The Sor Juana Festival shares vintage vibes for cruising in hot rods, warm summer nights, and nonstop dancing | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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The Sor Juana Festival shares vintage vibes for cruising in hot rods, warm summer nights, and nonstop dancing


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Rockabilly probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when somebody says “Latin roots music,” but several generations of artists on both sides of the southern U.S. border have taken doo-wop, boogie-woogie, and early rock ’n’ roll to heart. The music—and its associated hot-rod imagery—has long connections to the Mexican American community (particularly on the west coast), with artists blending influences such as 60s girl groups, soul, early punk rock, and a “take no prisoners” style of mariachi vocals. The National Museum of Mexican Art’s multidisciplinary Sor Juana Festival, whose 26th annual edition began March 7 and runs through April 25, includes this night of music, which features taco trucks and lowriders and starts where “La Bamba” singer Ritchie Valens (aka Ricardo Valenzuela) left off. Opening the “Vintage Vibes” program are Monica Rocha & Cota; bandleader and soulful R&B vocalist Joey Cota will sing lead on three songs but otherwise cede the spotlight to the Motown-inspired Rocha. Headliner Gizzelle will perform with guitarist Kevin O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Vargas, drummer Mario Perea, and pianist-bassist Victor Mendez. The Los Angeles-based singer wraps her huge voice around the band’s sparse rock licks, adding just the right amount of soulful growls. She counts Patsy Cline, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, and Etta James among her influences, and echoes of all these greats resonate in her swinging phrasing. But her tunes aren’t just museum pieces preserved in musical amber: as she belts out her rebellious lyrics, deploying the raw, seductive power of the rock, soul, pop, and country divas who came before her, her brassy punk swagger makes it all sound perfectly relevant for today.   v

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