When Juan Lennon and I started Anda two years ago, it was all about fun. We were two guys with an ever-growing vintage Salsa & Cumbia LP collection but with nowhere to play the records! Juan knew a spot called Mal’s Bar. I thought it was in downtown, but it turned out to be in the industrial part of town closer to the campus of USC. I admit, I had reservations about the location, but soon I came around. Mal’s is the last of the true neighborhood spots in Los Angeles. It is a throwback to bars that existed in L.A’s past, full of locals and native Angelinos. It doesn’t have valet parking or V.I.P. lounges. It lacks hipster credibility and it’s not the place to be if you want to be “seen.” It’s a neighborhood bar without pretensions. You drink, you dance, you meet people, you hook up (or don’t) and at Anda you get to hear dope Latin music from our residents DJ’s (Gazoooo, Mando Fever, Juan Lennon and myself) and either a band or guest DJ. It’s that simple. We have been blessed to present some of the best talent L.A. has to offer: La Santa Cecilia, Cava, Quinto Sol, DJ 8bits, Buyepongo, Wil-Dog Y Su Banda Juvenil, Rani D (Soul In The Park), Chico Sonido, Ganas (Mas Exitos), La Santa Maria, Reyes (Eclectica), Agua Dulce (actually from San Diego), Sloe Poke (Sonido/Descarga), Ervin Arana (Root Down), Concepto Tambor and, of course, Very Be Careful, who will be performing at our 2nd Anniversary show on Saturday, June 5th.
Until recently, Very Be Careful was the only Vallenato/Cumbia game in town. Now you have the young upstarts Buyepongo (who played our first Anda ever!), Mr.Vallenato (re-located from Texas) and new up and comers La Chamba, who play Peruvian Chicha music via East Los Angeles. VBC continues to the beat of their own drum. They have half a dozen albums out; they have played to audiences in Japan, Europe and South America and their audience stretches from immigrants to punkers, bike-riding hipsters, tias y moms, Ethnomusicologists, dancers and Soul & Hip-Hop heads. If you have lived in Los Angeles over the last dozen years or so, chances are you have seen these hooligans perform. Sometimes they play drunk or just plain wasted on god knows what, but they are always a good time. Most accordion based Cumbia groups seem to worship at the house of Andres Landero (which is cool, I can’t knock that), but VBC’s love for Alejo Duran shows in their songs, full of romanticism and wit, especially on their most recent release, Escape Room, out on Barbes Records. Tales of regret and heartache are mixed with some real Vallenato burners, as if Nick Cave and Lisandro Meza made a record together. But it’s their live show you have to experience. The sweaty dance floor, the drunkenness and the rawness that is Mal’s, Anda and Very Be Careful…a match made some where between heaven and hell, South and East Los Angeles.