Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico
May 26, 2021
The big show at Xcaret is in a huge enclosed arena that we walked by every day to and from the hotel. It has an open air design allowing the breeze to come in like a giant beach palapa, sort of, maybe a photo will help. So after a couple days of walking by we timed one of our adventures to end with the start of the show. The Browns got there about an hour early and found great seat right on “the fifty yard line” with our back up against a walkway and the row in front of us blocked off for social distancing. I had plenty of leg room and oh look… we were right next to a small side stage where the band played.
Before the big show, (for you Boomers The Really Big Show), there were some performers banging on glass bottles. Let me explain: two people playing glass bottles of different colors and sizes hanging from a rack tuned like a xylophone. One would play the higher notes and one the lower notes, and with their back to one end of the area there was another pair playing a duplicate bottle rack.
The two pairs of performers were churning out playful Mexican tunes while the audience was being seated. What my drummer brain noticed was that both groups were totally “N Sync” (a Millennial reference), this is extremely hard to do and note for note no less. It was though you were hearing one instrument being played.
Who cares? Read on about the freaking precision of the show.
This was a 90 minute show and was one of the more professional shows I’ve seen with real talent and without the glitz and show biz of a Las Vegas act.
The band appeared next to us wearing their sumo wrestler Mayan thongs and started banging drums. I was digging the primal rhythms and grooves. My drum brain, or dumb brain, noticed that the patterns were in 6/8 time, or two 3/4 times stuck together, or to dumb it down think of a polka or waltz rhythms- boom dada boom dada as the underlying groove.
Did I lose anyone yet? This factoid comes into play later.
So, the band of drummers started their primal Indian jungle grooving and nets started to arise from the floor on the side and ends of the arena. What? On the fifty yard lines faux stone rings appeared about 8 feet in height with a 2 foot hole. Ah! Remember all those scratchy black and white photos in your history text books of the Aztec and Mayan ball courts well that was about to begin as the players took the court.
What I didn’t know was that no hands and no feet are used to volley what appears to be a rubber dodge ball back and forth within the teams. The players would slide on their knees to knock the ball into play to get it bouncing higher and higher subsequently bouncing the ball off their chest and stomach to get the ball through the stone hoop.
Each team would get 6 tries to score and many of those shots came really close drawing groans from the crowd. The teams exchanged turns about 4-5 times each without a score…and then they were then all decapitated. No, sorry history books.
Throughout the show there were musical acts displaying the styles of the different Mexican states throughout history and they were all wearing masks due to the pandemic, many singers wore clear plastic shields and held their microphones underneath.
There were horses, dancers, mariachis and even a flaming lacrosse ball game played for those with short attention spans. All of these acts were tight, well rehearsed showing an appreciable level of professionalism.
My dumb drum OCD brain also noticed that all the songs were in 6/8 time as I drummed along in my head, after over 50 years of drumming I cannot not notice these things. Also there was no prerecorded music or singing, it was all live.
After the show’s climax and big finale the music dimmed and we were ready to leave. But no one was standing up, no one was moving and there was no farewell announcement. After a few minutes we noticed on the big screen that there were was an act performing in the far corner blocked from our view. A tall wooden pole had been erected and four men had now climbed to the top and started to descend on ropes while it was spinning without safety cables in feats of daring-do. Cool!
And then the big ass finale of performers started with the main singer that I’ll refer to as Freddie Mercury Mariachi Man. This dude could really sing and he had that Freddie Mercury strut to go with it.
Well done Xcaret!