SXSW 2017 Artist Morenito de Fuego on Venta de Garage

Morenito de Fuego hails from Monterrey (the one in Nuevo Leon) and is a force in electronic music. With musical chops to inspire movement in those stricken with the most severe paresis, he casts an eye, sometimes unblinking, at other times winking, on the issues permeating society. Morenito’s first single to make the rounds was “Mala Copa”, which was featured in the 2009 flick Recién Cazado. His 2013 release of Venta de Garage proves to be an album not only worth listening to and thinking about, it’s an album of tracks that encourage the listener to live a fuller life. Whether that means deep thought, activism, or dancing, is up to the listener.

The album begins with “Fin del Mundo”, a track with a thick tribal beat. (That’s tribal like 3ball.) Whether you’re in botas picudas or sneakers, this song is one to dance to. In the lyrics, Morenito lays out his plan (in all its comedic and truthful splendor) for his last day on Earth. By the time he reaches the sweeping lines of the chorus, the party is in full swing: “Voy a robar un banco y gastaré todo en un burdel / Voy a dejar mi chamba y confesarte que te fui infiel / Voy a hacer una fiesta en la suite de un motel / Si me voy me iré bailando de este mundo cruel” (I’m going to rob a bank and I’ll spend it all in a brothel / I’m going to leave my job and tell you I cheated / I’m going to throw a party in a motel suite / If I leave this cruel world, I’ll go out dancing). Not a bad plan, if that’s what you’re into.

“Mis Huesos Grandes” starts with an announcement aimed at the ladyfolk, over a bare beat. In a more contemporary twist, the track speeds up to a clubworthy pace. The rapped lyrics over the dance beat come at the listener like nibbles at a botanero. Despite the established laws of the universe, the energy of this son is contagious. The pairing of horns and rhuthms reminds me of “Mr. Saxobeat”, but without that European production that makes the dairy products taste just a little bit different.

In a deliciously danceable production, “Discoteca” features Sheeqo Beat (a powerhouse in his own right). The lyrics address the apparent desires of women in the clubs. There are a lot of assumptions made here that must be at least partly true, and probably explain the inadvertent confusion over that week that baggage handler was blowing up my WhatsApp. This track is supremely danceable, but it seems to reinforce all those gender-based stereotypes that cause harm to everyone.

“Zombi” opens ominously, the evolves, laughing, into a steady beat that hits your ears as hard as the floor against the soles of your feet when you’ve been dancing for four hours and you never want the night to end. (But it always does.) I wonder if that’s how zombies feel. The lyrics speak to the flippantly macabre monster mash-style dance parties with lines like “hay una fiesta en otra tumba” (there’s a party in another grave). Or perhaps Morenito is applying the chilled norteño tone to the cheerier “the grass is always greener on the other side”.

In “El Menos Peor”, smooth bass rolls out like a red carpet for the elegant horns. Then the vocals come in, declaring total infatuation with no concerns about what others say – including the boyfriend. With a steady beat and smooth vocals that ooze from chorus to verse and back again, you can’t help but lubricate the hip joints a bit. Makes me wonder whether there might be a motor afferent from the part of the brain that hears a beat so good, that impulse to dance is inevitably triggered. Either way, the music definitely helps Morenito make his case.

The lightness of the percussion gives the opening to “24Siete” a tropical vibe but with that thumping beat that reminds me of fried yucca y chicharron at midnight. (Pass the Valentina, please.) Those beats mean business. Serko Fu and Jero Tovar join in on the fun, addressing the necessity of constant work for maintenance of the status quo. Maybe you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to how you pay your electric bill, but when it comes to music, “pura crema, no música gacha!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

In “La del Clima”, Morenito has fallen for the lady who talks about the weather on TV. He appreciates her dependability, her knowledge of the future, and her cuerpazo. It does sound like a good person to have around, especially when Morenito brings up the point that she makes getting dressed in the morning a less regrettable ordeal. (It’s easier when someone tells you to wear a chamarra). The cumbia beat tantalizes the listener into movement.

In the next track, a strummed opening is licked by a giant electric tongue. When the vocals kick up, higher frequency tribal sounds skip and play in the background. And the “Placer Culposo”? Why, it’s reggaeton! Makes sense… The messages carried by those songs are typically witless, vapid, and frequently read like a Spanish 1 textbook with dirty words penciled in the margins (and dialectical variations that Morenito states he would never use in a song (sandunueo, bellaqueo, nebuleo). But still, how many times have you found yourself dancing in a garage to beats by Daddy Yankee, Omega, Don Omar, or Tito El Bambino? When moments like those happen, music is always driving them, in some way.

“Calladita” is a freewheeling track with a dance hook heavy on the keys, encouraging a quick step and a tight grip. Especially when the bass comes in. This is a song for people who can really dance. I would love to see this live. “Calladita te ves más bonita / Calladita tú me gustas más,” goes the hook, striking at that carpe diem nerve that resides within us all. I believe Elvis communicated the same idea with “a little less conversation and a little more action.” Take the moment, don’t ruin it with words. I wonder what the world would be like without Twitter. If people would dance harder or be more present for bowel movements. Or if the aspects of humanity that tend to inspire us would be slightly different, like a photograph with a different exposure.

With the tuba that endears me so strongly to banda and Morenito’s infectious delivery of vocals, “Cual Crisis” is movido, featuring satire as subtle as a bullhorn mounted on a pickup truck. This song has all the good qualities of an earworm, the type that you invite in, pushing the wax aside and saying, “pull up a chair”. The hook says it all: “Si no hay agua en la casa nos bañamos en el rio / si el pan no está caliente pues nos lo comemos frio / y si no hay luz, no hay luz, pues prende una vela” (If there’s no wáter at home we’ll bathe in the river / if the bread isn’t hot we’ll eat it cold / and if there’s no light, no light, just light a candle). The commonsensical reaction to a failing infrastructure is to make do, because the life that is right under your nose is more pressing than the sociopolitical happenings that caused the infrastructure to fail in the first place. After you make do, you make puns. (Huevos, what a marvelously versatile word!)

“Vienen & Van” bursts in with a beat that is heavy and slow, that hits the listener like that extra thick pulque that you found in an obscure corner of the market and purchased in a reused Coke bottle. Then comes the frenzied pop-infused vocals. (I wonder what Britney Spears would do with this track.) A heavy beat that puts the rubber on your sneakers introduces “Ella”, which features the impeccable Milkman. This song was made to be played loudly in a car. The lyrics describe a sought-after woman who does her own thing, on her own terms. How novel!

Fueled by ukulele and vocals smoothed out like beach sand, the next track transports me to sandy days in colorful net hammocks, buying cold coconuts with coins, in very good company. I believe Morenito accomplished what he set out to do with “Déjame Besarte”. However, for as much as he sings about his profound love for this woman – and I find myself annoyed at the fact that this is not the first time I’ve pointed this out – Morenito says nothing about the woman beyond what’s on the surface. When he sings, “déjame hacerte ver lo que una mujer siente en la realidad” (let me make you see what a woman feels in reality), that’s just pure asshattery. But I suppose he did admit that being in the presence of this woman renders him incapable of thought. Maybe we’re all just different styles of asshats.

With the kick in the pants of acordeón, “Mi Ciudad” shifts the album into high gear for its final sprint to greatness. (Now that’s a Monterrace!) A fast beat bolsters the call to enjoy oneself while in Monterrey, because there is much to enjoy. The vocal transitions infuse this track with the sort of fun that leads you to don silly accessories and extract every convivial ounce of your being, while the lyrics imply that the best is yet to come. It is a fitting end to an album that has inspired in me days of reflection and so much public dancing that I think I might have loosened the joints in this café bench.

With Venta de Garage Morenito de Fuego upped the ante not only for Mexican and border musicians, but for everyone churning out electronic and dance music who attaches the label of “artist” to their persona. You can catch Morenito at SXSW this year, with performances on March 15th and 16th. If you are not among the lucky ones who find themselves in Austin this month, check out Morenito de Fuego and add him to your Music Library posthaste.

Gwendolyn Lewis Written by: