Photos by: @robfactory
Usually when I’m headed to Grand Central for a show, tickets have been sold out for weeks
and the crowd can only be described as a frenzy of Miami scenesters pushing and clawing their
way to the front. I was able to score last minute tickets to see Bomba Estéreo and I wasn’t sure
what the crowd would be like. Ironically enough, in what is arguably the most Latin city in the
entire United States, the Latin music scene in Miami appears to be reserved for the over-50 set.
I arrived promptly at 9pm (you know, Miami prompt) and wasn’t entirely shocked to see the main
room largely empty. To be fair, they had quite a bit of competition, what with Foster the People
and Café Tacvba also playing last night.
Nacho Londono opened the show, a native Colombian rock musician who has been living in
Miami since his adolescence. Everything about him, though – his music, his look, his band
- screamed 90s Medellin cowboy. Nacho founded the popular Arboles Libres, which after
spending five months on the road in 2010, changed its name to Eagle Chief (presumably as a
nod to his psychedelic rock influence). Nacho has since broken out as a solo artist, and having
only a modest knowledge of Latin rock, I can only compare his sound to vintage Maná, and
decide that it’s not really for me. At the end of his set, Nacho proclaimed this would be the year
he finally makes it to his native Colombia to premier his music as a solo artist.
The crowd started to trickle in slowly after Nacho left the stage, so that when Bomba Estéreo
finally emerged on the scene it felt more like a typical packed night at Grand Central. I usually
look to vocalist/goddess Li Saumet for her sartorial choices and was surprised to see she
deviated a bit from her usual bohemian tropi-chic to something decidedly disco – a sequined
backless dress, topped with a fluoro “Miami” hat. I at least appreciated her playing to the crowd.
Opening with the unmistakably infectious beats of “Sintiendo,” Samuet’s tiny but powerful voice
permeated the room, and a force of somewhat erotic energy moved the once-still crowd. Bodies
clung together, hips and hands and chests moving and shaking, and we were all transported to
the ethereal space Bomba Estéreo’s music has created in our heads. It felt like everyone in the
room was in love.
Aptly described as psychedelic tropical cumbia, their performance was kaleidoscopic, lit with
all the colors of the rainbow, weaving their melodies subtly with afro-colombian rhythms and
electronic beats. Currently producing their fourth studio album, the band played their incredibly
salsero, wonderfully danceable new single “Que Bonito,” which draws on traditional latin music
and then fuses it with futuristic concepts. The crowd broke out into an accelerated merengue
and just when you thought I wasn’t possible for this to get any sexier, it did.
They debuted another new song, “Tu Solo Tu,” this one unfortunately a bit forgettable. They
then delivered another crowd favorite, “Fuego,” a somewhat immature hit off their first album
which at this point doesn’t really showcase what the band is capable of. The rough cumbia
beats aren’t exactly my favorite, but the crowd exploded, Samuet’s tiny body jumping up and
down, begging her fans to do the same.
When they played “El Alma y El Cuerpo,” I felt like I would explode with happiness. I was
transported back in time to the first time I saw Bomba Estéreo play in Buenos Aires, an
experience that endures in my memory as I chant the words “y yo, no puedo estar mas así” and
wish I could go back to that time and place. The song’s transcendental powers must be equally
moving and somewhat spiritual for Li, because as she wrapped up the song she stared out at
us, mildly desperate and seemingly under a spell, chanting over and over again, “Me quemo por
dentro, me quemo por dentro, me quemo por dentro.”