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People fill the seats, their spirits bolstered by the open bar. The house lights go down, and Lanzallamas Monofónica takes the stage. As the band tears into one of its signature grooves, slowly evolving into an all-out, awe-inspiring jam, lasers fill the space. No, this isn't Transit Lounge. Nor is it upstairs at the Van Dyke. Actually, you've never seen a spectacle so huge from this seminal Miami jam band — or any other local crew for that matter.
This Saturday's Lanzallamas show at the Miami Science Museum's planetarium is a notably ambitious undertaking. In part, it's meant to help fund the completion of the band's first album, Afro-Latin America-World Beat Mezcla. But it's also intended as a gateway to the next phase of the septet's evolution.
"This, for us, is a culmination of the music that we've been working on for the past three or four years," founder Fabi Patino explains. "And now we have an opportunity to take our audience to this other place."
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Talented and boisterous Cuban drummer Ivan Palma adds, "It's also an opportunity for us to put together a theater- or an arena-style concert. And I see it as giving something back to our fans."
"It's going to be a big stepping stone for us," Patino continues. "We're taking steps now that top acts take, which are a scripted show, with cues, a concept, a story, a flow. When you go see Pink Floyd or whoever in a live show, you see that it's got that flow. And that's what we're trying to do — what we are doing — to take ourselves to that level."
But artistic evolution aside, there's that other motive: Lanzallamas needs cash to finish its debut disc, which until now has been paid in small installments.
"The album's almost finished," Palma says. "We just have a few final details to go. But that takes money. And we have no record label behind us." However, he's quick to point out, "We have got people who've been incredibly generous, though."
"People who truly believe," nods Puerto Rican keyboardist Camilo Rafael Sierra.
"You can't tell a musician like that: 'Hey, get into our project,'" Palma says. "It has to come from him, as a naturally blossoming thing. And I remember the first time we played the music for him in the studio, I saw his face, and his whole demeanor changed. To grab somebody like that, at that level, it's like, 'OK, we're in!'"
But even with big ideas and bigger backers, Lanzallamas Monofónica's success has been hard-won. The climb first began when Patino left his home in Mexico, launching a ten-year tour through Miami's musical landscape.
"My very first band was Pi y la Política del Alma," he laughs. "After that came Luz Dharma, which was another band I put together. After that was Elastika Beat."
But without U.S. citizenship or a visa, Patino found his opportunities limited. He was stuck in the States and forced to turn down frequent opportunities abroad. Instead of viewing it as a setback, though, he simply saw it as another opportunity.
"It made me focus on writing. I said, 'You know, I can't travel. I can't go outside of here right now. So let me just focus on writing music — original music. And that became my journey."
In a steady stream of consciousness, he describes his own growth as well as the expansion of our burgeoning local music scene with homegrown bands such as Suenalo, Locos por Juana, Spam Allstars, and Lanzallamas. He spins a history about the early days of this scene, circa 2000, when Monkey Village wasn't yet a collective. Back then, the Village was Nathan Greenberg's Little Havana house-turned-studio where local musicians such as Jean P Jam, Jesse Jackson, and Michelle Forman would often record.
"We'd just start these jams," Patino recalls, "and all of a sudden, it was, like, 15 people in the room playing. So Phil [Maranges] had this idea: 'Dude, why don't we just get a place and do a show?' And that was the beginning of Suenalo.
"From that Suenalo, we get the nucleus of what today is Lanzallamas, Xperimento, Locos por Juana. And it influenced the younger bands, like ArtOfficial, Bachaco, Elastic Bond."
Of course, Patino eventually left Suenalo to do his own thing, just as Itagui Correa decamped before him to focus on Locos por Juana. Linking past to present, Patino says, "Lanzallamas is the landing spot for me from that journey of ten years. And Lanzallamas has already had a couple of generations. But this one, I feel, is the one."