One of the reasons why Xela is such a popular place for us extranjeros to settle down in for a while, whether for learning Spanish, volunteering, teaching English or just chilling out, is its distinctive mix of old and new. Not only do you get a mix of a traditional Guatemalan town and all its charm with enough modern amenities so that you don’t feel too far from home, but there’s also a perfect blend of familiar and new faces. Lots of people hitching up here for the long-run so plenty of opportunities to form lasting friendships but also a constant stream of new faces passing through for a few weeks so there’s always new people to meet when you get bored of your other friends.
You be hard pressed to find a much better reflection of this dynamic than with the local musical entity (“band” isn’t quite the right word here) The Dregs. Formed in 2011 by Reid, a banjo player from Colorado, and Mike a guitarist from Brisbane, the band originally started out as a regular open gig at Café Cuartito – they would play a few songs and anyone with any musical abilities (even triangle players welcome) could come up and join. More people started to play with the band full-time and since then the band has been a constantly evolving spectacle, with new members joining, old ones leaving and a few ‘dregs’ left over to keep the band going. In just over a year, they’ve now gone through over 30 different members and not a single one of the founding players remains in the band.
The band’s music mutates according to their ever-changing line-up, ranging from blues, folk, indie rock, Michael Jackson covers, wailing ballads, Latino rock, 50s boppers, Swedish country, music you loved when you were 13 – anything goes. Likewise, the instrument policy is pretty lax and the band makes does with whatever comes its way – instruments in the past have included a plate and spoon, a salvavidas bottle and a kazoo alongside the standard ensemble of guitars, banjos, tambourines and ukuleles.
This anything-goes, lets-not-take-ourselves-too-seriously nature of the band makes their gigs unsurprisingly easy-going affairs and a lot of fun – expect to hear a bunch of classics ripe for singing-along that’ll get louder and rowdier as the beer flows throughout the night, coupled with other tunes that you may not know but still sound great. The constant changing of faces in the band means there sets never get stale – within just a couple of weeks they’ll have abandoned many of the songs they were regularly playing before and performing new ones with new singers, guitarists and spoon and plate players. Catch them at El Cuartito on Mondays and King and Queen on Fridays.