Reptilian Mambo at El Dorado – 19th Mar ’15

El Pricto (alto saxophone)
Luiz Rocha (bass clarinet)
Pablo Rega (guitar)
Vasco Trilla (drums)

Maybe a little adversity or frustration is good for the concentration, or focus, or something…

An audience that had mostly come along to see the hip-hop band; a set that started an hour late (thanks, hip-hop band); reduced to a quartet because neither the stage nor the organisers would accommodate the full band; not so much atmosphere in the room… these could be real impediments to a good performance.

Not for Reptilian Mambo. Whittled down to a four-piece – no keyboards, no vibes, just the one drummer (to be fair, not a problem when that drummer is Vasco Trilla) – they practically oozed attitude. RM’s music is bold, relentless, tricksy and in-your-face at the best of times, under these circumstances, it was positively punk.

I’m afraid the usual nerd-like detail will be missing from this particular review, mainly because I was too busy just letting my hair down and enjoying the gig to take any notes on what was going on. So, a handful of remembered highlights…

Rega rocking out and giving us super-heavy (metal?) versions of Reptilian Mambo #4 and Reptilian Mambo #5 (nice use of the wah, too). Trilla as usual managing somehow to be both thunderous and delicate, providing an Earth-steady rhythm while simultaneously heading for outer space (when he wasn’t having to drag his wandering kit back into place). When not indulging in Zappa-esque conducting, El Pricto was doing his best to blow his frenzied soul out through the bell of his alto sax in a couple of inspired free jazz freakouts (judging from the look on his face, the young guy next to me had never seen anything like it, but he was smiling in a kind of disbelieving wonder – a new convert for the Lizard Priests and possibly Discordianism in general). And finally, there was Rocha, giving every impression of having achieved some kind of unexpected and inspired transcendence; it was his first time performing this music but clearly he is at one with the reptilian spirit.

I have to admit, I’d love to see the full 7-piece line up again, but on the other hand, this stripped-down version of Reptilian Mambo is in no way second-best, and if it means we see more of them around town, then I’m all for it.

Coda: from the sublime to the ridiculous… the radio in the taxi home, while I attempted to jot down a few thoughts and impressions, was playing You’re the Inspiration by Chicago – I can’t help but think the universe has a sense of humour…