The first good thing about the Caifanes and Maldita Vecindad concert Saturday at the Hollywood Palladium was that it began precisely at 8 p.m., thus breaking the annoying rock en espanol tradition of bands coming on stage an hour or more late.
The second noteworthy element of a stirring evening was bassist Stuart Hamm--who has toured with guitarist Joe Satriani--making his first Los Angeles appearance playing with Caifanes. It's not certain whether Hamm will stay with Caifanes after the tour, but he fit nicely Saturday.
Caifanes, which closed the concert, deals in dark, moody textures somewhat similar to the Cure's, but the group has too individual a sound to ever be considered copycats. It is, in fact, arguably the finest collection of musicians in Mexican rock. Guitarist Alejandro Marcovich's unique style combines a Mexican folkloric flavor with rock urgency.
If Caifanes' strength is in its musicianship, Maldita Vecindad's appeal is based more on its lively manner and rich blend of influences, ranging from ska and reggae to punk and Latin rhythms. More than any other rock en espanol group, this one best captures the spirit of Mexico City's colorful, gritty street pulse.