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Beginner’s luck

Dancing away the peak hours of St. Paddy’s Day at El Coyote Manco

Intocable performs at El Coyote Manco

When I arrived at El Coyote Manco at approximately 10:30 p.m., I’d already spent the full span of St. Patrick’s Day in cowboy boots, a red plaid shirt with three open buttons, and skinny black jeans. That day, like everyone else downtown, I’d already drunk and laughed and lived what seemed like a thousand sordid lifetimes. But all the green and pinching and Pogues songs merely amounted to a pregame.

My outfit was, to the letter, what my previous night’s Uber driver advised me to wear to a norteño concert. In fact, his three-minute explanation of norteño culture comprised the sum of my knowledge on the subject. I was and am—to be clear—no expert on the subject.

I was accompanied by my associate, who was ideal for the mission in several regards—not the least of which being her fluency in Spanish or the way she embraces trying new things. She was wearing a bright ensemble and heels and, if you squinted your eyes impossibly hard at the two of us, it’s possible you’d have concluded that we looked like we fit right in.

El Coyote Manco is a giant, impressive night club buried deep within an otherwise unassuming shopping center at East 21st Street and South Garnett Road. We came to see the norteño acts Grupo Vision and Intocable and the cumbia band Fito Olivares y La Pura Sabrosura. The flyer for the show mentioned that the first 300 tickets would be $30. My friend and I paid $50 each, which means there were already over 300 people in attendance.

The full-sensory vividness of the atmosphere in El Coyote Manco was fascinating and compelling, albeit slightly disorienting to a newbie like me. In this setting, with the wall-to-wall electronic display screen behind the stage, with the crowd dressed to the nines and couple-dancing in slow, endless circles around the dancefloor, I, beneath the wicked lighting rig of multicolor clusters of light beams and related forms of disco magic, began to feel like a dazed fish out of water.

The norteño music was fun, but what really caught my attention was the bright, pulsating cumbia music of Fito Olivares. The hypnotic cumbia riffs, at times playful and upbeat, at times mysterious and introspective, require some body movement. I began to get the sense that the short bars of music, turned over and over and altered in subtle, groovy ways, were like the steady untwisting of a musical Rubik’s Cube.

My associate and I dipped out around 12:30 a.m. to make a last push of traditional St. Paddy’s-style revelry downtown. But the impression of the truly baller throwdown in East Tulsa has been the main thing on my mind since that evening. Once I buy myself a belt buckle, I will return.

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