Addax, Iko-Iko and Cojunto Progreso (Transit Lounge and Tobacco Road)
With the festival behind me, the Cuban vibes continued, courtesy of 88.9 FM’s Latin Jazz Quarter exuding from my car radio. They lasted the whole five-minute ride down 8th street until I parked and entered Transit Lounge.
As soon as I passed the curtain at the entrance, I was assaulted by the full force of over amplified club grade hip-hop. The stage was bare, save for a Marshall cabinet speaker and a Gallien-Krueger combo amp. Nobody was dancing. In fact, the few folks present seemed more interested in their drinks than the obnoxious droning of bombastic bass. Annoyed by the DJ’s choice in music, I moved to the restaurant side to find an acoustic quartet setting up for a set.
They called themselves Addax. Their music was fun for a song or two, but the effect wore off quickly. Though they were tight and well rehearsed, their sound was that of rehashed alternative rock that got stale before the set was through. Something about them reminded me of a less intense Coheed & Cambria. It could have been the dual guitar approach. It could have been the chick singer. I couldn’t tell. I think I can peg what turned me off about them, though—I just couldn’t groove to them. Still, they were tight. And a tight band can make even mediocre music sound acceptable.
After a while, I found myself crossing the street to Tobacco Road to kill some time before Cojunto Progresso, my reason for coming out this way, took the stage.
On the stage upstairs I found Miami blues kings Iko-Iko churning out some nasty funk. The atmosphere was the opposite of what I found at Transit Lounge—people in here were getting down. They sang something about petting the cat (naw, no innuendo there).
“Pet the cat,” said frontman Graham Drout, miming a petting motion with a grin beneath his sunglasses. You’ve got to pet the cat just right, lest the cat leaves you for someone who knows how to pet.
The time was rapidly approaching for Cojunto Progreso’s set, so after a few songs, I bade the blues/rock sound of Iko-Iko goodbye. A fire was kindling at the Transit Lounge—the kind that gets folks shaking their hips and stepping with a fervor—and I intended to catch it.
Cojunto Progreso went on at around 12:30. By that time, the clientele at transit had more than tripled. And when Cojunto lit the fire, the patrons fanned the flames. The dance floor was crowded with throngs of people sweating bullets and dancing feverishly to the infectious rhythms of Cuban son.
This was no laid back groove like Morist Jimenez Jr. delivered earlier on Calle Ocho. This was something else. If Morist Jimenez Jr. was a firecracker, these guys were a bundle of TNT. Their version of Buena Vista classic “El Carretero” must have lasted at least 10 to 15 minutes, chock full of instrumental solos and breakdowns.
They played two sets before calling it quits at nearly 3 in the morning. If any of you ever hear of Cojunto Progresso performing near you, do yourselves a favor and go. They never disappoint, but be aware that your feet may ache the following day.