Cuco @ The Fonda Theatre

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After months of physical and emotional recovery from the band’s traumatic October tour bus collision, I am proud to report that Cuco has made a strong comeback with the sold out SoCal shows, Los Shows de San Valentin! Fans have been hungrily awaiting his return to the stage and the fervor was palpable in the Fonda’s valentines day crowd. At 9pm the line to get into the theater was around the block and by his set at 10:45pm the crowd was buzzing. When the curtain rose and Cuco dawned the stage, front row fans were fighting for his attention - yelling at the band to look at them and trying to give Cuco flowers. Cuco expressed that the hype was mutual as he is a proud LA native, excited to be doing a hometown show again. From the photography gate I could see that the designated backstage area was totally packed with Cuco’s hometown entourage. At this point, he asked the audience to get loud for three reasons:

“1. Because we’re LA! 2. Because we’re LA! 3. BECAUSE WE’RE LA!”
Then one of his band members ran across the stage waving a large Mexican flag, which prompted a roar of pride from the largely Latinx crowd. This set the tone for the rest of the evening. The show was to be a celebration of love (being valentines), of life (Cuco’s healthy return), and of culture (WE ARE LA!). The audience sang along to every word, in both spanish and english. Being a biracial Latina myself, hearing the overwhelming pride from the crowd followed by their passionate engagement with intermixed spanish and english lyrics was empowering. Cuco, carrying a water bottle as an accessory throughout the show, frequently thanked and apologized to the audience for performing through a cold. Despite his illness, he sang with arms open wide and played with the audience. He harmonized with us on the line “you're my sueño” in “Lo Que Siento” and released an elongated, distorted “aaaaaahhhh” after one of his ballads of desire: “Sunnyside”.

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In addition to Cuco being sick, the Fonda’s crew seemed to be having an off night. The stage monitors were blasting so loud that Cuco sang his first several songs holding his hand to his right ear to deafen the noise. Later in the set mid-song, Cuco realized his trumpet was not on stage when he needed it, which the rest of the band dealt with by vamping and inserting a guitar riff while Cuco ran off stage and grabbed it. He then sound checked himself and they picked up smoothly, right where they had left off. These mishaps probably went unnoticed by most viewers, but everyone could hear that the reverb and distortion were not removed from Cuco’s mic while he was directly addressing the audience in between songs. Britt Jacobson, an attendee of the show who is a USC student studying live event production, said, “there should’ve been a separate PA mic” to be used “while he was trying to speak normally to the audience. [The soundcrew] also just weren’t following cues, like they would start playing tracks and the artists had to ask them a few times to restart the tracks.” She and I were both surprised as we each have seen many seamless shows at The Fonda. Cuco and the rest of his band handled these setbacks with grace, which is a true testament to the band’s professionalism.

The mishaps did not affect the audience because when house lights came on during “Summer Time High Time”, everyone was dancing. Everyone listened attentively when Cuco played a brand new, unreleased song for us that rings quintessentially Cuco, a love ballad featuring his snuggly vocals with trumpets scoring the background. The visuals also perfectly fit the vibe. A mixture of psychedelic and lo fi patterns were projected on the backdrop while huge glittery hearts floated above the stage; a large “Cuco” banner was the hanging center piece. Cameras set up to the right of the stage captured Cuco’s restrained dance motions and superimposed them onto the projected patterns, creating an active, wavy visual. He closed the show humbly saying, "We were very nervous to get back in the van, to get back - you know - after such a moment. So for us to be here, in the presence of every single one of you, it means everything to us. And whether you guys have been here since the backyard shows, whether you found out about my music two weeks ago, I love every one of you. Because of you, I’m able to provide for my family.”

Before he and the rest of the band could exit, the audience already began chanting his name to bring Cuco back on stage for an encore! He dutifully exited only to quickly return to play “CR-V”. Cuco stopped the already playing track upon noticing Tito, a boy who can’t be more than 13 years old, who apparently performed with them at Coachella. Cuco and the other band members helped lift him past the photogate and onto the stage. The crowd surged forward as they finally launched into the band’s big bop, “CR-V”. After concluding the song, the band lingered on stage, waving the Mexican flag high in the air and capturing selfie videos with the sold out audience. It truly was a warm welcome back to Cuco.

Jordan Kessler, DJ

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