By David Monnich
Los Lobos Cinco De Mayo Festival
May 5, 2013
Despite the spotty weather, droves of Angelinos headed out to the Greek Theatre on Sunday afternoon for Los Lobos' second annual Cinco de Mayo Festival. Last year's event proved that the East L.A. veteran group are master curators, and they again put together a diverse roster of artists with both traditional and modern sounds.
Featuring two stages, six bands and numerous guest artists, the festival brought together some excellent roots and alternative talent, and was a great way to mark the beginning of the Greek's 2013 season.
The Kansas City based quartet Making Movies kicked off the celebration at 4 on the Plaza stage. Their funky, latin influenced take on indie rock before gradually warmed up the crowd. Lead vocalist Enrique Chi was seductive, belting out haunting melodies. Their set was about 30 minutes and they made for an excellent opener.
The Plaza Stage's headlining act were hometown favorites La Santa Cecilia. This young ensemble has been generating buzz lately due to their involvement in the immigration reform movement and the release of their first major label EP, Treinta Dias. Elvis Costello is featured on one of its tracks, and the work garnered a positive review from Rolling Stone. Despite some PA issues, La Marisoul's commanding stage presence won over the crowd, and accordionist and requintista Pepe Carlos showcased his virtuosity.
El Chicano started the night off on the main stage, introduced by a Cheech and Chong video clip giving a shout out to the band. These originators of the East L.A. sound performed long instrumental jams and featured a stunning percussion section driven by The Professor on keyboards. Their rendition of “Sabor A Mi” was especially nice, and featured Carlos Reyes on violin.
Between the main stage's scheduled acts, mariachi group Fiesta Mexicana belted out classics like “Volver Volver,” “El Rey,” and “La Negra.” The audience responded with passionate gritos, providing the perfect accompaniment. The mariachis' traditional attire and sound provided a solid link to the homeland; personally, we were glad to see mariachis performing outside of a restaurant.
The main stage's second performer was Kinky. Hailing from the musical hotbed of Monterrey and having received a Latin Grammy nomination last year for their album Sueño De La Maquina, the electro indie rockers performed raucous material from throughout their catalog. Although many of the older members of the crowd were unfamiliar with the band, they still managed to ignite the theatre with their cacophonous fusions. Their fiery rendition of “Mexican Radio” in particular brought the heat to an otherwise chilly night.
Los Lobos began their headlining set with a series of folkloric songs, drawing heavily from their classic album La Pistola Y El Corazon. As the concert progressed, it was great to see the band switch fluently between a plethora of genres. Their cover of the recently deceased George Jones' “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” featuring Max Baca on bajo sexto and Rick Treviño on lead vocals, was gorgeous. Pedal steel guru Robert Randolph joined the ensemble for “Mas Y Mas” and a cover of “Purple Haze,” and Kinky helped out on “Kiko And The Lavender Moon.” Although it began to rain during the latter half of the show, the crowd remained faithful until the end.
Los Lobos' decision to host a festival has been a great look, allowing them to pay homage to artists they have influenced and have been influenced by. It also ensures that they will remain relevant around these parts for years to come.
Personal Bias: I'm a San Antonio-raised Tejano lover
The Crowd: Old school chicanos and their familias.