Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lucha Libre: Los Straitjackets and Dame una Seña

Once I watched a documentary called Super Amigos about some Mexican luchadores (wrestlers) that had taken up the mantle of superheroes.  One took up the rights of animals and called himself Super Animal.  Another was all about the rights of the poor and called himself Super Barrio.  The third was concerned about the environment and called himself Ecologista Universal, and a fourth was a champion of gay rights and called himself Super Gay.  A fifth called himself Fray Tormenta, a priest who took up wrestling and used the profits to build two orphanages.  They traveled across Mexico to bring to light that country's serious social problems.

The only reason I bring this up is that today's featured band, Los Straitjackets, wear Mexican luchador masks as a part of their stage show.  What this is supposed to mean, I'm not sure.  When I saw Super Amigos, I was made aware of the rich and colorful history of Mexican wrestling and the characters of the wrestlers within it.  Luchadores come in two main types, the bad guys who do not play by the rules, and the good guys who are very technical and stay within the rules.  The characters are as well or better known than their American counterparts in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and often take on a heroic persona through their matches, tie in comics and other media.  The mask, while not universally used, is usually a prized possession and losing the mask in a match (an unmasking) is a terrible loss and insult.

I don't know if this is what Los Straitjackets was going for in their costuming, which consists of dark clothing, large medallions and luchador masks.  If it is, they are suggesting that they are heroic rockers, masked crusaders for justice, rough and tough and willing to take all comers.  Or, they could have just been trying to look cool for the stage show.

Los Straitjackets started in Nashville in 1988 and has released 13 albums.  An instrumental band, they began to gain a following after the movie Pulp Fiction brought a surf-oriented sound back in the limelight.  Their stage shows are apparently something to see - only band member Danny Amis speaks and does so in bad Spanish.  Many might remember their appearances on Conan O'Brien's late night show, in particular as his regular holiday band in the late 1990s.

This song, Dame Una Seña (Give Me a Sign), is from their 2007 album Rock en Español, Vol 1.  The album consists of 1950s and 60s English language rock tunes as Spanish language covers.  Vocals are provided by guest vocalists including Little Willie G. of Thee Midniters, Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos, and on this song, Big Sandy of Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys.