Sunday 23 April, 2006, The Market House Pub, 7.30pm. I'd jotted this date in my diary a while back, and had been looking forward to it quite a bit. Glastonbury local boys Tijuana were coming home on the final leg of their tour, and I'd had it on good authority that they were a "band to watch".
Now, a lot of the time when you hear that hideously over-used phrase, the grim reality is that you're met with either:
|Tijuana kick back before the gig|
a) a bunch of post-pubescent whingers and prima-donnas who occasionally strum a guitar or bash a cymbal with an element of panache, or
b) a band cobbled together by various producers and record executives after hours of soul-destroying reality television auditions, run on primetime Saturday night TV slots.
However, I'd heard some good things about Tijuana. I'd checked their website, and I must confess to having my interest piqued by their unique blend of jazz-rap-rock music (razzrock, maybe? Is there a name for such a genre?) and their claim to be "the best band to come out of Somerset, EVER". Hmm. We would see...
|"A lot of bands nowadays just play music, but I think the music means less without that message."|
|Miguel Santana da Silva|
I met up with the band just before their set, and the tour looked like it had taken its toll on them - the lads looked absolutely shattered. Not surprising, considering they played a gig last night in Bradford-upon-Avon. Yet they had an air of energy about them, a youthful cheerfulness and a genuine optimism for the gig they were about to play.
"The Market House is our home crowd. We always look forward to playing it because we tend to get a good crowd and a great atmosphere," explains Jake Meeking, one of the band's two main vocalists and the lead guitarist.
|Jake Meeking - lead guitar/vocals|
The band as we know it started a year and a half ago, with the arrival of their second lead singer, Portugese rapper Miguel Santana Da Silva. Prior to that Jake, drummer Glenn Hampson, and bassist Dan Longmire had played support gigs throughout Glastonbury and the surrounding area, but with Miguel's arrival the band really took off.
Tijuana are a very politically motivated group - their lyrics smack of anti-Bush and anti-corporate sympathies, a fact that songwriter Miguel attributes to the influence of Rage Against The Machine's Zach De La Rocha.
When talking about Towers of Disguise - a song laced with vitriol and anti-war sentiment that criticises the US reaction to the 9/11 attacks - Miguel told me: "It's something that's affected everyone, and we wanted to put our message across. A lot of bands nowadays just play music, but I think the music means less without that message."
|Glenn Hampson - drums|
All four boys attend St Dunstan's secondary school, where they met, and are friends first, bandmates second. There certainly is an easy camaraderie and chemistry between the four of them, and as tour manager Kev Ollier points out: "When these guys have creative differences it's great fun to watch. The arguments can get pretty hectic but two minutes later, they're all laughing and joking again."
Anyway, on to the gig. I'd been warned by Kev that they may take a song or two to warm up, so when I found myself blinking in disbelief as they launched into their opening number - signature song Tijuana Blues - I began to think he had told a little white lie.
After all, the band had come pretty close to blowing me away during their sound-check alone. It's a rare occasion when the band has to tell the applauding crowd that they hadn't started playing yet, and they were just testing the equipment.
|Miguel Santana Da Silva - vocals|
So, when the show actually did start, the crowd in the Market House went completely silent. Despite being smaller than usual - it being a Sunday night - there was no loss of atmosphere. In fact, the place was electric. Tijuana have such a strong local following that any Glastonbury gig is guaranteed to be great, regardless of the day of the week.
With knockout tracks Resolution and Towers of Disguise hitting the bill as well, the band completely and utterly knocked me senseless. I've seen gigs by veteran professional bands that come nowhere near the energy, dedication and sheer impact that these four lads have when they are on stage.
|Dan Longmire - bass guitar|
If the pressure wasn't enough, the "addition" of a topless drunken customer to the lineup (during a particularly bouncy cover of The Who's My Generation) gave the boy's professionalism a true test of their mettle and focus. They did not skip a beat - even as the gatecrasher was shepherded out of the bar by the pub's landlord and manager.
To sum up, the whole experience was phenomenal. NEVER have I been so impressed by an unsigned band, and for them to be so young and yet still doing so well for themselves - their second EP is being recorded later this year - is mind-blowing.
Yet the boys and their crew are staying focused, and are content with their pub-circuit status. Dave, the band's road manager, pointed out to me: "There is no rush to get signed. We'd rather spend a few years on the circuit, get more experience.
|Watch out for these guys!|
"The boys want to go to college, get their BTECs in musical performance. We're not even considering labels at the minute."
But when the time does come for Tijuana to really hit the album charts, all I can say to the general public is this:
Watch out. Tijuana are going to be HUGE.