Past, present and future align for Rodrigo and Gabriela on new tour
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When Mexico City guitar virtuosos Rodrigo y Gabriela make their return to Chicago this weekend to perform consecutive nights at the Vic, it will not doubt feel like a homecoming.
Rodrigo y Gabriela
When: 8 p.m. June 3-4
Where: Vic Theater, 3145 N. Sheffield
That’s because Chicago was one of the first stops the duo made during their U.S. touring debut almost a decade ago. Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero spent many of their early days as a band touring throughout Ireland and Europe. But when they started performing in the states, it pushed their momentum to new heights. People started flocking toward their eclectic and adventurous style of playing.
“Chicago was one of the first cities we were exposed to when we first played America,” recalls Sanchez, during a recent phone interview. “It was one of the first places we played after playing so long in Europe.”
Over the years, the band has played many more times at venues across the city. One of Sanchez’s favorite Chicago performances occurred in the small confines of The Hideout. “A lot of people couldn’t get in,” he says. “We didn’t really expect that. Chicago’s been super good to us.”
Chicago also was one of the first cities where the duo became friends with Metallica. (Sanchez has been a fan of the band since he was a teenager playing in Mexico’s metal scene.) It was a real treat for him when Robert Trujillo joined then on stage at the Riv in 2009 to cover Metallica’s song “Orion.”
The band also has another reason to be nostalgic when they come through town – the tenth anniversary of their debut album, often referred to as the “crocodile album” by fans, which was recently re-released in a deluxe edition. Since the band hasn’t performed many of the tunes in 7 or 8 years Sanchez says he watched old YouTube videos of them playing some of the songs to re-acquaint himself with playing them. The band’s chemistry he observed on the videos impressed him.
“When I was checking the videos, I realized we were playing super fast and super tight,” he says. “We were really, really tight. It was inspiring to see all those tracks being played at that level because, actually, they are the most difficult tracks to play from what we had written.”
Sanchez says it was a fortunate accident that the band moved to a more acoustic-based guitar sound. (Their most recent release was 2014’s “9 Dead Alive.”)
“We were traveling and we wanted to travel lighter,” he says. “Traveling with the electric guitars and amps and all that back in the day was not the best idea.”
Even so, there’s still a distinct metal influence. “We knew our music was a mix of rhythms but the structure was coming pretty much from a metal background,” says Sanchez.
For their next album (already in the works) Sanchez says rather than overthinking things or playing it safe just to get acceptance from others, loose writing and recording styles are key. Sanchez says the new songs stress the freedom to be oneself.
“We feel free to choose the perception of the situations we are in,” he says. “At the same time, we realize that the world we’re in now, we don’t want to be part of it. We don’t want to play that game. We want to raise more questions and to be more aware of more than the conventional view of things.”
Sanchez added he’s looking forward to seeing the band’s diverse fan base on this tour.
“It’s great to see kids wearing Metallica and metal T-shirts, and at the same time they’re there with their dads. You see people that would be at a guitar fest. People that are dancing. A lot of hippies. It’s great to see that music unites people.”
Joshua Miller is a local freelance writer.