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Maldita Vecindad

Some bands need a big audience to produce a big bang, but ska fusionistas Maldita Vecindad (Damn Neighborhood) isn't one of them. Despite low attendance at its gig Saturday night at the State Theatre, the Mexican quartet lit up the stage from start to finish.

Led by the charismatic, philosophical and ever-skanking lead singer Roco, dressed in his traditional '40s pachuco get-up -- fedora, zoot suit pants, checked suspenders and two-tone wingtips -- the band drop-kicked the audience with an explosive set. Along with original members Pato (guitar), Aldo (bass) and Sax (saxophone), they nailed hits including "Solin," "Morenaza," "Pata de Perro" and one of the greatest Latin alternative anthems ever, "Pachuco."

But the band hasn't had a new album in more than eight years, and the question loomed: Will Maldita become a has-been touring on old hits or remain a creative force to be reckoned with? Too humble to claim greatness, the band members have contended that touring is their "refuge" and that the music industry in some ways stunted their creative growth.

As if staking a claim for continued relevance, Maldita inserted four new riveting songs into a blistering set: "Quinto Patio Ska," "Caracol," "Marcianos" and "El Pais de No Pasa Nada." And Sax told his fans after the show, "We hope to release a new album before the end of the year."

-- Mario I. Oña

Emily Crews

Eight campy and playful, but fairly unoriginal, short works by choreographer Emily Crews were presented Sunday at Woolly Mammoth's rehearsal hall as "Kitsch in Sync," part of the inaugural Capital Fringe Festival. One piece featured movements and hand gestures reminiscent of a child's game of patty-cake. In another, Crews used her teeth to pull an assortment of objects, including an apple, razor and fly swatter, out of a metal tub, then used the objects in a series of quirky and comical interactions with another dancer. Crews's choreography is pleasingly musical; it works effortlessly with rhythms (the musical selections ranged from Mozart to the Dixie Chicks) and doesn't merely mimic them. Her attempts at comedy sometimes faltered: Moments that were intended to be humorous didn't always elicit laughter, and the tone of the humor was inconsistent. It vacillated between a predictable slapstick style and a clever, sardonic one.

Later in the day, on Woolly Mammoth's main stage, Naoko Maeshiba presented "Remains of Shadow," a series of solos and duets exploring the choreographer's Japanese heritage, her American experiences, and how both have shaped her identity. Three transparent white panels and a large screen displaying text and image projections provided a backdrop to Maeshiba and partner Tatsuya Aoyagi's understated movement and haunting vocals. Maeshiba is an exceptional mover who possesses the rare ability to make awkward, inwardly rotated leg positions and fidgety gestures seem strangely beautiful. She and Aoyagi performed with compelling emotion -- plausibly and poignantly conveying confusion, anguish and displacement. Despite the strong performances, it was unclear how the two characters and their journeys were connected.

-- Sarah Halzack

Diplo, CSS at the Black Cat

Brazilian new-wave revivalists CSS stormed the Black Cat on Sunday to prove one thing: Girls still wanna have fun. The coed troupe (five chicks, one dude) isn't the first to pledge allegiance to the '80s, but its performance was dumb fun nevertheless. Plenty of that had to do with Lovefoxxx, the band's irrepressible lead singer, who hopped, skipped and jumped across the stage with the playful charisma of a dozen Karen O's (okay, maybe just a couple Karens). For an encore she and her comrades took a poke at the almighty Madonna, covering her 2003 dud single "Hollywood" with a punky snarl.

Headliner Diplo followed, his turntables set up on the margins of the stage. Sure, the Philadelphia DJ-turned- tastemaker knows how to set dance floors aflame, but could he possibly trump the boundless energy of CSS?

Yup. Turns out all he had to do was play the hits. But on Diplo's playlist, hits come in many stripes: Guns N' Roses riffs bounce to electro beats, dancehall riddims rub up against new-wave synths, Missy Elliott spits over Clash instrumentals with a new urgency. Diplo dropped these signature mash-ups to the crowd's delight.

His turntablist toolbox included a projector on which he could cue up music videos. As he scratched a record back and forth on the platter, the corresponding image would twitch and jerk on screen. The highlight came during a Baltimore club remix of the Beatles' "Twist and Shout," with the Fab Four convulsing in an epileptic fit. By then, the sweaty bodies in the crowd were dancing in a similar fashion.

-- Chris Richards

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