Notes From The Amoeba Hollywood Latin Pop & Rock Section - Three New Releases You Must Have

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, June 19, 2007 01:36am | Post a Comment
Out June 26th -

Hip-hop en Español via Spain.

A Spaniard's lisp
never sounded so cool!

Out July 26th -

Electronic cumbia, rock and mambo via Mexico.

¡Que chido!

Out now  -

Greatest hits + three bonus tracks from Cuba's best hip-hop group.

A must have if you missed the boat on their previous releases!

Luis Rodriguez Part One: The Discovery Of Luis Rodriguez (and Nik Turner)

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, June 18, 2007 11:31pm | Post a Comment

I remember the first time I heard about Luis Rodriguez; it was 1993 and I was reading Lowrider Magazine. In between the pages of vintage bombs, girls and ads for rims, there was a feature on Luis and his book, Always Running. In the article he spoke about his past as a gang member and how writing had changed his life. He also mentioned that his teenage son, who was starting to get into trouble himself, was the reason for writing the book. It made me want to read Always Running, so I went around to a few bookstores in my neighborhood but no one carried it. Soon I lost the drive to find the elusive book and forgot all about it. I guess it wasn’t my time to read it.

Fast forward to 1995. I wanted to get the hell out of Los Angeles. I felt isolated. I had no sense of community or belonging so I got a job selling t-shirts for the band Nik Turner’s Space Ritual. Nik was a founding member of Hawkwind, the influential space-rock group. The band had several other ex-Hawkwind members but due to legal reasons they could not use the name Hawkwind. There were fifteen of us touring in an old school bus with no air conditioning. It was the middle of summer during a horrendous heat wave. At every stop the thick heat and humidity followed. After a while I didn’t know what it felt like to be dry. I've never sweated so much in my life! Most of the shows on the tour were complete caves. The shows were booked in thousand capacity venues with only thirty people in attendance. The former members of Hawkwind, who once played in front of festival size audiences, never once complained about the ill-attended shows or the extreme heat. Every night the over fifty-year old space rockers gave it their all. It was inspiring to say the least, to see these older men bring it every night.

During the long drives I read. I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Black Elk Speaks and Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul On Ice. I had fun on the tour and started to open up to the band and crew. The band played great every night. But after the shows, on those long drives to the next city, that isolating feeling would return and I would sink back inside my head. The audience for Nik Turner’s Space Ritual was predominately male with very few persons of color attending the shows. It was like a rock and roll Star Trek convention, a close-knit community of people who loved everything outer space and rock and roll. At first, I admit, I thought they were a bunch of freaks. Yet the Hawkwind fans treated me with respect because I was with their favorite band. Race, religion and gender didn’t matter to them. Space rock did. They had their own community and network that set up shows for Nik Turner and other likeminded groups. They used space rock chat rooms to let other space rock aficionados know about upcoming shows years before Myspace came along. I admired their dedication and their sense of community. Experiencing that and reading books like The Autobiography of Malcolm X inspired me to find something I could call my own. The Black and Native American experience in America was the same as my experience in this country. Yet I wished someone could write a book about the experiences of Chicanos living in America.

The tour was a safety zone. I was apprehensive about returning home to the same old crap that I'd left a few weeks back. After the last show in San Francisco, I bought a plane ticket back to L.A. The bookstore in the San Francisco airport had Always Running on display. I bought the book and immediately read a good chunk of it on the plane ride home. I was engulfed in it. It spoke to me like no other book. Luis’s stories were like mine: The feelings of alienation, stories of people trying to take away your dignity, the feeling of always wanting to run away, and in the end, finding your place. Even though I was never in a gang I felt those same feelings of isolation that Luis wrote about. This was the book that I had craved for years. He wrote everything I felt.

When I arrived in LA, I was sitting outside the Burbank Airport, once again engulfed in my book. I was so engulfed that I didn’t notice the airport security guards that hovered over me. “Where are you coming from?” the airport security guard asked. I told security that I was previously in San Francisco. They asked to check my bags. I replied, “Do I have a choice?” They said no. So they searched. They didn’t ask to check anyone else’s bag that came off of the plane, only mine. I wasn’t carrying anything illegal so I wasn’t scared that they would find something. But rather than to take me somewhere private to search through my belongings, they did it out in public, where everyone could see. Everyone was staring at me, assuming I was guilty. My clothes, underwear and all, were spread out on the loading zone where the people waited to be picked up.

They didn’t find anything. They helped me shove my clothes back into my bag and took off. No apologies, nothing. I sat down and waited for my ride, somewhat fuming but all too used to the racial profiling. A black baggage handler sat next to me, a witness to the whole event, shaking his head as he said, “Black and brown, that’s the only people they ever check.” We nodded at each other with that same understanding. I pulled out my book and started to read again. My ride came and I finished reading all the way home.

Orale, Highland Park! Friday Night at Villa Sombero (...with suprise Sopranos last episode ending)

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, June 13, 2007 02:44pm | Post a Comment
Friday found me at Villa Sombrero in Highland Park doing what else, drinking Margaritas! The Margaritas there are as big as the ones they make at El Conquistador, but not as potent. Jo and I are eating chips and salsa, sipping our drinks. The Dodger game is on the TV and most of the patrons are only glancing at it from time to time as they talk among friends and family. This is as neighborhood as they come. The restaurant is near the corner where York meets Figueroa in what looks like used to be a house. On the T.V., Luis Gonzalez is up with Jeff Kent on second base. When Luis was with the Diamondbacks and Kent with the Giants I hated these guys, but now with the Dodgers I like them. Yes, I’m a Dodger fan and I’m petty like that.

Gonzalez hits the ball to deep center field. Vin Scully gives his familiar, “...back to the track, to the wall…” Just as the ball is going over the fence, a young waitress in a white Mexican dress and matching orthopedic shoes changes the channel. It’s K-Cal, your official station for high-speed car chases. Why anyone is that interested in high speed chases is beyond me, but soon everyone is transfixed on the TV screen. It is a car racing down residential streets followed by police and the K-Cal copter filming up above. At the bottom of the screen it shows the name of the city where the chase is happening. It reads:

Highland Park

Everyone at the restaurant gives out a howl as their home town is on T.V. Someone shouts out, “Orale Highland Park!” with pride and everyone laughs. At that moment I see someone I recognize come through the front door.

Fade To Black

Lou & The Trece - Baseball Stories, Part 1

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, June 9, 2007 05:36pm | Post a Comment
I grew up in the seventies and early eighties in Gardena, Ca, a town in the South Bay sandwiched between the hoods of South L.A. on the north and east and the suburbs of Torrance on the west and south. The Mexican gang in my neighborhood growing up was GX13 (Gardena Trece). Most people in the city either feared or loathed GX13. They would graffiti the town overnight with names straight out of a Luis Rodriguez novel. There was Killer, Joker, Puppet, Tiny, names taken out of a Cholo 101 handbook. The local paper would write about Gardena’s gang epidemic and everyone in our small town would get scared. The truth was a lot of these guys in GX13 were young guys who just liked to party and were about as dangerous as puppies. But there were a few snappers in the bunch that were very dangerous and would turn on you in a second. When you hung out with those guys, you always had to keep your guard up.

At the age of twelve, I started to hang out with some of the little brothers of some of the older gangsters. Then the gangsters started to hang out with us at the park. They always seemed to be having a good time and they were proud of who they were. They spoke neither full Spanish nor English, just a concoction of the two languages mixed together adding slang that they picked up from relatives and other vatos. They had Mexican iconic tattoos and drove primered lowriders, ready for the next step into their car’s evolution into lowriderism. As tempting as it was to join that life, my friends and I were intercepted by a man named Louis Marchese. Lou, as we called him, was one of the original members of GX13 when it was a car club in the fifties. It was full of vato locos that smoked marijuana openly in a time before the hippies made it social. He got out of that life when he had a son, who was my age and also playing baseball on our team. Lou spent several years coaching us in little league and playing ball with us every day during the summer in order to deter us from getting into trouble. After long hours of catching and batting practice, the last thing I wanted to do was run around town with the gangsters. I was too beat.

Continue reading...

Manu Chao Live @ The Sport Arena 5/2/07

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, June 6, 2007 04:11am | Post a Comment

The sounds of my neighborhood, Cypress Park, remind me of Manu Chao; a mixture of cultures clashing about on the streets -- police sirens, the bell ringing from a paletero’s ice cream cart, children playing in the streets, Sonidero blasting out of a big truck, teenage punk bands practicing in garages and loud TV’s trying to drown it all out. It all mixes together, creating its own symphony, much like Manu Chao's music, which is rooted in what bands like The Clash started. It is reggae influenced punk rock mixed with various influences picked up while traveling the world. While The Clash discovered America, Manu Chao found kinship in Latin America. In his music you can hear the Nueva Trova influences from South America. You can hear all the nights hanging out, drinking and playing every record from the Fania, Trojan and Disco Fuentes catalog. You can hear the influence of touring with such great bands like Tijuana No!, Maldita Vecindad and Negu Gorriak while he was in the band Mano Negra.

In all that, you can still hear his voice come through all the influences.
On Saturday, Manu Chao played The Sport Arena, located in the heart of South L.A. on MLK and Figueroa. The Sports Arena is rarely used now that the Staple Center is around a few miles away in the newly gentrified part of downtown Los Angeles. The only other show I've seen at The Sports Arena was Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls) -- The Wu Tang Clan and Ice Cube opened the show and absolutely rocked the spot. When it was time for Biggie to go on, a massive fight started and LAPD came in riot gear and the show ended early. A year later Biggie was dead and I never got my chance to see him perform.

Last time I saw Manu Chao was in San Diego. It was a great show for many reasons -- the first being that I went with someone I barely knew that soon became my partner in crime for many adventures to come. The second reason was that I was saw Manu Chao for the first time and third, the show was close enough to Tijuana that many Mexicanos were in attendance. Saturday’s show was cool for different reasons. My partner in crime went with me again. I almost canceled on her because I had a really high fever and the beginnings of a really bad cold. However, the minute I walked into the venue, my sickness seemed to just disappear. I saw many people that I knew. I saw people from local bands, regular customers that shop at Amoeba and old friends I haven’t seen in a while. I missed the opening act, Mexican Dubwiser, the mash-up master from Monterey, NL, Mexico. You can check him out every Wednesday at Club Nativo! at Zanzibar in Santa Monica.

Before the show, they played a couple of his new songs from his upcoming album, Radiolandia, over the P.A. Once on stage, Manu and his band, Radio Bemba, played songs off Clandestino and Proxima Estacion: Esperanza and some Mano Negra classics. Now that I've seen him twice it’s safe to say that all his shows are quite the same. In fact, if you checked his live DVD, Babylonia En Gaugua, it's pretty much nearly the same show. The power of Manu Chao comes from what he says in his songs and what it means to all of us who attend his shows. It’s not preaching to the converts. His songs are a reaffirmation of what we already know. His songs are our songs. We are the immigrants in "Clandestino," we are the wandering soul in "Desaparecido." We are those who have been constantly lied to ("Mentiras") and those who are lost in love ("Me Gustas Tu"). Everyone in the audience has a Manu Chao song that is close to his or her heart. As each song started I looked around to see the reactions of the different people around me. The college kids were psyched when "Welcome To Tijuana" came on, perhaps missing the irony behind it. During "Me Gustas Tu," all the gay, straight, interracial, immigrant and born in the U.S. couples embraced. During the Mano Negra songs, the old-school rockeros got up and started moshing in a sea of black band t-shirts. My partner in crime suddenly dragged me out on the floor to dance. One second we are skanking, the next minute we are in a Cumbia bliss followed by some pogo dancing. At the end of the show, the fever that I had forgotten about returned with a vengeance.

I spent the next two days in bed, sicker than I had been in a while. Going to the show was probably a bad idea physically, but spiritually it was needed and sometimes the trade-off is well worth it. As I laid in bed, I turned on the TV, the stereo, opened my window and let the outside sounds come in. My roommate was blasting Reggae from her room. The dogs were barking next door as my neighbor sang Baladas from the top of his lungs. The King Taco down the street was hopping with brisk Sunday business and across the street from them, the men argued about cars over some beers. After hearing all this, I closed my eyes, pulled the blankets over my feverish body and created my own Manu Chao influenced street symphony in my head. Once again my fever was forgotten.

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