LA/LA Land : Post Valentine magic from Sin Color in a film studio

Features La/La Land

Crisia Regalado and David Aquino know how to stretch the romance of Valentine’s Day for at least one more night; they produced a post-Valentine’s concert in a film studio in downtown LA on February 15 that kept the romance alive with light, music and serenatas.

Crisia and David are the core of Sin Color, a band started when they were teenagers (they have just barely left that cohort) built around Crisia’s opera-trained voice and David’s awesome music and composing chops. The result is a unique form of pop music that mashes up opera, synth, bossa nova, disco, cumbia, salsa and traditional Mexican regional music. It is fun, energetic, romantic and like nothing you have ever heard.

Sin Color is sometimes just the two of them, or it can be a full band with a keyboardist/bass player and a rhythm guitarist, or it can be what they call the Sin ColOrquestra which includes a 10-piece orchestra and two professional dancers. They sing in English and Spanish and have a fanatical following which skews towards young Latinas who identify with the very diminutive Crisia and her huge, huge voice. David, the band’s electric guitarist, percussionist, composer and  co-music director, also brings in his share of fans.

The scene that night was magic.  Civic Center Studios (CCS) is a film and video studio complex in the heart of Los Angeles with a sound stage, shooting stages, an rooftop location that overlooks LA. It can accommodate a full movie crew and has lightening equipment, special effects, and rooms for costume, makeup, meetings, etc. It is used by production companies for music videos, commercials, major films, high-end still shoots, and from time to time is converted into a music venue, which is what happened Thursday night.

A key part of the CCS complex is a long, high-ceilinged sound staged with curved white walls and projection equipment. Into this was brought a bar, cocktail tables and stools, and a stage with full sound and lights. The tables were decorated with candles and hearts and heart-shaped balloons which also adorned  the stage, the bar and the sound and light equipment racks. Room lightening was kept low and the walls were drenched by the projectors in moving rainbow colored lights that looked like rain.  Fans tricked in early, took selfies in the photo booth, and gathered around the tables or in small groups. The room was mellow, romantic and relaxed for the very low-key warmup acts, Elia and Magic Marie.Cumbia Jam by Sin Color, Civic Centre Studios

That all changed when Sin Color took the stage. The mellow romantic mood took flight as the rainbow light drops gave way to a deep-space starry night and the band was bracketed by flashing strobes and rotating lasers. Crisia’s voice hit the highest of notes while David drove the room at full tilt on the tom- tom, snare and cymbals, backed by a dancing rhythm guitar and thrumming bass.  Smooching gave way to head-bobbing as the band launched into the Latin-tempoed  “Semenjante” and “Tentacion” followed by the mesmerizing “Pensamiento” from Sin Color’s Frutas album” all with Crisia’s voice sailing like a rocket over the music, hitting notes unheard outside of a classical concert hall.

The beat slowed down and the romance factor went up with “Antes de Amarte” (Before I Love You) and “Unknown Kiss”. Then the lights went way down and turned deep romantic red as Crisia disappeared and her guitarist played solos. She returned in a colorful flowered off-shoulder regional Mexican dress. She and the guitarist parted the crowd on the floor and moved to the first of the three decorated cocktail tables occupied by young couples and serenaded them lovingly in Spanish.

Crisia was following the centuries-old Mexican custom of las serenatas wherein a boy and his musician friends play and sing deeply romantic songs at the window of his girlfriend. Crisia’s songs were traditional Mexican serenatas with -deep-from-the-heart words of undying love sung in melodies that would have fit well in the soundtrack of Coco. But as a woman she upended the custom and brought them into the modern world. Regardless of what world they were in, the couples at the table melted – and shot video with their phones.

The serenading pair moved on to the next table for two songs and then to the final table, surrounded by a cell-camera-wielding crowd who seemed to have no effect on the couples being feted.  One serenaded woman I spoke to afterward said it was the most magical date she had ever been on.

After the serenatas – six in all – Crisia remounted the stage, still in her Mexican off-shoulder dress, and ramped the energy back up with “Cumbia Jam” and then wrapped up the night with a second cumbia-based song, ”La Siguranaba”, both from the Frutas album. However, before the band could exit the stage, cries of “otra” (another) pulled them back on for the final song, the album’s title track, “Frutas”.

The house lights came up, the colored lights again splashed the walls, and the fans queued outside Crisia’s dressing room for selfies, hugs and autographs. Entwined couples wandered outside, still seeing the world with the rainbow drops in their eyes and serenatas in their ears. I heard one couple say on their way out that this was the best Valentines ever and they wished they could do it again. Maybe next year.  Magic happens when you are in love.

Patrick O’Heffernan

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