Born to play the bass
Welcome to San Miguel de Allende
The San Miguel gig was to start on September 13 at a club called Pancho & Lefty's, and would run three months. After months of writing and rehearsing, the band finally would earn a paycheck—plus they’d be given an apartment for the length of their stay.
But when they arrived in San Miguel de Allende, they discovered that another band had stolen the gig. They’d shown up early and made a deal with the manager of Pancho & Lefty’s. They had taken the apartment, too.
Standing on a cobblestone street at the center of town, surrounded by their instruments and heavy equipment, Aarón and the band found themselves with no money, no gig, and no place to stay for the night.
The audition that changed everything
Fortunately, A friend in San Miguel, another drummer, who was willing to help. He hooked them up with Maria Aguado, the owner of a club called Char Rock. Maria had hired a band for the season, but that agreed to give Encrucijada an audition that night.
“We played five or six songs including ‘Black Dog’ from Led Zeppelin. It’s got a weird pitch and a weird tempo, and it's hard to play. The house band was there listening, and when we finished the audition, they said, ‘You’re awesome. We’re nothing next to you.’ They agreed to play backup, and Maria hired us as headliners for five nights. We did well. The place was packed every night.”
Following their five-night debut, the band secured a new three-month contract with Char Rock, where they played together until Christmas Day. Then, amidst personality clashes, the band split up.
“After Christmas I went back to Mexico City to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Then on January 22, 1998, I got a phone call from Maria at Char Rock. The house band needed a bass player. I had nothing else to do, so I went back to San Miguel. I’ve been here ever since.”
Nineteen years making music in San Miguel
As a fixture on the music scene in San Miguel de Allende for 19 years now, Aarón Romo has played with nearly a dozen different bands including Encrucijada, Scala Musical, La Fuerza, Alebrijes, Antillanos, El Mexicano, Abraxas, Los Bichos, Vudu Chile, Go, and the Mama Mia salsa band Cubania. He has played with notables such as Frank Bravo, Gabriel Hernandez (Afro-Cuban All-Stars), Oscar Zarate (El Tri), Ken Bassman, Alfred Thompson, Doug Robinson, Remy Fenoy, Luis Gasca, Iraida Noriega, Diego Marotto and Bob January.
Today, Aarón plays and arranges music across genres including rock, jazz, blues, funk, salsa, and Latin fusion. He also performs as a singer and solo acoustic guitarist at clubs and at private events, offering an extensive repertoire of traditional and contemporary songs in both Spanish and English.
From the age of seven, José Aarón Romo Medina knew that he wanted to be a musician, and that he wanted to play the bass guitar. He admired his father and his uncles, who played together in a pop Mexican music band.
“On my seventh birthday, my dad's band got together in our house to play for my party. My uncle Jorge played the bass. The moment he hit the first notes, I felt the vibration in my chest, and I decided to be a musician. I wanted to be a bass player."
As a teenager, Aarón’s ambition was to play professionally. He recruited musicians from his neighborhood of Cuautitlan Izcalli, México to join his first rock band, 7mo Aire.
At the age of 22, he met Gonzalo Contreras, and they had seen each other play. Gonzalo’s band had split up and so had 7mo Aire, leaving both musicians in search of new projects.
“Gonzalo asked if I wanted to compose something together—jazz stuff. I said, ‘Hell, yeah, I'm on it!’ That was January or February of 1997. We started right away and spent three months composing and arranging tunes.”
Original music in hand, Aarón and Gonzalo went looking for a percussionist and found another neighbor, Emilio Subdiaz.
“He was a really good drummer, and he knew how to write music. We asked how much he would charge us to do the charts for us. He said, ‘Nothing. We're friends.’ He wanted to compose music, too. We rehearsed with him for two months, getting all of our tunes ready, but we didn’t have a gig.”
Emilio already had a band that included a guitar player, a bass player, and a singer, Alexis Leonardo Nieto. They were rehearsing for a gig in San Miguel de Allende, a town popular with tourists from Mexico City and abroad. It was an important show during high season for tourists, and Emilio had been looking to replace the guitarist and bass player, who rarely showed up for rehearsals.
“Once Emilio started working with Gonzalo and me, he kicked those guys out and we formed a new band. Another guitar player joined us, too. We named the band Encrucijada (Crossroads) after the Ralph Macchio movie about blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.”