Black Sea Storm Shows at Teocintle

Oaxaca Part 2 — The Teocintle Shows

I was able to book La Jícara, and Teocintle shows from a distance while I was still in Mérida. Since my last visit to Oaxaca the previous year, I had kept in touch with Germán the young chef and owner of Teocintle. I am such a big fan of Teocintle. I put a thumbs up to all their posts on Facebook and Instagram. I think that they’re not getting the exposure they deserve yet. That is one of the reasons why I was highly motivated to play shows at Teocintle, thinking that having two rock events back to back at the restaurant will put the spotlights on the actual place at the local level.

Catching Up with Oaxaca

Shortly after arriving in Oaxaca, I went and visit the restaurant’s new location on Melchor Ocampo 116. Previously Teocintle was a part of the co-op called Corazon Etnico located on Independencia avenue, but it seems like things have turned south for the collective, and many have left the ship. After investigating a little bit, I found out that Corazon Etnico is no more. Within the structure, there was another restaurant along with Teocintle called Arugula. It turns out that Arugula is the last couple of a business left. They took on the lease of the whole place and paired up with a traditional art store called Kali ika Tlamamali.

What I love about Arugula is that they serve organic salads and juices for relatively accessible prices. During my visit last year, it was the perfect combo for me to have Teocintle and Arugula inside the same structure. There were days I will break my daily fast with Arugula’s organic green juice, have one of their organic salads, and then have the Teocintle gastronomic menu. With the prices both businesses had back then, I would walk out the door for 165 pesos/8US$. Today Teocintle and Arugula happen to be only a block apart from one and other, both still producing delicious meals. I wish the very best for both restaurants.

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Melchor Ocampo 116

Teocintle at their new location is now sharing the space with other creatives called Bestia Negra doing some severe ass-kicking art, using all sorts of techniques of impression to produce printed pieces. The more I am discovering Oaxaca’s cultural scene, the more I am convinced that this place is extremely abundant in terms of talented creative people.

The difference for Teocintle with the previous arcade situation is that this time around they have some entirely dedicated space within the structure to themselves. I am very much impressed by the way the young crew arranged the place with authentic furniture and authentic decorative elements from Oaxaca. Along the long and narrow entrance, they even took advantage of every inch square of soil available to plant herbs and vegetables that they later use in their delicious dishes.

Food

Talking about the dishes, they are beyond this planet in my humble opinion. It may be more correct to refer to their menu as a journey more than a list of eatable items. At each iteration through the daily changing journey, I feel like I am experiencing art rather than having a meal. With Teocintle, I feel like I am expanding the range of my palate. Teocintle’s creativity but also the uniqueness of the ingredients which can be found in Oaxaca play a big role in that. What the daily changing menu offers is beyond anything I would expect for 200 pesos/11$US. Yes, the prices have more than doubled compared to last year, but it is still a bargain considering what you get for that price in my opinion. In reality, the food at Teocintle deserves a whole separate write-up. What I can say for now is that what they do amazes me to the extreme. I have never seen a gastronomic menu at that level of perfection for relatively accessible prices before. I am astonished how they bring the traditional, the modern, and other techniques from elsewhere together and still manage to stay true to their Oaxacanian roots.

Young Team

Besides, the whole team members are in their early 20s. I think the future looks bright for their brand to make an impact on the local scene and perhaps beyond. The truth of the matter is that food, in general, is of very high quality in Oaxaca. Although the competition can be fierce. So far it is Teocintle by far that has impressed me the most. I really hope the young team will keep the enthusiasm and the excellent work ethic going and make progress as young chefs and as a business. Sooner or later, their hard work, combined with their exceptional talent, is going to pay off. That is my belief, at least.

Preparing the Event

Since we were about to put together the very first musical event at Teocintle, we needed to make sure we had everything we needed to make it happen. Germán was able to acquire a used Peavey Escort 300 P.A. Before La Jícara show I had invested in a stage mic. A Shure SM58, a standard when it comes to investing in a vocal mic for the long run for live performances. All we had missing was the mic stand. Since I am constrained by weight when I travel, especially when I am taking a low-cost flight a mic stand was something I did not want to buy. I convinced Germán that it would be a good investment along with the P.A for the upcoming events at Teocintle.

The First Show

I made it to the restaurant around 4:00 PM on Friday. Some cooking and event preparation action was going on at the same time. Space opened to the public at Teocintle is spliced into three parts. The long and narrow entrance connects with a broader area where there are the dining tables, space narrows down then opens up again on the third space with a sort of an arched altar at the end of it. Some parts have a sort of a roof some don’t. The idea was to have the show in that third space with the altar. The only inconvenience was that it was visually disconnected from the dining area. Someone dining could not visually enjoy the show at the same time.

We fairly quickly set up the P.A and did a soundcheck. The only missing element was the mic stand. We decided with Germán to go out and get one. I usually try to avoid this kind of last-minute situations when performing shows, but since I wasn’t the one purchasing this piece of equipment, this last purchase needed to be made an hour before the scheduled show. After going to several stores and not finding what we were looking for we went to the store where I had purchased the SM58.

I was kind of worried that the mic stand will cost more at a place like this one since they had musical equipment more geared towards professionals. I did not want that acquiring the mic stand be a financial burden for Germán, who is a chef and a restaurant owner and not a musician. Luckily we were able to get a right mic stand for a lower price than what I was expecting it to be. Paying cash always helps to get a discount at such stores in Mexico. With all my gear purchases so far in this country, I was able to lower the price by bargaining and paying cash with pesos.

Roci, my former landlord in Casa de la Montaña , when I stayed in Oaxaca last year, showed up with her mother, son, and daughter. Besides the entire Teocintle crew was there to watch the show. It really felt like playing in front of my family at a Sunday picnic. I had fun performing live and catching up with Roci and her family. Her son Rapha is very much into music. He seemed to dig the concert. If a 17-year-old thinks you’re listenable, that is an excellent sign and source of motivation to keep on rocking.

Despite the low turnout, we viewed the event as a successful one. At least now we knew that we could put an event together on our own. We had higher hopes for the next day, which was going to be Saturday night.

The Second Show

On my way to the venue, I was hit by the storm. Out of the six shows, I played so far in Mexico, four of them were affected by the rainy weather. Maybe I should have called this project The Aegean Sunshine rather than calling it Black Sea Storm. Getting a bit wet does not bother me that much, but it appears to be that it really affects the draw for shows. If it rains, people don’t seem to go out that much in this part of the world. It looks like most people do not invest in coats and umbrellas, because they can go by the whole year without having to use them.

This time around, we decided to set the stage where the main dining area is located. Not only I think it fitted the place better visually, but the acoustics were so much better. There was a roof, and there was an elevated area that served as a mini stage. The wall in front of the stage was angled, creating a very comfortable acoustic situation. I had good bass frequency coverage, and there was a subtle natural reverberation going on, without the sound being boomy. Besides, people could now dine, have a drink, and enjoy the show at the same time.

The draw was better than the night before. A good artist friend of mine Nancy showed up with one of her friends. Also, Vitor, who was introduced to me by Javed of Nanishe showed up. He had made it to La Jícara show, but when he arrived, I had just finished playing the last song on the set-list. Vitor is a musician, he helped me quite a bit with finding places to play in Oaxaca and good music stores as well. Some regular customers were present as well, and we had the entire Teocintle team and the friends they had invited for the occasion. Overall there was a decent crowd for a rainy night. I experienced a premiere for Black Sea Storm. There were encores at the end of the set. Three in total! It felt excellent to finish the show on a high note.

The Saturday After Party

After the show with all the crew of Teocintle, we hang out until four-thirty in the morning listening to some loud Norteño songs and painting a new mural for the restaurant. At times with that music in the foreground, I had the impression of being in San Diego. A mural and tattoo artist named PepePecas had an excellent idea to include all of us to paint his mural with him. I was really hesitant at first to paint. I guess I didn’t want to ruin his work. After getting my hands dirty, I realized that my worries were unnecessary. It was actually a lot of fun to paint altogether. After the painting session was over, I had my first cumbia lesson with a girl named Anita from a village located an hour and a half from the center of Oaxaca called Yanhuitlan. Never in this world, I would have thought that I could dance cumbia. I have to confess that Anita was an excellent teacher she was guiding me so I could anticipate the moves and the turns. I had such a great time dancing that cumbia may be something I may pursue while I am still in Latin America. Playing a show, socializing, painting, and dancing made me feel excellent actually. As I thought all the festivities were over. I was invited to come and eat Pozole the next morning at 10:30 AM.

The Sunday After Party

I was so excited about the idea of this second after-party, I even put my alarm on to not miss it. I made it to Teocintle a bit before noon. I realized that not drinking gives me an edge in these types of situations over the people who do drink. I was feeling fantastic, but all my friends who had Mezcal and Beer the night before they seemed really tired. The Pozole was cooking on charcoal fire. Visually the whole thing was so appealing. With my new lifestyle, I actually do not eat breakfast nor lunch, but for this cultural opportunity of great magnitude, I decided to make an exception. In addition to the Pozole Anita of Yanhuitlan had prepared some eggs with chorizo. Oh my goodness the dish was good with tortilas coming straight out of the comal. I was a bit shy to say it too loud how much I enjoyed Anita’s recipe since she wasn’t a chef or working in a restaurant, but it was by far the best chorizo with eggs I had in my life.

Great Fulfillment

What an amazing weekend it was! When experiencing moments like these, I am so grateful that I have chosen to dedicate a good part of my life to make my own music. How in the world I’d be able to have a weekend like this; meet really cool people, discover new things, and have a massive amount of fun if I wasn’t pursuing what I love the most in life. Playing music is an enormous investment in a way, but until now, it has always paid me back with the most precious things that life has to offer. Throughout my career, I have met the most exciting and inspiring people thank to performing my own music, and very often a lot of fun involved in the process.

Interestingly enough these types of situations rarely happened in my life when music wasn’t included. I don’t remember having so much fun with people I worked at an office, for example. I don’t want to overanalyze to why it is this way. It could be that music is acting as a social filter. Or maybe when we do what we love we tend to attract the right people with a similar mindset? Who knows? All I know, I am so happy that I picked up that red Ibanez guitar at my mom’s friend’s basement when I was 14 years old. It was definitely a significant turning point in my life.

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