The sold out, Lincoln Hall masses were there early Friday, eagerly awaiting the return of Chicano Batman to Chicago. It's been just shy of two years since I last had the fortune of getting caught up in that rolling ocean of soul-tinged, funky tropicalismo that is Chicano Batman's sound. Joined on tour by fellow Los Angelenos, Sad Girl; and the harmonizing picnic groove of Brooklyn's triple-feme-fronted septet, 79.5 — the band sent the Lincoln Hall crowd home satisfied and at peace...save the few bad apples who were a little over-aggressive with Bardo Martinez at the merch table following the show, causing him to recede backstage for a bit when he probably would have rather been out connecting with fans. It's exciting — I get it; but it's not a good look to loose control and make a special guest feel uncomfortable. Just don't do it. A minor criticism of the night that nowhere near outweighs the magnificent amount of positivity and love that was circulated through the masses Friday night; needless to say, a friendly reminder never hurts: Respect.
This is the second time I've thrown down some words about these cats that take me back to my San Jose roots in the late 80's and early 90's cruising Story & King or The El Camino, blasting Lowrider-Oldie-Rhino compilations while traveling only 3 blocks in a half an hour. "No cruising zone? Y que nada...they can't pull us all over!" The cruise. Low and slow. It was a mobile pachanga driven by the music and our mixtapes were just that — a 90 minute Memorex cassette with the Chicano soul of WAR, Malo, and Tierra permeating the magnetically charged, polyester tape. That's what I felt two years ago, when they played Ruido Fest, and that's exactly what I felt Friday night. Only, there was something more...
With the release of of their latest album, "Freedom is Free", the band is continuing to deepen and refine their blend of vintage Latin psych, tropicália, funk and soul that, two years ago, reminded me of Brenton Wood; and now, also feels a lot like what Myron & E have been doing. The vintage soul feels a lot more pronounced in the new stuff; largely in part due to the added flavor from a few of 79.5's players, adding velvety vocals, another few layers of keys, and a flute to the mix. That's how the show started. At Ruido Fest 2 years ago, we saw the quartet get down, but without bassist Edwardo Arenas. I was really looking forward to checking out his funky bass skills this time around and man, he's right there. With Carlos Arévalo seamlessly switching between phrases of breezy tropical guitar and edgy classic rock while Gabriel Villa manages the syncopated breaks and tempo changes with his incredibly expressive face, Bardo Martinez has the freedom to pretty much do whatever he wants with his guitar and tipped up organ — which seems like an homage to its roll in defining the Chicano Soul of the 50's & 60's, while at the same time, fitting right into his dynamic style of play. Bardo gets down on that organ, for reals.
He throws an effects box on top and forget about it, it's over. There's really nothing we could do at that point. We were trapped without even the thought of escape. They started us off with the 79.5 embellished new stuff, kinda working their way back in time, through Black Lipstick, then went into old-school quartet mode ending with the lead track from their self-titled, Itotiani — which we all sang.
Some of my favorite moments of the night: the ladies next to me yelling, "Lisandreando! Lisandro!", in between songs. Generally, I'm not into that kind of thing...don't try and control the show. Let the artists do their thing. But, I'm not gonna lie; they were right — Lisandreando is the jam. I always love to see custom instrumentation with added bits and pieces. Drum kits are great places to spot that stuff and Gabriel's was like a lowrider with ground effects.
I wouldn't be surprised if there were some airplane hydraulics in there somewhere...
I mean, that's what I would do.
Also highlighting the night was Eduardo handing the bass off to Bardo for a bit while he played the cumbia, Manzanita, on guitar.
Everything about that transported me back to my San Jose childhood, barbecuing on a Sunday afternoon on the East Side.
¿Sabes qué?, that's what it's all about.
That's how the connections get established and a healing begins to occur — a reflexive exchange of positive energy between artists, and the masses.
Chicano Batman returns to Chicago July 1st for Live on Lincoln.