Los Lobos. At UCSB’s Campbell Hall, Thursday, February 22.

Reviewed by Matt Kettmann

Los_Lobos.jpgIf American states walked around to
theme music, California would cruise its urban alleys and rural
byways with Los Lobos in tow. Since 1973, this East L.A. band of
proud Chicanos has been playing a uniquely Californian blend of
rock, blues, and traditional Mexican music. The latter was happily
the bulk of the mostly acoustic concert last Thursday, as Los
Lobos — namely the sunglassed emcee/guitarist Cesar Rosas, big
man/picker ’n’ vocalist extraordinaire David Hidalgo, skinny
dude/guitarist Louie Perez, guitarron/bassist/smiley guy Conrad
Lozano, goateed reed man Steve Berlin, and
local-boy-turned-big-timer percussionist Cougar Estrada — unleashed
an uninterrupted flood of strings for more than 90 minutes on
Campbell Hall’s stage.

The show began with two songs in the Jarocho style from
Veracruz. That’s the Mexican state that bred “La Bamba,” the song
that made Los Lobos (and Richie Valens) famous after they covered
it for the movie of the same name. Thankfully, they withheld that
overused anthem, instead making a joke about it while revealing to
the crowd that the impassioned and beautiful Jarocho music is
something we need to hear more.

Then out came Estrada, who plays percussion for such Santa
Barbara stalwarts as Spencer the Gardener and the Nate Birkey
Quintet. “All the way from Camarillo” is how he was introduced, but
we know Santa Barbara occupies an important corner of his soul, and
we cheered our homeboy — decked out in a Belushi-inspired “Colegio”
T-shirt — accordingly.

The Mexican sonic onslaught continued with such songs as “La
Pistola y el Corazón” and “Guantanamera,” both great chances to
appreciate Hidalgo for his vocal power as well as his tremendous
string-picking skills. With songs from the band’s 2005 release
Acoustic En Vivo, the ever-popular Kiko (1992),
and The Town and the City (2006), Hidalgo ran through an
impressive quiver of guitars while also managing to find time to
play the violin and the accordion.

Getting a Campbell Hall crowd to stand and clap is a challenge,
but Los Lobos kept us mostly standing throughout a long encore. And
just when I was wondering whether Los Lobos was truly a band for
all California, they ended with some Grateful Dead, whom they
opened for throughout the ’80s and ’90s. “Not Fade Away” drifted
into “Tequila” and then came “Bertha,” showing that a bunch of
talented dudes from East L.A. really can represent our Golden


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