Iguanas unleash rhythms for park 'n' rock crowd in the lot outside

Popular MUSIC

June 18, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Opening acts always complain about how hard it is to get an audience's attention. Talk to any musician who has spent time at the bottom of the bill, and sooner or later he or she will end up griping about having to play "while half the audience is still out in the parking lot.

Fortunately, that's not something the Iguanas have to worry about: When they open for Jimmy Buffett this summer, they'll be where the crowd can't miss 'em -- on a flatbed truck in the parking lot.

Why? As Iguanas saxophonist Derek Huston explains, it's all Buffett's idea.

"He had a band out with him last summer, Evangeline, and apparently the people with lawn seats would rush to get inside while the people with reserved seats would hang around outside," says Huston over the phone from a tour stop in Houston. "He wasn't convinced that was the best way to get people to see them. So we're out playing on the back of a truck in front of the gate to the place, because his fans are known for partying in the parking lot before the show.

"It's kind of crazy, but that's what we're doing."

Strange as it might sound, the party-in-the-parking-lot approach makes sense for a band like the Iguanas. As Huston admits, "That crowd likes to have fun." And the Iguanas are nothing if not a fun band.

Although its roots are in early R&B and blues rock, the Iguanas' sound is remarkably wide-ranging. Skip through the group's self-titled debut and you'll hear everything from swamp rock to Tex-Mex, from Louisiana zydeco to Colombian cumbia. It's a heady blend, but the music is always accessible, in large part because the band insists on keeping everything danceable.

"The music moves people -- physically makes them move," says Huston. "There's almost something subliminal about it, particularly with some of the cumbia grooves that are on our record. The music makes people dance who never danced. They're doing it before they realized they were doing it."

Huston adds that the band arrived at its sound simply by letting the individual members' musical roots shine through. Huston hails from Washington, D.C., where he was a member of the Uptown Rhythm Kings, playing music similar to what guitarist Rod Hodges and fellow saxophonist Joe Cabral were playing in Colorado. But Hodges and Cabral (who share vocal duties) also had in interest in Mexican and Colombian music, so that was added to the mix.

But the real spice in the Iguanas' musical gumbo stems from the rhythm section: bassist J. Rene Coman, drummer Willie Panker and percussionist Humberto "Pupi" Menez. "Rene is the only New Orleans native in the band," says Huston. "Doug is from Memphis and Pupi is from Cuba. So our rhythm section are from three different places where the groove has always been the essential element in the music."

In addition to playing the parking lot with Buffett, the Iguanas have also been playing club dates where possible (the band will be at Steeltown Saturday). "It's nice to have the combination of doing both things," says Huston. "With the first album being out and all, we're trying to play as often as we can and just try and get in front of as many people as we can.

"But the club dates have been great. Every single one of them has been really rocking."


When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Steeltown, North Point Plaza

Tickets: $3

Also opening for Jimmy Buffett.

When: 6 p.m. tonight, Saturday, Sunday

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia

Tickets: Sold out

Call: (410) 288-3400 for Steeltown; (410) 730-2424 for Merriweather

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