This past Tuesday, Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela took the stage of the Egyptian Room at the Old National Center. Performing in Indy for their first time in four years, Rodrigo Y Gabriela is currently on tour in support of their newest album “9 Dead Alive.” The sound of Rodrigo Y Gabriela is one that is very difficult to describe, with expertly mixed elements of rock, flamenco and jazz. With just the two of them on stage, they blend the sounds of their individual guitars in ways that sound like a full band is present.
Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero grew up together in Mexico where, meeting as teenagers, they began a journey of playing music together that spans over 25 years. Their roots can be seen in covers of Metallica and Led Zeppelin, music that drew them in as kids. They mastered covers to play to tourists, but eventually decided it was time to move. They headed to Dublin, Ireland and as street performers they caught the attention of Damien Rice who helped the duo get a manager and begin booking shows.
What is most notably important about Rodrigo Y Gabriela is their unique style of playing music. With roots in megadeath and rock, they wanted to create a sound that felt like a full band was performing, while keeping their talent to just the two of them.
What stands out as most unique and expressive is the way that Gabriela plays her guitar, not as just a string instrument but also as a percussion instrument. Extremely tight and fast hand movements allow her to simultaneously strum the guitar while plucking at its wooden walls with her fingers, generating a popping sound like a drum. This, when paired with Rodrigo’s intricate guitar playing makes them sound much fuller, richer in sound.
When Rodrigo Y Gabriela took the stage at the Egyptian Room, everybody’s faces lit up. They were last in town about four years ago to play the Vogue and, from what I hear, that show was amazing, but nothing compares to the acoustics at the Egyptian Room. Their sound was so full and unyielding for just two performers.
Scanning the crowd, I noticed that hardly anybody was dancing, but rather standing with their mouth open in complete awe at the skill of these two performers. At several points throughout the show they stopped to talk to the audience, telling us about the tour they have been on and discussing the music they were playing. At the end Gabriela joked about how she has never had time to record lessons on her unique style of playing, something she wished she had the time to do. That being said, she then gave us all a quick demo on one of her signature moves.
At the end of the show, the overall feel from the crowd was much different from any other show I have been too. People often exit with some kind of discontent because the band was off or they didn’t play a favorite song or they played too short of a set. This time, there was nothing but smiles for miles from every fan in attendance, and with good cause.
Though Rodrigo Y Gabriela may not have as big of a US following as they should, their sound is never underappreciated. Considering the duo can fill 50,000 person-capacity soccer stadiums in Mexico, the Wembley arena in London and the Hollywood Bowl in LA, getting the chance to be five rows from the stage in our very own Egyptian Room was a very humbling experience. I certainly hope to catch them again in the near future.