I promise you will be dancing by the end of this post, whatever dancing may mean to you: cutting the rug full spin, moving your hips on the chair, or just a gentle rhythm nod.
There is a self-evident reason Austin, Texas, is known as the world's live music capital: an abundance of talented artists working and living in the city. And like the chicken that hatched itself from an egg, the relationship between origin stories and progeny continues to attract music lovers from across the globe. Some of those music lovers stay and change the city. These are the people whose lives are connected to place, not only the possibility of fame.
The 36th rendition of SXSW just happened – New Order was one headliner. One of the many, many bands that played across the city's central core was Como Las Movies, a musical lineup with deep roots in Austin, Texas, and Mexico. But first, a little bit of history.
Austin gentrifies itself – again and again and again, i.e., land development is in USian genetics. Michael Dell ensured that Austin would be a hub for nerd birds from Phoenix, Silicon Valley, and the great wet Pacific Northwest. And despite the well-organized efforts of community groups and politicos, artists are priced out of the places they once inhabited, not as harbingers of gentrification as in other cities, but as people who wanted to "keep Austin weird," as the famous saying goes. But perhaps the distinction is irrelevant, and maybe that was gentrification? One thing that was never weird in Texas was land politics. Land is power.
This post is about musicians who have stayed in Austin over the last three decades during the height of hipster invasions with settler-colonial beards and overflowing credit. Artists that continue to make unique, crowd-magnetizing music. Specifically, Nelson Valente Aguilar and his new musical project, Como Las Movies (Like the Movies), deserve a listen. Here is their Instagram.
The name Como Las Movies is from the moment that Valente Aguilar had with a friend and that perhaps we all have had when witnessing an event or moment that seems like a larger-than-life scene that is special, unique, memorable, and recognizable, "Like the movies," (Como Las Movies). It was a house party, and all the elements of joy, dancing, and conviviality were at hand—an already present yet unexpected script that unfolded a narrative with costumes and background. There was music in the night and the name.
Valente Aguilar was part of the legendary and experimental crossroads musical collective Maneja Beto, which produced two albums and one EP during their tenure.
"An Austinite by way of border town McAllen Texas is chief composer for his indie-cumbia-pop project, Como Las Movies. He combines his pan-Latin and contemporary influences into a duality that NPR described as '…a colorful, cultural soundscape from a unique blend
of instruments' while KCRW observes that their music 'occupies a space where traditional Tejano, Cumbia, and Son Jarocho music meet face to face with synth-heavy new wave inspiration. It's not a dense space with many inhabitants…in fact they may be there by themselves.'"
In "Café," you can hear them cleverly out "there by themselves," gathering melodies and rhythms from the borders of what sound imagines. Valente Aguilar's guitar work reminds me of the orchestrations of Johnny Marr. It reminds me, not a comparison.
Check out the official video for "La Inconforme" which features murals from across Austin spanning decades, the images put together by ATX Barrio Archive, "atx_barrio_archive A community archive celebrating the culture & history of Austin's Black & Brown barrios❤️."
You can find all Como Las Movies social media, videos, music, and interviews here.