Presenting…Los Saicos

Left to right: Rolando “El Chino” Carpio, César “Papi” Castrillón, Erwin Flores and Francisco “Pancho” Guevara.

A 60s Peruvian garage band, on an NYC-themed blog? Yes, it does sound a bit odd, but allow me to explain. While the goal of this blog was to dig a bit further into the garage punk scene in NYC during a certain period of time. In a lot of ways, the posts are intrinsically linked to my own unique NYC experiences. And foremost among those is the odd combination of identifying as a native-born NYer, with 100% Peruvian parents. Each side seeming to contradict each other. Even more so when it came to music.

While the garage scene was a godsend for a kid looking to belong somewhere, it was also interesting to be in a situation where there were no other Hispanics…in NYC!! A situation mirrored by my good buddy Larry, who happened to be the only African-American at the time. While the scene was extremely welcoming, we could not help but be quietly wonder why we didn’t see others like us in that setting. It was only natural that the discovery of bands like Death and Los Saicos were really important cultural markers for us in those pre-internet days.

As I mentioned in a post two years ago, one of the highlights of a visit to my mom’s family home in Lima was a visit to the place Los Saicos used to hang out. Now marked by a small plaque. Which makes the following announcement all the more surreal, but just as meaningful.

On April 27, 2019, Bushwick’s Market Hotel, in conjunction with Rockass Online, and this website, will present César “Papi Saico” Castrillón performing with Los Sadicos. Tickets are on sale now and readers of this blog are encouraged to take advantage of the pre-sale, which ends this Friday, February 8th. Presale link HERE

Los Garajeros de Peru

Demoler BookYes, garage music is everywhere. Even in South America. While visiting my mom’s family a few years back in Lima, Peru. I made a point to pick up Demoler, a book by Peruvian Carlos Torres Rotundo on the history of the rock scene in Peru from ’57-’75. Although fluent in Spanish, I put it down shortly after buying it from just the sheer effort required to read it. A few weeks ago, after finishing Richard Hell’s bio of his punk years, I decided to start working my way through it again. Boy, did it pay off. The book gives a wonderfully colorful and detailed picture of the era. Here are some choice nuggets.

The section on Los Saicos explains how they recorded most of their genre-defining output with folkloric-recording engineers who decided it was best to just plug them straight into the tape machine directly, lest their howling amps fry their equipment. Or, how for their first performance, Los Saicos were invited to the illustrious Cacodispe music festival, only to perform “Come On” and have the capacity crowd respond in dead silence after they finished. After they started gaining some notoriety, the gigs started increasing at a furious pace. Using an old truck with Los Saicos hand painted on one of the doors, the band did five to ten performances every Sunday in local theaters. Every promoter wanted a piece of them.

Saicos Plaque
A plaque honoring Los Saicos in the Lince neighborhood of Peru.

Another more tragic tale relates how the popular Golden Boys’ drummer, “Chacal” Allison became destitute and homeless in later years and survived only through the good graces of other former beat group members. Aware of his fragile existence, the older rockeros often gathered together and did benefits for their lost musical brother.

Yet another anecdote described what happened when Los Shains first performed “El Monstruo” (aka The Crusher) to a matinee audience. As the singer growled “I’m a monster, I will destroy you…” a heckler yelled out “Hey fucker, blame your mom for that!” Which naturally led the singer and guitarist to promptly jump off the stage and pummel the offending audience member. The song was never performed live again—just in case any similar incidents were to occur.

Astounding material.