Upon arriving to the Very Be Careful concert at the Barn, I had an initial idea of what I was getting myself into. I had listened to the genre of Cumbia music beforehand and I entered the venue with an open mind and open arms to learn about Colombian culture.
When I entered, I saw that the stage was set up with a plethora of different instruments and vibrant lights glaring down upon them. I couldn’t help but notice that the people surrounding me were of all ages. Of the UCR students coming to view the band, the majority of the guests at the Barn that night were of a much older crowd.
Soon after I arrived, opener Quita Penas took the stage. The band quickly introduced themselves and jumped right into the first song. The steady beat of drums, rhythmic percussion instruments and blaring saxophone blasted through the speakers, but the fluid sound of the accordion was the most unique instrument I heard.
Quita Penas hails from San Bernardino and plays the traditional Cumbia music that is quite popular in Colombia. Despite the band’s energy at the beginning of their set, many of the guests, including myself, started out shy and stood still and far from the stage. After a couple of songs, the band started to encourage the guests to dance while they played one of their popular songs, “Papaya.” The audience burst out of its comfort zone and started to dance, and at the end of the act, everyone chanted for an encore.
After a short break, the headlining band, Very Be Careful, arrived on stage. Once they began to play, not one person in the Barn remained still. Everyone danced with friends, their significant others or just with strangers. The thumping of the drums matched my heartbeat and the fast-paced rhythm was perfect for the audience to dance.
I appreciated the band’s purely instrumental performance the most. Most popular music these days is often autotuned and uses computer recordings as a source of beat, but Very Be Careful was able to express their talent through the use of their unique instruments. The band’s repertoire included an accordion, bass, cowbell, the guacharaca (wooden bell) and Caja Vallenata (drums).
The band interacted with the crowd by talking to the audience and cracking jokes after every song they played, which made the crowd eager to hear more. After the first song, one of the members, Ricardo Guzman, told the crowd, “I want everyone to take four steps forward towards the stage.” The audience followed Guzman’s directions and moved so close that some guests were nearly dancing on stage with the band.
After a few songs, I couldn’t help but feel that almost every song sounded similar and extremely hard to tell apart from one another. After the first half of the act, other guests started to feel the same way. First-year Michael Rozinka reflected, “The band was very enthusiastic and fun to dance to, but every song was very repetitive and sounded almost exactly the same. I preferred the opening act instead.”
I wasn’t surprised that Very Be Careful was able to easily hype up their crowd. The band has been around since 1997 and has released nine albums of Colombian Vallenato music. Their most recent album, “Remember Me From The Party?” was released in 2012 and was being sold at the venue.
I left the Barn that evening feeling glad that I attended the concert. Very Be Careful gave an enthusiastic performance that allowed the audience to let loose, dance and interact with others with the same musical taste. Although I prefer the genre of alternative music, Very Be Careful opened my eyes to a nice change and an opportunity to learn more about genre of Cumbia music.