Thursday night Austin based rock en espanol band, Kalua, made the best of the situation they were given. They were supposed to play with Austin rock favorite, Vallejo, at Pangaea for the Pangaea Live! series. After Vallejo’s lead singer, AJ Vallejo, suffered a mild heart attack Wednesday, the show at Pangaea was obviously canceled.
If you trekked to the Warehouse District for the Pangaea show, you saw a sign with a map directing you to 5th street towards Beso Cantina. Kalua is no stranger to Beso, as they played their CD release for La Novedad there last fall. Unfortunately, I was unable to make that show. Luckily I was able to make this one. They even gave away free DVDs of their video for the single, “Vovlvere.”
Having interviewed Kalua and listened to their CD multiple times, I was really looking forward to seeing these guys live. I already knew their lead singer, Juan, had some major pipes. I heard him sing at St. Edwards with the university’s mariachi group when I was a student there. He’s a small guy, but his singing exceeds his size. Having watched them tonight, I could easily see how his mariachi experience carries over to Kalua.
In addition to their own original songs, they did some really cool covers which took me by surprise. They covered Carlos Santana’s “Corazon Espinado,” the Los Enanito’s Verdes classic “Lamento Boliviano,” and of course… the quintessential Mana cover. I know it is gimmicky to cover Mana because it is an easy way to win over a Latin crowd, but I can’t help but like it.
I also can’t help but like Kalua now. They were just all right or asi asi to me before tonight. As I mentioned in my review of La Novedad, they do have a few really good songs. Thursday night they won me over with their live show. It is rare that a band sounds better to me live than on CD, but that is the case with Kalua. If you aren’t sold on Kalua based on what you hear online, check them out live before you give them a final verdict. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.