Cecilia Noel and The Wild Clam
The Latin festival, I found out, is a yearly celebration here frothing over with vendors selling beads and baubles of dazzling colors and dozens of configurations twisted into jewelry, earrings, bracelets and mini statues, t-shirts of a thorny crowned, bloody Jesus right next to t-shirts of the grim reaper, a Goya tent with samples and coupons, someone in a costume of the sun (?) shaking hands while posing for the occasional picture, banners representing each and every Latin country from all over the world and food merchants selling dozens of exotic foods tearing gently at my nostrils and which somehow have a direct gravitational pull on my wallet.
The air is filled with an intermittent burst of lost balloons plummeting skyward that compete absentmindedly with the churning waves of the crowd that ebb and flow to one area or another in this densely packed throng struggling with baby carriages, social clots that stand and chatter wherever they collide - bursting with smiles, cheers, handshakes and kisses, and flag wavers, swaying the flag of a certain country left and right, proud of their lineage but oblivious to the head ducking of those around them. The streets around my building are barricaded off for blocks, allowing foot traffic that must have come from miles around judging from the multitudes that have descended.
It’s a tumultuous and exciting festival, crowded and thick with hundreds of colorfully clad people – and I am surprised that many of the women dress as if they’re straight out of a Univision skit.
Not able to withstand the torture of smelling without tasting, I decided on a fried plantain split down the tender middle and filled with a melted, spicy cheese. Almost decadent in taste, I offered a bite to my kids and they nibbled at it like it was asparagus warm off the stalk. More appealing to them were the dozens of unfamiliar fruit smoothies with chunks of guava, pineapple, tamarind and coconut. I also was beckoned, like a dowser with a rod, to the empanadas that are larger than an oversized fist clogged with spicy, hot sausage, mixed vegetables and cheese.
Smack dab in the middle the festival, the centerpiece is a stage set up from the back of an enormous trailer truck that has given performer after performer a vehicle to stand above the crowd and give it their all for about fifteen minutes apiece. Let me be the first to tell you that they brought plenty of excess wattage!
They opened the festival around 11:00AM on Saturday with Santana’s ‘Europa’ hovering over the sound system, followed by a few more of his smoother highlights. But then, it was a free for all in terms of talent and variety of act. A highlight for me were what I first thought was going to be a clown act. From my vantage point in my kitchen, high above the throngs, I can see behind the stage, and noting the clown costumes, I groaned under my breath. But, once onstage they pounded into a Latin musical number that just blew me away! Tight, horn-filled, they buckled the passersby’s with a rhythm designed to sway hips and nod heads. Simply put, outstanding!
The rest of the day (and night) found the stage with every sort of musical act from little girls in very pretty white dresses along with little boys in white ‘peasant’ clothes and straw hats, dancing and singing, then to traditional mariachi and samba acts, over to crooners and toward 6:00 or 7:00PM heavily doused with Latin rap performed by younger kids with the usual crotch grabbing and belt lines near their groins. Kind of tough to listen to in your apartment until 9:00PM – I could literally feel the bass from the system on my windowpanes and it made for a difficult ‘winding down’ time for my kids. Let alone, we had to switch channels multiple times in order to hear the television over the music.
All in all though, knowing it’s only until tonight (Sunday), and the pulsing stops at 9:00 (thank you), it was, and will continue to be today, a much welcome and staggering display of ethnic showcasing and diversity. I’d like to see it happen for many other ethnicities around the year.
Oh yes, it’s very cool to live here.
I found Cecelia on a free download site that I used to frequent every single day called MP3.com. I think (maybe incorrectly) that they now charge for downloads, but back about five or six years ago I used to download with a frenzy like a like a wino that found a lost case of Korbel. I was rabid and incessant, grabbing everything I could that held my interest, and my friends could attest to that fever. What a diverse and rich offering they had that chiseled and picked away at my musical base and inspired me to buy way more than I ever downloaded!
Bawdy, outrageous, brash, sexy, audacious … all are under performing quaint adjectives when trying to describe the incendiary firebomb known as Cecilia Cruz and the Wild Clam. Infectious by a mere one time listen, Cecilia grabs you by the short and curlies and makes you howl in pleasure for, please - more, more, more!
This has got it all senor and senorita, cracklin’ horns, driving harmonica, slithering guitar, congas, timpani’s and drums from the jungle, brazen, sensuous backing vocals and a killer, humping beat.
Listen at 3’20 for the shout out to Cream.
Dance you minions, I say dance!
She knocked 2/3 clave
And ordered champagne
She’s ready to party
Don’t wanna behave
She bends for her glass
And you’re melting for those tender thighs.
She shows you the meaning of lust and foreplay
She acts with experience, you want her to stay
Her mouth on your skin
Drawing pictures of rivers from dark until morning light.
She says "What's that number?"
Have you found yourself needing a sizzling Latin drum fix? My friends, you may listen right here. You and the significant other need this pronto!
Liberating the spirit, free flowing and outrageous in joy one cannot remain in touch with reality while hands and waist part the waves around you in wild abandon. Smile firmly affixed; sing praise to Bacchus with a golden goblet of sangria! Even properly debauched you now have only a timorous taste of Cecilia.
Sadly, I don’t know enough about the band, but I did in fact find a web site! I have vowed to all that is holy in music that I must see Cecilia if they ever venture to my part of the universe. For now, I bask in the heat of what I can.
For me, it’s back down to the whirl of the crowd to eat and experience authentic Latin performances! Adios!
Cecilia Noel and The Wild Clam: 9069
Cecilia Noel and The Wild Clam: Crazy Salsa
Available: On her web site
Addendum: Heads up! Just hours after I wrote this post, my friend Jeff over at AM Then FM, wrote a comment connecting Cecilia and Colin Hay! Wha? I read about them touring together while looking at her site, but never connected the two. He's written a fine post about Colin and Cecilia that highlights the two of them on a remake of Colin's Men at Work number 'Down Under'. Both a track from the album and a video with yet another remake of the same tune. Thanks Jeff!