Belanova - Conga Room - 9/22/11
Better than ... anything without keytars and handclaps.
Belanova plays that perfect kind of bouncy, synthy pop -- the kind you might get ready to before hitting downtown in a new pair of heels, or the kind you might find yourself shamelessly howling in the car with the windows rolled up. But live? It didn't quite work, at least not at first.
Of the three core members -- Denisse Guerrero (vocals), Edgar Huerta (keyboards), and Ricardo Arreola (bass) -- it was obvious they intended Guerrero to be the visual centerpiece. Clad in a black tutu and ruffly dress shirt, her hair in a topknot, the lead singer launched (a bit too) purposefully into mechanical-doll-like robotic movements, blinking her eyes open and shut, her red-lipsticked mouth agape in exaggerated surprise. All this while singing in a childlike, high-pitched voice, which -- perhaps a result of her combined singing-dancing efforts -- came out a bit shrill.
When Guerrero added in hand flourishes a la "Vogue," we gave up our prime real estate near the stage and pushed back. Something about this girl's big, cutesy act required distance. Like, stadium-sized distance. It was just awkward being that close.
From our new vantage, the number of ladies in the crowd sporting teensy leopard print skirts, extra-long eyelashes and fake flowers pinned in their big, teased hair was kind of overwhelming. One chick was actually rocking the exact same 'do as Guerrero. Brows furrowed with diva passion, sparkly bracelet bangles clinking in the air, these girls yelled every word to "Nada De Más," "Toma Mi Mano," and "Paso El Tiempo," while their boyfriends coolly coordinated runs to the bar to refill their cocktail cups.
Giovanni Solis Belanova
"She's so fucking cute," one girl exclaimed of the prancing, pose-striking lead singer.
The dude trying to hit on her leaned over to us and explained knowingly, "She's a mad fan."
The dance floor and the attitudes loosened up roughly two-thirds of the way through the show, as folks either got drunk or got out of the way, and the party turned dancy. At one point a huge guy with two braided ponytails whipped his hair back and forth, knocking this reviewer's pen right out of her hand. Well done, brother.
To our delight, Huerta brought out a revelry-rousing keytar and stole the stage -- if only for a moment -- from Guerrero, leading the crowd in handclap choruses on the classic "Niño" and encore numero dos, "Por Ti."
Personal bias: This review was composed whilst hopped up on caffeine at the 101 Coffee Shop and staring across the room at Chris D'Elia, who must have come straight here after the premiere party for "Whitney" if our calculations are correct. Needless to say, it was a bit distracting.
Giovanni Solis Edgar Huerta
Random notebook dump: Our favorite audience accessory was the giant grandma-brand fit-over wrap-around sunglasses, worn by the guy rocking Bruno Mars hair.
Set list below.