Los Lobos celebrate Cinco de Mayo (with help)
The Greek Theater, Los Angeles, May 5, 2012
Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh
LOS ANGELES, CA - If you call Los Angeles your home, there isn't a better band and place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo than Los Lobos at The Greek Theater. There under one of the biggest full moons in a long time, Los Lobos, which has long since grown beyond just another band from East L.A., made the case that it is, perhaps, the greatest group from L.A.'s east side at the inaugural Los Lobos Cinco de Mayo Festival.
Los Lobos' set was heavy on songs from "Kiko" - the group's best full-length - and equally heavy on special guests. The band performed both Saint behind the Glass and the groovy - yes groovy! - Dream in Blue from that pivotal album. The former featured red-headed vocal dream girl, Neko Case, while the latter found saxophonist Steve Berlin switching to some funky flute.
Guests included Alejandro Escovedo, who sang True Believers' Rebel Kind, and Tex-Mex legend Flaco Jimenez rocking the accordion. Jimenez also played with Dave Alvin on the singer/songwriter's Fourth Of July. Alvin couldn't keep from smiling whenever Jimenez added accordion runs to his jangling holiday song. Making the this semi-Blasters reunion complete, brother Phil Alvin came on to sing Marie Marie, only for this Mexican-American holiday occasion, Phil sang the song in Spanish and turned it into Maria Maria, all while wearing a dapper white suit. What a surprise treat!
X preceded Los Lobos with a 45-minute set of underground punk favorites, starting off with You're Phone's Off The Hook, But You're Not, and going on to include White Girl, Los Angeles, Hungry Wolf and the act's wonderful cover of Jerry Lee Lewis' Breathless. Breathless is exactly how the tight quartet left this appreciative audience.
Mariachi El Bronx opened the evening at early time of 6:30 p.m., while it was still daylight over Griffith Park and clearly looked thrilled to be there. Dressed in their traditional mariachi uniforms, this former punk band won the crowd over with its natural skill and abundant enthusiasm.
Los Lobos sent celebrants into the night with a group-sing on La Bamba, capping off a truly magical night of music. If you weren't in the holiday spirit when you arrived, you most certainly were when you left. With Los Lobos, X and a couple Blasters on the bill, this was also a bit of a walk down Los Angeles music memory lane.