For the Krayolas, every song is a medley, in spirit if not in form. The San Antonio quartet, which played for nearly two hours Saturday evening at Tropicalia, has too many influences to fit into a single tune. So the band’s performance featured not one but two renditions of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” — one bilingual and the other entirely in Spanish. Adding to the unpredictability, the show-closing second version eventually mutated into the Who’s “The Kids Are Alright.”
“It doesn’t matter where it comes from,” said frontman Hector Saldana, clarifying his band’s aesthetic. Most of the Krayolas’ songs derive from mid-1960s garage- and folk-rock or Tex-Mex folk music, and many enthusiastically mix the two. While lead guitarist Van Baines jangled like a Byrd, keyboardist Luvine Elias pumped polka-rooted riffs that in earlier days would have been played on accordion. The vocal styles ranged from frontman Saldana’s Dylanesque treatment of an original Mexican-drug-war ballad, “Corrida — Twelve Heads in a Bag,” to his drummer brother David Saldana’s Roger McGuinn-like reading of Dylan’s “All I Really Want to Do.”
Although the group connected styles and songs, it didn’t rush from one number to the next. Hector Saldana, who switched among bass and various guitars, introduced most of the songs at length, detailing their provenance and meaning (especially when the lyrics were in Spanish). A longtime pop-music writer for the San Antonio Express-News, Saldana clearly likes to put things in context. And there was plenty to elucidate in a show that included such local-color dispatches as “Catherine,” an upbeat stomper about reading an old friend’s death notice; “La Inundacion de Piedras Negras,” a 1950s lament for victims of a major flood; and “Frutera (The Fruit Cup Song),” an ode to a treat available on the Mexican side of town.
The Krayolas began in 1975 but took a couple of decades off — from 1988 to 2007 — and have rarely performed outside the Southwest. On the heels of releasing their new album, “Tormenta,” this was their first D.C. gig — which might explain why they played to just a handful of listeners. Beginning at 8 p.m. didn’t help. The band was just starting to draw a crowd, and even to inspire a few people to dance, when it concluded its show.
A short break between the Krayolas’ two sets was filled by Hector Saldana’s son, Nick Saldana, who’s half of Little Wesley, a Texas duo. The younger man played a few delicate indie-rock tunes that were energized by his electric-guitar accompaniment. Then he was joined by his uncle on drums to finish with a winning version of “I’m Not Angry (I’m Just Sad),” an Everly Brothers obscurity.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.