Last week, Molotov was political, humorous, vulgar, and above all, fun at House of Blues.
There was an overwhelming, communal connection when Molotov took the stage at House of Blues' Parish. The Mexican rap-rock/punk band engaged in playful banter with each other and the audience in a performance that was confrontational, vulgar, political, and humorous--all of which was exactly what the audience came to see. Playing visibly drunk under a sign reading Unity in Diversity, the band made it clear that although Latin American politics are a mess, people are stronger when they mosh, yelp, and rock out together. Their unity was the unruly variety.
Molotov is made up of Tito Fuentes, Micky Huidobro, Paco Ayala, and Randy Ebright, who switched instruments frequently during the show. That highlighted their musicianship, but what distinguishes their sound is their two bassists. One, played by Ayala, sounded like it was at the bottom of the ocean, while Huidobro’s sunk only partially. The tone and wobble variations created a depth of sound that was filled by the drums, guitar, and vocals. Ebright played the drums with vigor for the majority of the concert, while Fuentes’ heavy guitar complimented his gravely voice.
Molotov’s musical talent was one aspect of the show. It’s difficult to separate Molotov from the political messages in its songs. Molotov released its first album, Dónde jugarán las niñas?, while Mexico was under authoritarian rule. The album criticizes everyone. Such vulgar tracks as “Chinga tu madre” and “Puto” (meaning “Fuck Your Mother” and “Faggot”), disarmed liberals, conservatives, religious groups, and parents alike. Even the album art, depicting a school girl taking off her underwear, made Molotov controversial. Some radio stations and record stores banned the album, and parents likened their songs to porn. But like anything branded satanic by adults, Mexican teenagers flocked to Molotov.
The release of the album in 1997 solidified Molotov’s role as a voice for the people. Ernesto Zedillo was president at the time and a member of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), which had been in power for 70 years. At the same time, the Zapatistas Army of National Liberation, a left-wing political and militant group made up primarily of indigenous people, declared war on the Mexican state. The clash between the Mexican government and the Zapatistas brought attention to the mistreatment of indigenous people. Mexicans openly questioned the legitimacy of their government and widespread corruption among social and political elites. When audiences first heard Molotov’s “Gimme the Power,” the song quickly became an anti-corruption anthem across Latin America.
Before introducing “Gimme the Power” at The Parish, Fuentes stated in a stern yet zen tone, “Pinche México. Pinche país verga. Pinche gobierno de la verga.” This roughly translates to Fucking Mexico. Fucking sick country. Fucking shit government. The audience chanted every word of the song, making its accusations of police corruption police corruption and economic inequality theirs. “The police are extorting you but they live on what you are paying,” Fuentes sang. “People live in poverty and nobody does anything because nobody is interested.” Despite the song’s mournful tone, the band was joyous when it saw the crowd’s response. One man took off his Mexico soccer jersey and held it high in the air while Molotov yelled, “Viva México, cabrones.”
Molotov paced the concert masterfully. The band played “Que no te hagas bobo Jacobo,” a heavy rock jam, directly after “Gimme the Power.” The song from 1997 attacks news anchor and television reporter Jacobo Zabludovsky for his unofficial role as a mouthpiece for the PRI until he left the Televisa network in 2000. The band warned the audience not let Jacobo make them dumb, and perhaps because it’s an election year in Mexico and "fake" news is in the air, the track rocked hard and hit deep.
Huidobro switched instruments with Ebright for the song “Frijolero,” meaning “Beaner.” The song was written in 2003 after the United States started the Department of Homeland Security which lead to the creation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in part in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorism attack, but it affected the lives of average citizens like Ebright, an American citizen and moved to Mexico when he was 15. On a trip to visit his parents in the United States with his wife and young daughter, the US border patrol detained his daughter because she had an American passport. The song's sarcastic approach to immigration reform highlights America's solipsism, and it is relevant once again. Ebright pointedly raps in English, “Now why don’t you look down to where your feet are planted / That U.S. soil that makes you take shit for granted.” The crowd moshed to the chorus and chanted “Fuera Trump” when the song ended.
Molotov's commitment to two-fisted political satire affects its choice of covers as well as how it cover a song. At The Parish, the Mexican rap-rock/punk group was successful largely due to their sense of humor. Molotov renamed The Misfits' "I Turned into a Martian" as “Marciano,” and remade the songs as the story of an alien trying convince pedestrians that he is also a human in order to take over the world. The song is comical and fun with The Misfits' original chorus left intact. After playing the song once, the band sensed the audience's desire to mosh and played it again, grungier. Fuentes slammed the strings on his guitar and Ayala laughed hysterically at the audience's crazed reaction.
When Molotov exited the stage, the audience erupted in chants. Unlike the typical American calls for “encore,” the predominantly Latino audience shouted for more in the spirit of the band, chanting “puto” and “culero.” The band returned with a cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” renamed “Rap, Soda y Bohemia.” The band destroyed the eloquence of the classic rock favorite with two heavy basses and distorted vocals that verged on robotic.
Molotov drew members of New Orleans' rarely visible Mexican and Central American community, and while the band made its name by opposing authoritarian impulses in another time, it and the audience clearly understood this as a moment to speak coarse, mocking truth to Donald Trump's power. Molotov’s American tour is the perfect opportunity to unite people who may be disenfranchised or victims of discrimination.