When I got invited to cover Hermanos Gutiérrez’s show at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, I had not realized their performance was part of the annual Dia y Noche de Los Muertos celebration. It turned out to be a perfect day, wandering around the cemetery and checking out the beautiful altars, the amazing costumes, the dancers, and the art exhibitions, while discovering Latino artists I had never heard about. The theme of this year was Mayahuel, the Aztec Goddess of Fertility, the Maguey (Agave), and the ruler of the 8th day and the 8th year, and the cemetery was transformed into this magical and colorful place, an invitation to dream and use your imagination as it is the case every year.
The Gutiérrez Brothers’ set was sandwiched between the extravagant Son Rompe Pera, a Mexican fusion band whose devise was ‘Cumbia is the new punk’ – and they definitively proved it – and the new Mexican young sensation, Ed Maverick, who, at the tender age of 21, has already received several awards and multiple nominations.
Hermanos Gutiérrez are two Swiss-Ecuadorian brothers, two accomplished guitarists who compose instrumentals that are so evocative that they seem to have been composed as soundtracks of imaginary movies; last night, their set on the main stage of the cemetery was pure beauty. Since Ry Cooder’s haunting guitar for Wim Wenders’ “Paris Texas,” or Angelo Badalamenti’s theme for David Lynch’s popular series “Twin Peaks,” it’s easy to associate reverb guitar music with life-changing or mysterious movies. By naming their last album “El Bueno y El Malo,” an obvious nod to Sergio Leone’s “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” scored by Ennio Morricone, Estevan and Alejandro Gutiérrez don’t even try to distance themselves from the spaghetti-western influence, and this could also show their sense of humor.
The music was warm, soothing, and captivating, producing a cinematic vibe in a place where movies are regularly projected on the large wall of the mausoleum for fun movie nights. They started their set with the Morricone-influenced “El Bueno y El Malo,” the titled track of the new album produced by Dan Auerbach and recently released on the Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound imprint. Continuing with “Rain God,” off their 2020 album “Hijos del Sol,” they showed more obvious Latin root influences, but the music kept the same calming smoothness all set long. The delicate and intricate play of their guitars was shining during “Venganza,” a gentle tune with melancholic touches, proving that lyrics are not always necessary.
The crowd was remarkably silent during the entire set, visibly recognizing the older tunes, and shouting the title of specific tracks. The brothers were producing their wrapping sound with only two guitars, barely anything else, as Alejandro was sometimes switching to a lap steel guitar while Estevan was recording percussion on a loop pedal to layer the song with a subtle rhythm.
For the sibling duo, it was all about mood and atmosphere, as they both sat during the entire performance, with Alejandro almost hidden behind the flowers decorating the stage. Their approach was quite low-key and very subtle, only focusing on the music: you could have closed your eyes and found yourselves in the middle of the desert, during a road trip, as suggested by a quote from Estevan: “When Alejandro and I play together, it’s like we are taking a road trip. Sometimes we’re driving through a desert. Sometimes we’re traveling up the coast. But always we are in nature, and we see the most beautiful landscapes, sunrises, sunsets.” This is exactly what their music evoked: vast landscape, big skies, peaceful scenery, and time standing still thanks to their shimmering guitars, interweaving rhythm, and perfect timing.
Both looked like extremely skilled guitarists and if you could have expected a certain sameness, repetition, or even monotony with the absence of lyrics and lack of instrument diversity, there was absolutely none of this. Each track was revealing another facet of their large impressionistic sonic palette, each number had standing-out moments and truly existed as individual songs. Most of the music had this unhurried pace and a melancholic approach with a few exceptions: “Tres Hermanos” (a track played with Dan Auerbach on the record) was a bit more upbeat at times.
When certain performers go to extreme stage antics to get attention, their discreet presence was building vivid sonic pieces while Estevan’s heavy-ringed fingers were running through the strings of his classic guitar.
El Bueno y El Malo
Hijos Del Sol
Los Chicos Tristes
the same sentimental vintage formula
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“The Beast Inside” Red Carpet Industry Screening, Friday, December 2nd 2022 at Fine Arts Theatre, Beverly Hills Pictorial
Here are red carpet pictures from last Friday…
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a mini-meet of first rate rap-dance performers