By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
This kind of experimentation is integral to the Assassins’ creative growth, especially as they move away from straight covers. Charles Farrar admits, “Collectively, we have written many songs in other styles, but this is our first attempt writing Latin music.”
Purdy adds, “In a big group, new ideas seem to come in fits — a montuno here, a coro there — right now we’re allowing the process to develop as an organic, live creation, staying close to the roots.”
Working with “No, No, No” might seem like an obvious choice given the band’s deep roots in the ska/reggae scene, but bassist Lozoya, the group’s rhythmic anchor, points out, “Reggae music, you’re always behind the beat. Coming into [Latin], I have to be way more on top, pushing the band. The pocket is two different things; it’s a hard transition.”
Challenging as it may be, perfecting that sound is what the Boogaloo Assassins are banking on in order to distinguish themselves in a city already thick with Latin bands playing everything from rancheras and bossa nova to the ubiquitous mariachi. However, Rojas believes “the timing was right, we landed at the right moment. It’s an East Coast sound and there’s a million salsa bands in L.A. But we’re not trying to do what they do.”
So far, the band has conspicuously sought eclectic pairings rather than targeting more conventional salsa or cumbia parties. This year, they’ve played with everyone from Riverside’s “Mexi-ska” band Mula to Jersey City’s Afro-electro group Chico Mann. “We’re trying to book ourselves with punk bands and rockabilly groups and funk groups,” McLachan says, “we’re trying to book ourselves in the least place you’d expect to see a boogaloo band.”
Case in point: The group headlined at the Getty Center’s Summer Sessions in July, playing on the Garden Terrace, with the sprawling Westside basin as their backdrop. By the group’s third song, Joe Torres’ “Get Out of My Way,” a huge crowd all but filled the Terrace and couples snuck past security into fire lanes to show off their cha-cha steps. Even those packed in shoulder-to-shoulder find enough wiggle room to sway and bob. This is the response that always follows the boogaloo. “I been in a bunch of bands and never ever felt a reaction from an audience like I have with this [music]. It’s high energy and it’s fun, and people respond to it,” McLachan says.
Their Getty set ended with a thunderous close and on the last hit, Charles Farrar threw up a fist, his outstretched arm silhouetted against the dusk sky. The gesture captured the vibrancy and power of the moment — and of the music. Latin boogaloo originally bubbled up as an energetic expression of New York’s barrio youth, and some four decades later (and 2,500 miles away), the Los Asesinos de Boogaloo carry on that tradition, far from home yet seemingly right at home.
The Boogaloo Assassins perform at The Mint (6010 W. Pico Blvd.) on Fri., November 7, and at the Bordello on Sat., November 8.