One of the sourest break-offs I have ever seen was Caifanes’ in 1995. It was worse than Guns'n'Roses'. I remember reading many times about how they couldn’t look at each others’ eyes during concerts anymore—I imagine much like Soda Stereo’s Gustavo Cerati and Charly Alberti during the MTV Unplugged concert in Miami, or Simon & Garfunkel at Central Park for that matter. But this was one of the few where you got to see band members talking shit about each other, face to face.
There was that famous interview on MTV in May 1995 in which Alejandro Marcovich (lead guitar) was asked about what they had in common after 11 years of playing together. “The skeleton. The number of chromosomes”, he answered. Saúl Hernández (lead singer) replied with an almost existential question, nasty glares and grins ensued. No more statements could be obtained from them after their last concert a few days later, other that their lawyers had told them to remain silent. Back then, the only certain thing in the Mexican rock scene was that they would never play together again.
Out of nowhere, Hernández and Marcovich reconciled in 2011. And the whole original line-up got back together, including bassist Sabo Romo—who was never part of Saúl’s post-Caifanes project Jaguares, unlike Alfonso André (drums) and Diego Herrera (keyboards, sax)—, supposedly just for a couple gigs. And well, they must have really enjoyed playing together because they kept on touring for two more years and they just made it to Austin for the first time ever.
The concert started at 8 PM sharp, and we got there just in time to make our way to the front. I took the same friend who went with me to Mohawk a week earlier. I was wearing my white Soda Stereo tee, which seemed waaay out of place. I mean, Caifanes and Soda toured together in 1991, and Cerati plays the guitar in one song of Caifanes' debut album (for your reference, song is called La Bestia Humana). But mostly everybody else in the audience was wearing black. As it turns out, I had misjudged Caifanes' fan base. Although I associate them to bands like Café Tacuba, which are a contemporary reference, their fans are more like those of 80's-or-earlier rock and roll bands, such as El Tri. My friend was wearing pink.
My friend doesn’t speak much Spanish so I had to translate some of the songs. This proved a simple task because Caifanes’ songs are structured, lyrically, in a very traditional way, with choruses repeated several times throughout each song—so I had enough time to harness my basic metaphysical vocabulary to talk about shadows, dreams, spirits, gods, and so on; it was an education for the both of us. In their albums, such structure can quickly become repetitive, but it makes much more sense when there’s an audience in front: this was a rock concert to sing and dance. They played heavier versions of each song, always prioritizing the guitars and bass over any other arrangements—which is the opposite of their studio versions. And they were really enjoying themselves, engaging the audience frequently and even doing those traditional rock band formations—where the three front players stand one behind the other, much like KISS would usually do. Sabo and Saúl never stopped smiling and laughing. Marcovich was just standing there, like a badass, staring deeply into the eyes and/or souls of everyone in the audience. His facial expression changed only once (he beamed while he bowed, at the very end), but he was really into the show, playing each song powerfully and elegantly.
The setlist (18 songs approximately) was primarily based on their third album, El Silencio (1992), which was the last one they all recorded together. From this album they played, if I am not mistaken, 9 tracks: Nubes, Piedra, Tortuga, Nos Vamos Juntos, No Dejes que..., Hasta Morir, Debajo de Tu Piel, Estás Dormida and Para que No Digas que No Pienso en Ti. They closed with their most popular songs, leaving a rock version of their infamous cumbia, La Negra Tomasa, for the very end.
Overall I was quite impressed with the quality of their performance. I can only assume they have gotten better over the years because the show was spectacular. I never got to see them live when they were around in the early 90’s. But it’s like Saúl said when he greeted the little kids in the audience “I’d like to welcome the new, young Caifanes. We are back together so we can have the opportunity to be with you.” Like one of those children, I got to see one of the most influential bands of Latin rock live for the first time. Provided that they maintain their commonalities beyond their bone and DNA structures for the next few years, I hope I get to see them again.