El Gran Silencio and Immortal Technique energetically open the festival
By Steve Greene
Aug. 15, 2011 10:42 a.m.
El Gran Silencio and Immortal Technique
El Gran Silencio:
The first act of L.A. Rising was El Gran Silencio, an ensemble group from Mexico. For the duration of the band’s time on stage, only the drummer remained stationary. The members of the aggressive-sounding horn section danced around with as much vigor as the gravelly voiced guitarist. Cano HernÃ¡ndez, singing in Spanish, packed in more words per minute on half the songs than anyone else in current American music would be able to. I can’t speak to the effectiveness of the lyrical content, but it sparked an energy in the early afternoon that vindicated their selection as an opener. El Gran Silencio had not only the proper uplift but also the appropriate political bite and intensity to play alongside the acts that were to come.
For music fans unfamiliar with the work of Immortal Technique, a Peruvian-born rapper, one need only listen to the spoken word portion of his L.A. Rising performance. To those in the audience he labeled as “junkies,” he said, “We need you in the struggle, not in recovery.” Addressing those in the audience who he claimed might “mistreat women,” he said, “When you understand to show love, that shows power, that shows strength. Apply that to revolution.” For those dealing with the recent loss of a loved one, he offered, “Those people don’t die if we fought for what they fought for.”
All of these sidenotes, directly addressed to the audience in between songs, were magnified tenfold in the written words of the songs that he’s recorded. It is done with a simmering rage and a blatant distrust for all the injustice that he perceives in our country and abroad.
Seeing Immortal Technique in a performance environment, it is clear how his message is not intended for conversion. It’s a rhetoric for volunteers, not skeptics. There were undoubtedly members of the audience who did not agree with many of Immortal Technique’s assertions, but he seemed unphased.
In a performance sense, he’s best in a stripped-down manner, without a beat or vocal accompaniment. This only happened for about a minute and a half in the entire set, but lyrically and energetically, it was his best work, his anger laid completely bare.
Immortal Technique knows why he might not be as famous as neutralized performers who garner maximum radio exposure. In between songs, he regaled the audience with tales of his verbal disputes with record companies and the search for a commercial outlet that would be willing to absorb his radical message. In a move that proved Immortal Technique’s willingness to act independently, he encouraged the audience to “steal” all of his albums online and distribute them accordingly.