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Rodrigo y Gabriela at Mountain Winery

In Music
HEAVY META: Mexican acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela make jazz, metal and classical compositions all their own.

HEAVY META: Mexican acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela make jazz, metal and classical compositions all their own.

Though rooted in acoustic flamenco guitar, the music of Mexico City-based duo Rodrigo y Gabriela is open to—and draws from—the entirety of popular and traditional music. 

Across more than two decades, six studio albums, three live releases, three EPs and countless live dates across the globe, Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero have bent the music of other artists into what some have called their “acoustic speed metal” style. 

While they primarily play original music, the duo’s choice of covers provide a window into their all-encompassing musical worldview. Bay Area metal heroes Metallica were one of the first to get the Rod y Gab treatment, their classic anti-war single “One” appearing on the duo’s major label debut, 2002’s Re-Foc

Alongside metal, the musical omnivores have recast plenty of other styles in their own inimitable sound, including Paul Desmond (“Take Five”), Led Zeppelin (“Stairway to Heaven”) and Pink Floyd, whose early, epic-length masterwork “Echoes” received a mesmerizing acoustic reading complete with the song’s signature ping tones at start and finish.

In 2019, the duo earned a Grammy for their album Mettavolution (Best Contemporary Instrumental Album), and embarked on a widely-acclaimed tour in support. When their 2020 tour was sidelined by the pandemic, the pair released Mettavolution Live, an album which clearly captures the excitement of a Rod y Gab concert.

“On the best nights,” Sánchez says, “the audience is part of the band. It’s the energy we draw from the fans, I think, that makes the difference.”

Live albums are sometimes stopgap projects—something for the fans when there’s no new music ready for release—but that’s not the case for Sánchez and Quintero. Far from idle since their tour was interrupted, recent months have also seen the release of two new thematic EPs, Jazz and Mettal.

“Anyone who knows us will understand that we both listen to lots of different kinds of music,” explains Sánchez. “We are long time fans of Astor Piazzolla. We used to play his ‘Libertango’ a lot in the early days.” 

Jazz also features reinventions of contemporary phenoms like Kamasi Washington (“Street Fighter Mas”) and Snarky Puppy (“Lingus”). 

“We are fans, first and foremost,” he says. “The challenge—and the fun—is taking those songs and arranging them for two guitars.”

Before teaming up in 2000, Rod y Gab both played electric guitar in metal bands. The Mettal EP revisits those roots. Another Metallica tune, “Battery,” is joined by interpretations of songs by both Megadeth and Slayer that, in the duo’s hands, display a melodic depth equal to their formidable power. 

“That generation of thrash-metal bands are absolutely integral to the history of Rodrigo y Gabriela,” Sánchez says. “We knew it had to be 100% sincere and respectful as a tribute.”

The duo also recently launched a Patreon platform, Music From the Field. “It has been an outlet for all different kinds of musical experimentation,” Sánchez says, “from covering Dua Lipa and taking on Nina Rota’s music from The Godfather.” 

That eclectic approach is likely to continue for him and his musical partner. 

“I wouldn’t rule out future genre-based EPs,” he says. “We are both endlessly curious about music.”

And while Covid-19 may have interfered with the duo’s plans, Rodrigo Sánchez makes it clear that they have maintained plenty of momentum.

“When the pandemic happened, we moved to doing sessions online to reach the fans,” he says. 

In addition to those sessions—broadcast from “The Spaceship,” the duo’s purpose-built studio in Ixtapa—plus the live album and the pair of EPs, they’ve released yet another recent recording. Rod y Gab’s latest single is a sublime version of “Te Extraño,” written by acclaimed Mexican composer Armando Manzanero.

“His music was a constant on radio and TV at home when we were kids,” Sanchez says.

The current limited run of live performances is part of the duo’s continued forward motion.

“Building The Spaceship and doing online sessions every week kept us sharp,” Sanchez says. “But we’re excited to be back out on tour, and we’re feeling very positive about the future of our music.”

Rodrigo y Gabriela
Sun, 7:30pm, $49+
The Mountain Winery, Saratoga

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