By Ashley Harrell, SF Weekly Staff Writer
The two classical guitars sat helplessly before four levels of sold-out Warfield, a sinister cloud of white smoke swirling behind them. Painted on the high, domed ceiling, fleshy cherubs glanced down, seeming to offer pity but no salvation.
The guitars were about to take a serious beating.
When their assailants – Mexican guitar virtuosos Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero (a.k.a Rodrigo y Gabriela) – appeared on-stage, the audience roared Coliseum-style, then collectively discussed the sexiness of the heavy metal-cum-acoustic folk artists.
At the end of the millennia, RodGab were part of a Mexico City thrash metal outfit, Tierra Acida, in which Rodrigo was primarily responsible for the screaming. But the pair felt musically constrained, so they sold their electric guitars, packed their classical ones, and traveled Europe, where they created their own unique blend of heavy metal and acoustic with hints of flamenco. They cite Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeath and as influences.
At first, for lack of gigs, RodGab became buskers (the Euro word for street performers). They eventually landed in Dublin, where Damien Rice walked by, liked what he heard, and asked RodGab to open for him. From there, the duo’s raw, rhythmic style caught on fast, the second album went platinum in Ireland, and the rest is on wikipedia.
Saturday night, Gabriela had her sleek black hair pulled back, revealing giant wooden hoop earrings. Rodrigo’s thick, short mane seemed poofed for the occasion – RodGab’s third performance on their latest American tour. They wore jeans and tight, black shirts. Neither speaks fluent English, but both are proficient in the f-word.
They liked being in San Francisco again, even though Gabriela found it “fuckin’ cold.” “We don’t have any kind of fuckin’ set list,” Rodrigo explained after a brief intro, two songs from the band’s eponymous album, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and two winning Metallica covers, “One” and “Orion.”
“Free Bird,” somebody screamed.
Instead they played "FOC," one of their early songs that features Gabriela’s Flamenco-inspired rhythm guitar-drumming. In case audience couldn’t tell how fast her hands were moving, two giant screens behind the performers flashed to life mid-song, displaying a real-time close-up of the instruments. Gabriela slapped the strings, neck, and all around the sound hole with her knuckles, palms, and fingertips. It resembled a feverish and punishing form of musical sign language.
The second big screen showed us lead guitarist Rodrigo’s fingers scampering across the fret like a five-legged spider on Meth.
It took a second for the audience to realize the picture was live, and as soon as it did, the screens began to alternate between the images of the flying hands.
Her. His. Both. Hers. His. Both.
I’m not sure if RodGab are a couple – but if they are – I am sure of this: They give each other phenomenal hand jobs.
For Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” Rodrigo instructed the audience to provide the vocals, and he performed slides on his guitar with a bottle of Leffe beer.
“Are you fuckin’ ready?” he wanted to know. If the screams, along with the parade of emanating stenches – beer, weed, whisky, wine, and burrito – were any indication, then yes, the audience was fuckin’ ready.
The duo finished up with the best songs off of Rodrigo y Gabriela, including a cover of “Stairway to Heaven” and a “Diablo Roco” encore. Finally, the guitars could rest up for their next public spanking: Monday night, San Diego.