Steve Berlin - saxophone, percussion; David Hidalgo - guitar, accordion, percussion; Conrad Lozano - bass, guitar; Louis Perez - drums, guitar; Cesar Rosas - guitar, vocals
This recording from late 1984, made for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, is taken from the band's first visit to Cincinnati. This show may have been the first time a lot of people had heard the band: in spite of their Grammy award for "Anselma" earlier that year (for Best Mexican-American Performance, one of the few awards Michael Jackson did not win), they would not achieve a great deal of widespread exposure until their work on La Bamba in 1987.
That said, they were by no means inexperienced. Hidalgo, Lozano, Perez and Rosas were high school friends and, after having played in various top 40 bands, had formed Los Lobos in 1973. They studied and researched the folk music of their heritage both in L.A. and in Mexico and honed their chops at local weddings and parties with an all-acoustic lineup.
Their steadiest professional gig during this time was at a Mexican restaurant in Orange County. While they provided mostly background music during dinner, the customers would eventually get drunk and ask them to play rock 'n' roll. In order to oblige, the band started working electric instrumentation into their repertoire, which in turn got them fired from this job (for being too loud). Soon after, the new electric lineup (with Perez now on the drums) joined the roots-rock revival scene in Los Angeles, where they met up with T-Bone Burnett and Steve Berlin who produced an EP for the band on Slash Records. Berlin then left the Blasters to join Los Lobos.
Touring in support of their first major-label LP, How Will the Wolf Survive?, you can hear this decade's worth of eclectic experience in this set. There are rockabilly, Tex-Mex, folk, Cajun, and traditional Mexican songs. But these disparate elements are blended smoothly, reflecting the time the band took to create and refine their sound.
No matter what they may or may not be playing, Los Lobos play great music that makes you want to party, and this crowd eventually gave in. During the Willie Dixon tune "300 Pounds of Heavenly Joy," the banter reaches almost inappropriate levels as dancing is encouraged before the set climaxes with an early version of "La Bamba" and a ferocious version of "Why Do You Do," a song from their independently released 1977 LP, Del Este De Los Angeles. This is followed by a 4-song encore that still leaves you wanting more.
* Special thanks to Larry Nager, former Music Editor for The Cincinnati Post, for his input regarding this show.