Javier Mendoza Band: Rock and Roll Soul, Latin Style
St. Louis is lucky to have one of the best up-and-coming bands around. After being around for nearly seven years, the Javier Mendoza Band has become a giant of the local scene, particularly among the college crowd. Calling themselves a “transitional pop-rock” band, they’ve developed quite the following from devoted fans, and their talent and charisma were in full swing last Saturday night at their CD Release Party at Mississippi nights.
Opening alt-rock band Flynova performed a good set with a decent-sized crowd, but the dance floor didn’t show real life until JMB came on.
When JMB hit the stage, the audience went crazy, giving the first of several rousing rounds of applause that evening. The band started off the evening with “Beautiful,” the title track of their new CD, and proceeded track by track through the new album..
The new album is entirely in English, taking part of the Spanish-born Mendoza’s Latin edge off the tracks, but they haven’t lost their zest. The band’s familiar bass, lead and rhythm guitar format, with its solid background of keyboard and drums, remains to drive their energetic blend of rock and Latin music.
They switch effortlessly from acoustic to electric, and can hold their own on long improvisations, blending the spontaneity of a jam band with the catchiness of radio-worthy hits like “Veronica.” Where JMB really differs is in the Spanish/Latin influence. Many of JMB’s more traditional sounding songs are in Spanish (Javier is from Spain and sings in both languages), but they also perform a lot of songs with Latin/Spanish rhythms and inflections, such as “Rococo Me.”
On Saturday, the lyrics and intensity of feeling were impressive, even though not a word of Spanish was sung during the whole set. In fact, all the tracks on their new album are in English, which is somewhat puzzling for a traditionally latin-tinged band. That certainly didn’t detract from anyone’s enjoyment, but it was an unexpected change from the band’s usual style.
Mendoza, guitarist Jim Peters, and bass player David Karns played with consummate musical skill, while displaying mischievous band interplay. All the while, drummer Moises Padilla and keyboardist Daniel Backman provided a rhythmic momentum behind the guitars. After finishing up their new album with “When You’re Not Around” to rousing applause, the crowd chanted “Javier! Javier! Javier!” until the band returned for their encore. The JMB performed songs from their first two albums for their encore, performing them with more emotion and energy than ever before. The JM Band really has the ability to improve with every concert, a talent that backs up their growing body of fans and their ability to sell out larger venues, like they did Saturday night. The Band also knows how to connects with fans, at one point throwing out disposable cameras into the crowd so that they could record their experiences.
The JMB ripped through favorites “Step Into My Place,” “Ojos Cordobeses,” “Waiting for the Sun,” and “Crazy Ride” while most of the audience sang along, before tearing into an absolutely incredible version of “Rococo Me,” in which Mendoza spit out Spanish verse at about a million miles a minute and the crowd shook to the Latin beat. The extended performance also included Javier dancing with a woman from the crowd.
The concert Saturday at Mississippi Nights was one of the best Javier Mendoza Band has ever put on, and it seems they’re primed for something bigger. They keep improving with time, and with their talent, passion, and caring attitude towards their fans, the Javier Mendoza Band will only continue to grow in popularity. If you’re one of the uninformed few who haven’t checked the band out, you’re missing out on one of the best and brightest acts on the local music scene today.
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