she “caresses” the strings, or “dances across them,” is to ignore the speed and force with which her hands attack. Her fingers claw at the guitar in a blur, slapping the strings more than plucking them. At one point she played an interesting drum solo- interesting because she played it on a guitar— rapping her fingers and palms against the body with an unholy stacatto rhythm, punctuated only occassionally with an almost disdainful sliding stroke of the neck strings.
Heads bobbing in classic Metal fashion, Rodrigo y Gabriella played their way through their own material, as well as covers of “Stairway to Heaven”, Metallica, and Pink Floyd. At one point they even strayed from a latin beat to play the famous riff from “Smoke on the Water” before seamlessly sliding back into the latin groove. Video screens behind them allowed you to see the abuse they were inflicting on their instruments. We were a long way from the stage, but their energy was apparent throughout.
Portland was the second stop on their new concert tour. I definitely recommend seeing Rodrigo y Gabriella if visit your area. Get a seat near the stage, but be prepared to stand up and dance to their irresistibly wicked rhythms. And don’t forget the holy water.