Promo photo autographed at the show:
Related article from the Dayton Daily News, 06-Dec-84:
Howling good time
Canal Street-bound Los Lobos to flex Tex-Mex muscles
The bottom line is that Los lobos makes great music, period! If you have plans for Friday night, cancel 'em and head for The Canal Street Tavern. If not, you don't have an excuse for not being there. Los Lobos is the hottest band that shouldn't be happening on the pop charts. I mean, a bunch of Mexican-Americans from East LA playing a mix of rock 'n' roll and traditional Hispanic music? Get real! Nobody's gonna listen to this Tex-Mex stuff. And yet Los Lobos' music is wonderfully exhilarating - a joyous addiction, if you will. It's a root sound that shares an allegiance with every other form of American music from jazz to the blues to the Cajun music of the bayou to rock 'n' roll.
I spoke with drummer/songwriter Louie Perez recently and found him to be quite articulate and thoughtful and just a bit surprised by the group's new-found success. "It's sort of like this is the way it should be, and that's why it's altogether odd," he said. "But I think it came at a time when people were willing to provide a niche for real down-to-earth music, and I think it kind of filled the gap."
Describing Los Lobos' music is a bit more difficult. To call it Tex-Mex is a little like calling Georgia O'Keefe a flower painter. When a group lists influences as diverse as Merle Haggard, The Ink Spots, Flaco Jiminez, and the LA punk group Fear, you know you're in for a bit of a labeling problem. And the band has been known to mix up a set with, say, a weepy rendition of Santo & Johnny's Sleep Walk followed by the traditional Mexican music called norteno. "Norteno music is the music that developed around the Texas-Mexican border and it's the earliest form of Mexican-American music," Perez said. Norteno music is built around the button accordion. Flaco Jiminez, who has played on several of Ry Cooder's albums, probably is the most familiar exponent of norteno.
But don't let that fool you. The group opened for John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten's Public image, on their 1980 tour. And you can hear Los Lobos' music on the soundtracks for cult films Eating Raoul and Chan Is Missing. Los Lobos is something of a protege of another hot LA "roots" group, The Blasters. And, in fact, The Blasters' saxophonist, Steve Berlin, together with T. Bone Burnett, produced the group's debut EP, ... And a Time to Dance and their current album, Will the Wolf Survive. (Los Lobos, by the way, is Spanish for The Wolves.)
Los Lobos hails from the predominantly Hispanic area of east LA. I hesitate to use the word barrio because that implies ghetto rather than neighborhood. And Los Lobos is, if anything, a very tight-knit family. "(We) were friends before we were musicians together," Perez said. In fact, leaving home to tour is something of a mixed blessing for this quartet. "The travel is great," Perez said. "On the other hand, leaving our families," he sighed. "I've got to go down to my mom's, and she's kind of waving a handkerchief as I'm leaving."
At any rate, as the group has become more popular and the Hispanic community's voice has become more pronounced, the group has been pressured to become more political. But, to paraphrase the words of LA Times music critic Robert Hillborn, the politics of Los Lobos is the politics of dance. "We always felt that the music would communicate something by itself," Perez said. "There's no question that the name of the group is Los Lobos. I mean, are they gonna say, "Is that a Hebrew group from Pennsylvania?" "There's really no need for us to start talking about stereotypes and 'Mexican-American' because what we're doing is solidifying the Mexican-American role in contemporary music. "What we're trying to communicate is much more universal," he said. "We want to communicate a very unifying spirit of the little bit of joy that keeps us all going each and every day. It's a little bit of something that goes beyond the boundaries of any ethnic group." "I guess it would be effective medicine for the ailing heart and the tired soul."
I can't follow with anything more eloquent than that. See you at The Canal Street.
Los Lobos will be at The Canal Street Tavern Friday night. The show starts at 9:30 with opener Tom Roznowski & The Plain Gold Band. Tickets are $8 and are good for the evening. Tickets are available at Gem City Records and The Canal Street Tavern.