La Santa Cecelia and Jesse & Joy, two captivating Mexican-rooted bands with innovative though very different takes on Latin pop-rock, played Fort Lauderdale Sunday night, and even competing with the NBA finals they attracted several hundred ardent fans to Revolution Live.
Fronted by the charismatic and joyously eccentric singer La Marisoul, Los Angeles-based Santa Cecelia is the more original of the two, blending the melodic richness and thudding rhythms of Mexican regional music with blues, rock and a punchy energy reminiscent of zany ’80s punk-pop.
Costumed as a Technicolor Mexicana punk-party princess in cat’s-eye glasses and leopard-print dress over baby-blue crinoline, the passionate Marisoul showed off her heart-ripping ranchera diva/Janis Joplin-esque voice in powerhouse ballads like Falling.
She and accordionist Jose “Pepe” Carlos have terrific chemistry, shimmying back and forth on the rollicking Monedita (about how money can’t buy happiness), his accordion weaving rhythmic and harmonic patterns around her voice. Bassist Alex Bendana played a funky, thudding backbeat that evoked norteño-style brass.
Santa Cecelia showed its fun-loving streak in a cover of Soft Cell’s Tainted Love, and was heartbreakingly sincere on ICE (El Hielo), its ballad about the injustices of deportation and the immigration system.
On the strength of 2011’s Con quien se queda el perro? (Who gets the dog?) and two other albums, the Mexico City brother-sister duo of Jesse & Joy are the rare Latin music newcomers to be recognized in the commercial mainstream, with four Latin Grammys to their credit.
By turns husky, shimmery and sweetly powerful, Joy’s voice was the center of the band, and her easy confidence, fresh face and flowing hippie hair made her a relaxed contrast to the stereotypical seductive, highly groomed Latina singer. The crowd, which was filled with women, responded enthusiastically, singing along to most of the songs.
While Jesse & Joy don’t play traditional Mexican music, neither are they radicals a la Café Tacuba and the Mexican rock rebels of the ’90s nor electronica experimenters like groups from Monterey or Tijuana. Instead, they play fresh and adroit pop, and apart from the lush loveliness of their melodies, there’s little to mark it as Mexican. The performance featured the siblings on acoustic guitar with additional musicians on electric bass and guitar, drums, occasional piano and robust trombone.
Almost all of their compositions are love songs, most of the heartbroken variety, but they add a wry sensibility as on Con quien se queda el perro?, where the question of who gets the dog is the poignant accent to a division of appliances and CDs. Flowery lyrics to emotionally extravagant love songs have a dose of earnest introspection.
They’re not entirely convincing when they try to rock hard, but Jesse & Joy are plenty engaging and assured in their own vision of a new style of Mexican pop.