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Los Amigos Invisibles riff on racy themes with tongues firmly in someone else's cheek; Gratitude -- copycat emo act or earnest effort of a seasoned vet?

Hotblooded Venezuelan dance band Los Amigos Invisibles is a funky oddity in its homeland, but a natural fit in its adopted city of New York, where it resides under the watchful eye of Luaka Bop label boss David Byrne. Its recent release, The Venezuelan Zinga Son Vol. 1(which songwriter Jose Pardo once told me loosely translates into an epic fuckfest), continues the band's superstition of always name-checking Venezuela in its album titles, as well as its mission to get people jamming. Whether covering obscure disco ditties or crafting their own dense offerings (lately with the assistance of house music superproducers Masters at Work), Los Amigos riff on racy themes with tongues firmly in someone else's cheek. Try to keep your clothes on when they bring the zinga to Bimbo's on Friday, April 15; call 474-0365 or visit www.bimbos365club.com for more info. -- Tamara Palmer


According to its Web site, Gratitude has only played one show in its hometown of San Francisco, back in October of last year. Knowing that, you probably wouldn't think the band would have a major-label deal with Atlantic, but such is the case. It makes some sense, though. Vocalist/songwriter Jonah Matranga fronted emo hopefuls Far throughout the '90s (preceding the emo explosion by a decade, it's worth noting) before doing the solo thing as onelinedrawing, a more stripped-down (and frankly better) indie vehicle. Both bands got this close to blowing up, but never did. Perhaps Matranga's just sick of paying his dues, and with 15 years' experience under his belt, he's finally in a position to grab that brass ring. That is, if he can find the fans. Gratitude's music is unapologetically emo, packed with jet-propelled choruses as catchy as they are squeaky-clean. When Matranga sings, "All right, all right," on "Drive Away," the lead single on his band's not-half-bad self-titled debut, it sounds exactly like the "All right, all right" on the chorus of Jimmy Eat World's smash hit single "The Middle" (seriously, check it out; it's kind of creepy). And so the question must be asked: Is Gratitude the latest copy-of-a-copy emo act trying to cash in, or the earnest effort of a seasoned vet? Decide for yourself when the band plays its second-ever show in S.F. on Sunday, April 17, opening for Straylight Run at the Great American Music Hall; call 885-0750 or go to www.gamh.com for more info.-- Garrett Kamps

 
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