Cuco At Amoeba, Tuesday July 30th 2019
Cuco is a very cute name, a simple, easy-to-remember moniker adopted by Omar Banos, the new teen idol if I believe my eyes. He gave a short concert at Amoeba on a Tuesday late afternoon, and I must have been the only person older than… 25? 20?
The crowd was indeed very young, totally in love with Cuco and his music, and it must have been one of those rare occasions when I saw people selling unofficial t-shirts outside the store.
The young Mexican American musician is on the rise and the love fest that happened at Amoeba was certainly the best proof of his growing success: the event was packed to the roof, people were arm-waving at the dreamy sound of his gentle tunes, and the sing-along almost never stopped.
Even though he was wearing a shirt that said ‘I pay taxes just so cops can arrest my friends’, Cuco had a complete unassuming presence on stage; he is only 21 and doesn’t look more than 17, but he has a debut album out, ‘Para Mi’, which he has described as ‘an embodiment of me and the beginning of whatever is coming in the future’. Mostly, Cuco is very grateful of what’s happening to him, he is selling out shows everywhere in the country and his following on social media grows daily in an exponential manner with currently 870K followers on Instagram and counting. And you still don’t know who he is? You will soon as Cuco is touring over the country this fall.
His slowly sprawling pop songs, all bathing in a dreamy haze, are inspired by soft jazz, bossa-nova, R&B, while led by glowing-swirling synths and his timid vocals, which transformed into an emotional falsetto during his sleepy ‘Winter’s Ballad’. For about 25 minutes, he enchanted the place with his charming melodies and kaleidoscopic tunes, and it was difficult to resist. First, because he had memorable hooks, then because there was absolutely no artifice in his performance, a nice departure from your average teen idol whose appeal often relies on some fake sexual swagger… At first, I found the music a bit too soft and just perfect for a relaxing pool party, but the melancholy escaping from ‘Hydrocodone’ was quite irresistible, a heartbreak song with a quiet and resigned sadness and gut-wrenching lyrics: ‘I know I wasn’t good enough? I showed you where it hurts/ And for what’s it worth, you made it worse/There’s always someone better/I hope you find that guy to make you happy and meanwhile/I’m sitting in my room/I’m all alone now/missing you every single day… certainly, the same kind of feeling that echoes in every teenager’s heart and soul since the Beach Boys’ ’In my Room’, reviewed by the kind of sincerity and sarcasm that only a kid living in 2019 could deliver.
His Chicano roots show up here and there in the music, although I occasionally got some Panda Bear or Youth Lagoon vibes, and it was mostly bossa nova that provided the rhythm for his smooth songs. ‘Lover is A Day’, one of his earlier songs featured in the ‘Wannabewithu’ EP, got the loudest sing-along, but the enthusiasm of the crowd never decreased even while ‘Feelings’ and its jazz guitar solos. During his short set, there were a few love declarations as well as many moments of pure bliss, and ‘Lo Que Siento’ brought a French horn played by Cuco himself in front of an ecstatic crowd.
There is a sort of nonchalant ennui in Cuco’s music but also a real euphoria (you should have heard people scream) and his bedroom pop, a term he really hates, is especially resonating among the Latino community, but really everywhere these days, and as the only child of immigrant parents, nothing else should matter.
Lover is a Day
Lo Que Siento
More photos here