Molotov in Ecuador

It’s not every day that you get to see a two-time Latin Grammy award winning band playing in a bull ring but as the words “Puto” reverberated around the Plaza de Torres in Quito and the surrounding area it was clear that Molotov had arrived. Since their conception in 1995, in Mexico, the band has been anything but mainstream. Their aggressive politically inspired lyrics have opened them up as the band of choice for a politically conscious youth in Latin America. The establishment have not looked on them so kindly and the band was forced into exile in Spain after a near ban in Mexico.

This may have something to do with their lyrics, which deal with subjects as diverse as disenfranchisement in Mexico and Latin immigration to the United States to the supposed attack on machismo that is “Puto”. However, despite an extremely varied response in their home country, the music elite has never failed to recognize them as an extremely important and subversive band, honoring their song “Frijolero” in 2003 with a Grammy. Vibe magazine have described the band’s music as “incendiary by nature…with poisoned darts aimed directly at the heart of the oppressive paternalism of the government” However, controversy has never been too far away. Their debut album, “Donde Jugaran Las Ninas? released in 1997 was banned for its explicit artwork and sexually unambiguous lyrics. The song “Puto” has also lead to an attack from the powers that be.

The word 'puto' in some circle has been used as a homophobic slur and the song was seen as an attack on the Latin American homosexual community. The band have of course denied any such connotations and claim instead it is an attack on Latino machismo and about the type of man who is “a wretch, a loser, a bad-vibe guy”. In recent years they have been notably missing from the music scene and rumours of a break-up spread across the web. However, with a tour of Europe and Russia under their belts, a contribution to the “Y tu mama tambien” soundtrack and their sixth album released last year I can tell you that as they entered the stage their presence on the world music scene was clearly evident. The circular seating made the venue feel slightly empty. The crowd had gathered in a semi circle at one end of the stadium with the stage and a lot of empty seating positioned opposite. However, the venue was perfect for a concert of this sort. It was incredible to sit at the very top and watch the crowd go wild to songs I had never heard. An extremely accomplished band they finished with an encore of Nirvana, Guns and Roses, Queen and ACDC leaving their adoring fans begging for more. Their original mix of heavy metal and rap, rapcore if you will, with every member of the band taking a turn at lead vocals in both Spanish and English had the audience and one specific water seller going mad.

The highlight of the concert for many a person was the erratic and full pelt dancing of a small and nimble water vender who it seemed could cross the Plaza de Torres quicker than the planes that seemed almost within reach as they flew over us to the airport. The band even seemed to notice this almost euphoric dance display and for a fifteen-minute period this man held centre-stage. The only group that were unaware of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ prancing and at times what looked scarily like having a fit through the audience were the hard-core moshers who took pride of place at the front of the stage.

The violence was at times shocking but these people seemed to be having the time of their lives and as the concert progressed more and more people joined the pandemonium. It was incredible to watch a crowd that ranged from ten year olds with their parents to middle aged couples with your expected teenage contingent somewhere in the middle screaming the lyrics to this obviously much loved band and dancing on the wide steps of the amphitheatre style seating. There was an uncomfortable moment when the tag line to their anti-Bush anthem sounded out and hundreds of people joined in shouting “Gringo”. At this point our group attracted a little bit of attention being the only Europeans in the stadium but it was all in good humour.

The whole concert culminated with the afore mentioned medley at which point about fifty women were invited onto the stage to sing and dance on stage with the band. To my western eyes I couldn’t help but think this was a huge security risk, visions of friends being thrown out of Robbie Williams concerts for overzealous stage climbing came flooding back. However, it was completely in the spirit of the unconventional band and showed why they were such a people’s favorite despite having marked themselves out as anything but conformist. It would be wise for anyone visiting Quito to have their ear to the ground about events taking place in the Plaza del Torres and the Estadio Olimpico, as well as gigs in La Guijon, There are free culture newspapers dotted around the city in Internet cafes, hostels and in cinemas like Ocho y Media. Whilst the churches, markets and eclectic buildings in Quito are must-sees to truly have the Quito experience I would recommend a step away from the organized tour to Otavalo market and a closer look at what is happening in Ecuador’s vibrant and dynamic capital.

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