Maneja Beto comes into town two or three times a year with little fanfare, and that’s too bad. They are the best Mexican rock band out on the scene right now that isn't actually from Mexico. Hailing from Austin, TX, Maneja Beto continues on a path that bands from Mexico no longer follow. Maneja incorporate traditional Mexican musical influences with their Anglo and Roc N' Español influences. At their performance at the Levitt Pavilion in Pasadena, Maneja Beto tore through an hour and half set that featured most of the songs from their brilliant release, Accidentes De Longitud Y Latitud. One of the things that makes Maneja unique is that two of the band members play multiple instruments. Bobby Garza doubles on percussion and keyboards and shares vocal duties with Alex Chavez. Chavez plays keys and a whole array of guitars (electric as well as traditional Mexican instruments such as the Jarana and the Requinto). Much like Café Tacvba, Maneja Beto has great songs and can mix all their influences together and still retain their own sound. But unlike Café Tacvba, Maneja does not have an engaging front person, which perhaps is the reason their rise to popularity has been much slower.
There is a Mexican saying, “Traen la cara de nopal,” which roughly translates to, “You have the face of a cactus." It is what some Mexicans say to each other when one forgets where he or she came from. It’s something one can’t shake, no matter how much you are educated, how much money you earn, where you move to or how much one assimilates into Anglo culture. In the end, you have to look in the mirror and see yourself, "la cara del nopal," the face of a Mexican.
The thing I like about Maneja Beto, with all their painted nails and their obvious love of bands like Joy Division and The Smiths, is that they never try to hide their “caras del nopal.” I think that many bands from Mexico right now could learn from them.
Check out their video for "Los Cerros." It’s pretty cool.