Frankly, I’m too poor to go to concerts. All the musicians I admire are either dead or play at big venues, where a ticket could cost me much-needed gas, or more importantly, food. So when my cousin Amanda asked me to join her at a concert where my ticket was paid for, I gleefully jumped to join her.
The concert was in my hometown of San Diego, at the University of California campus, which my cousin attends. It was held in Mandeville Center Auditorium, which seats roughly 800 people.
Normally, bands that play small venues like this are just starting out, relative newbies to the rock ‘n’ roll world.
This was not the case here. At 8 p.m. on Feb. 8, a tall, thin Caucasian man walked out on stage, visibly shaking with excitement.
“I’m proud,” he said. “Very proud to introduce this group. They are one of my favorite rock bands. Every album they come out with has been different and more beautiful than the last. I’m excited to present to you, Las Lobos.”
Now everyone knows that is not their name. The audience collectively and instinctively shouted out “Los Lobos,” emphasizing the O.
After harping about how they were his favorite band and accidentally mispronouncing their name, the announcer smiled sheepishly and apologized. It was after this ironic introduction that the band members came out on stage.
A group that has maintained a loyal following throughout the years and managed to combine Latin rhythm with an eclectic rock sound, Los Lobos has just released its thirteenth full-length album, “The Town and the City.”The group consists of David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Louie Perez, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin.
Rosas, recognizable by his dark sunglasses, smiled, cracked jokes and spoke to the audience, after which the group kicked off the night with a cover of an old Mexican classic. “Veracruz” got everyone to bob their head or tap their toes as the music took control.
Before the second number, Rosas declared “This one goes out to Josephina,” his blonde, matronly Mexican mother. I only know his mother is blonde and matronly because she is my aunt, or maybe a great aunt. Whatever way we are related, I call Cesar Rosas my uncle.
Los Lobos confidently jammed their way through four more Spanish songs before playing their first English song of the night, “Saint Behind the Glass.” Each musician had switched instruments by then, picking up a different guitar, bass or mandolin. Hidalgo, the tallest and most imposing of the group, even showed off his accordion talents. This small intimate concert was turning into quite the party.
With Rosas’ plug for the new album, “Hey buy it and we’ll be outside to sign it later,” the band followed this song up with an English diddy from their new album and a few Spanish songs, with Hidalgo switching easily from guitar to violin. Before the intermission, Los Lobos played another rock song with a bluesy twang to it, quiet and soft. Rosas described it as a song for “after the party.” This song, “Hold On,” is the first single from the new album.
Los Lobos are not just any rock band, but a Southern California Mexican-American band. In being able to completely embrace every aspect of music, be it jazz, country, R&B, folk, psychedelic, blues, Latin, pop, Tex-Mex, ballads or the ever outrageous rock ‘n’ roll, Los Lobos have changed the way Latin musicians and the music they create are perceived.
When Los Lobos came back onto the stage, they sat on stools and laughed, playing a festive, upbeat song. The next few songs were all similar, in Spanish and perfect for a quinceañera. The guys got into it, Berlin playing his sax, Hidalgo on the accordion, Perez on guitar and Lozano and Rosas on vocals.
During a lull between songs, my cousins, my sister and I shouted “Tio Cesar,” to which Rosas replied, “Hey did everyone know I’ve got my family out here?” It was nice to be recognized.
The first English song played was “Kiko and the Lavender Moon,” which features a distorted piano and a rockin’ accordion. With a nighttime theme, the song is funky with a Latin, almost Caribbean beat. The next song, in Spanish, was quick, bouncy and filled the room.
When an English song came on, everyone began to clap with the beat. The lights flickered on stage, creating silhouettes of Los Lobos.
Couples danced close while beaded hippies moved in a manner that imitated tai chi. Everyone was getting their last fill of a great Los Lobos concert.
After the band thanked the audience and bowed off stage, feet began stamping, begging for an encore.
The guys came back smiling and after chuckling to each other, Hidalgo asked his brothers to come out and sing with the band.
Los Lobos played “Volver” a Spanish oldies tune, which lulled the crowd into a happy, satisfied daze. The last song was a slow, loud version of “Guantanamera,” which kept the crowd clapping to the music, smiling and satisfied.
Los Lobos bend genres and mix music while keeping their older fans loyal and gaining new dedicated followers. Los Lobos is definitely not just another band from East L.A.
There is something distinct about them, something not usually seen in other bands that have been around as long as they have. They play their music with passion and a dedication that makes each piece more intricate, more detailed and more beautiful than the last. Los Lobos have kept their music and inspiration alive, yet still remain fresh innovators in music.
Despite the many sounds they have, Los Lobos have stayed true to their roots, proving once again that the wolf really will survive.
Lilia Cabello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.