An electric crowd of hundreds excitedly milled around Clear Lake’s premier rock venue on a warm Monday evening in June as they waited for the night’s act to begin. When Scout Bar was established in 2004, it quickly made a name for itself as a hub that drew in some of the music industry’s biggest names in the genre. As Los Pericos, the definitive reggae-rock-ska band from Argentina hit the stage on June 27, however, it was further proof that in the past couple of years, this venue has also garnered recognition as a home in Houston for the world’s leading Latin acts.
Despite having lost the coveted Copa América soccer title the day before to Chile, masses of those with Argentinean roots and those with childhood nostalgia of the band turned out in force, dancing, jumping, and singing every word to hits they had grown up with—songs that hooked and influenced even the most well-known local musicians on the Latin music scene in Houston as kids.
“These guys are history. Growing up in Houston, they are one of the first reggae bands I heard in Spanish,” noted Nestor “El Tiburón” Aguilar, member of Los Skarnales, a fixture of the Texas music scene that has been around for over two decades with their own fusion of ska, reggae, cumbia, rockabilly, and punk.
Indeed, Los Pericos hold many firsts and accomplishments for the reggae genre that have earned them international acclaim, and in turn have become highly influential for many. Though the six-member group – who began in the late 1980s as a group of friends covering reggae greats such as Toots and the Maytals, Bob Marley, and Peter Tosh – has changed greatly over the years, perhaps more notably so with the departure of their beloved original vocalist, “El Bahiano,” in 2004— they have maintained a strong fan base with their blend of ska, rock, and reggae that still brings them on international tours, playing to crowds of hundreds of thousands throughout South America and all over the world. Of their 16-plus albums to date – many of which have gone gold, triple, and quadruple platinum – the band also owns the distinct honors of being personally invited by Rita Marley, widow of Bob Marley, to record in his former studio in Kingston, Jamaica, as well as the only Latin American band invited to participate in a tribute to The Police. The reggae rock group also gained notoriety with North American audiences when renowned travel host, chef and writer Anthony Bourdain featured them on an episode of his then-show No Reservations.
This international following in conjunction with the support and respect of prominent local bands has helped to reinforce an already solid path to bring groups like Los Pericos to Houston for such highly successful shows. Roland Belmarez – a promoter for Scout Bar who, along with venue owner Thomas Wilson has been chiefly responsible for bringing some of the most established names in the Latin music industry to the Clear Lake stage – was quick to point out that Los Skarnales, among other revered rock en español bands such as La Sien (some of whose members were also in attendance, singing the praises of Los Pericos), continue to be a great part of the reason why even more Latin artists have been brought to Houston and to Scout Bar in particular.
“What you are experiencing is because of them,” Belmarez said, though both he and Wilson (also a musician in his own right as member of industrial rock band The Hunger) are credited as well for bringing renowned international artists such as Spain’s Jarabe de Palo and Cuba’s legendary band Los Van Van over the past two years. A momentous precedent would set this exciting trend in motion, however. Mexico’s preeminent alternative rock and hip hop band Molotov was the first of many successful shows to come.
“We took a chance [on Molotov] in a rock venue in Clear Lake, and it worked amazingly. We started pursuing other artists, and felt that Houston was lacking Latin artists and venues that were booking them. So here we are today, booking Latin Grammy nominees and winners like Natalia Lafourcade and Los Pericos, and it is working great,” Belmarez said.
The packed house during Los Pericos last month was no exception, even drawing in hard rock/rap/metal band Saliva drummer Paul Crosby, who as a first-time attendee of Los Pericos was extremely impressed by the band, noting that their music transcends any assumed language barrier.
“They are incredible. You don’t need to know Spanish to know this is amazing,” said Crosby.
Indeed, the tireless, high-energy set of more than two hours of Los Pericos’ biggest hits, including “Runaway,” a hit they also recorded later with the original Wailers, kept the crowd on its feet in English and in Spanish, with an overwhelming vow of approval as they shouted, “¡Otra! ¡Otra! ¡Otra!,” for just “One more song!” when it appeared that they would close for the night. The band complied with the hundreds of excited fans present, and another successful Latin show in Clear Lake – on a weeknight nonetheless – concluded to the sounds of overwhelming whistles, yelling, and resounding applause.
Next up at Scout Bar will be alternative metal/rock/pop star Mon Laferte, a highly-acclaimed contemporary singer-songwriter from Chile who has performed for crowds of tens of thousands around the world, garnering widespread international attention with her vocals, and particularly her masterful talent on a variety of instruments including guitar, drums, piano, and harmonica. As of press time, Laferte’s show is scheduled for November 13, though several other well-known Latin artists and exciting shows will be confirmed in the coming weeks. For updates and more information, visit www.scoutbar.com or Scout Bar’s Facebook page.
- Sarah Piña