If you watched last night’s CONCACAF Champions League match against Violette, you saw one of the most pathetic displays in Austin FC’s nascent history. You saw Rodney Redes push his career goal differential to -21 in competitive games. You saw Amro Tarek score an own goal that was awe-inspiring in both its execution and its ineptitude. Generally speaking, you saw 90 minutes of disjointed, aimless soccer that was an abject embarrassment to Josh Wolff, the players who took the field, and the entirety of MLS.
But if you closed your eyes (perhaps with your head buried in your hands, as we did with increasing frequency during the second half), you were given an unexpected treat: the delightful musical stylings of a group of fans in Estadio Cibao FC.
We don’t have the adequate technical vocabulary to describe what this group sounded like. Indeed, we imagine that it would take at least two advanced degrees in ethnomusicology (combined with extensive field research) to be able to properly categorize their sound. So perhaps you should just hit play on the little media doohickey below and hear for yourself:
“An old-timey circus calliope falling down a flight of stairs” probably comes closest to describing the vibe, though we would also accept “demented mariachi,” “the music that plays when you battle Satan himself in the final level of Cuphead,” or “what it sounded like in Hunter S. Thompson’s brain when he walked through a Las Vegas casino ripped to the gills on ether and everyone started turning into lizards.” But however you want to describe it, one thing is for certain: this band fucking slayed.
For starters, their energy was off the charts. To bring that level of enthusiasm to their music would be commendable regardless of circumstance, but to do in a neutral-site stadium that was at maybe 10% capacity is incredible. And sure, they didn’t play for the full 90 minutes, but the first rule of showmanship is to always leave the audience wanting more.
Second, there was a general air of mystery about them. To wit, we have no idea what instruments they were playing or in what numbers. There were some drums(?) and some horns that may or may not have been vuvuzelas and a few hand-held percussion instruments, but it is impossible for us to narrow it down beyond that. As for the size of the band, you could tell us any number between 5 and 25 and we would believe you. Here at The False 9 compound we stayed up all night breaking down the gametape one frame at a time like the Zapruder film in an attempt to get quality crowd shots of the band, and we came up empty. We also don’t know if this particular style of music is rooted in Haitian soccer culture or if the Violette fans in the stands found it as unique as we did at home. And for that matter, we don’t even know if the band was made up of Violette fans. It’s conceivable that they were just a handful of Dominican natives looking to catch a soccer game on a Tuesday night, who just so happened to bring their horns and shaky-scrapey things.
But most importantly of all, their songs were just really good and quite creative. A friend of ours noted that the band would not sound out of place doing a daytime set at some Red River dive bar during SXSW, and we could not agree more. While their setlist had a smattering of global soccer classics such as “Ole Ole Ole,” the majority of it was sui generis. Follow-up YouTube searches for Haitian soccer songs and chants have come up empty so far, but we can already tell that finding more music like this will be a budding obsession for us.
So here’s to you, La Murga de Santiago. If nothing else, you helped to drown out Alexi Lalas on the broadcast, and for that we will be forever in your debt.