A&E  

Musical Bands of Brothers

3 of Aztlan's best bands put on a show that rocked the Gente and the Land of 1000 Dances into a righteous memory

By Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: March 11, 2013


Musical Bands of Brothers


Brothers and brotherhood‘«™one of the greatest privileges & experiences a man can share. I have it in blood, and I've had in spirit, as I've traveled the Boulevards of Aztlan over the years, and halfway around the World as a young U.S. Marine, and later as a U.S. Army soldier.

Experiences with brothers is memorable or hurting, depending on what the brothers do alongside of you, with you, or around you‘«™I know‘«™

This piece is about as memorable an experience as you can get, as I tell you about 3 sets of Chicano Brothers that practice the soulful Art of music for the people in the Land of 1000 Dances‘«™and all the other brothers that enjoyed that art with their Ladies, on a fine spring night in San Bernardino, California this weekend.

Last Saturday, at the Gents Hall in San Bernardino, once a sprawling bowling alley in the former Norton Air Force Base complex where many men of my generation recall leaving from to overseas military duty stations, Vincent Diaz & Robert Castillo of LATIN SOUL PRODUCTIONS put on a dream concert & dance of grand celebratory proportions.

With a large sold out crowd of over 500 classy & well dressed Gente who were lucky to be here for a historic concert, three of the finest bands in the Land of 1000 Dances, a large dance floor, plenty of food and drink made available for the people, this party & show of shows was on from the very start.

Opening the show was the pride of Santa Ana, California, Aztlan, BARELA. This talented & powerful 11 piece group led by brothers Tony & Richard Barela, came out from the start blaring Tower of Power's classic tune "This Time It's Real", and immediately drew a comfortable roar from the large crowd. Sounded so fine, my Lady and I had to hit the dance floor with about a hundred other people before we even finished our tacos & first drink!

YOU KNOW that's powerful when I put my comida down in mid-munch for a little boogaloo and chancla kicking!...a killer five piece brass section does that to people, know what I mean ?

BARELA sounded SO fine, Mi Gente, proving why they are one of Southern Califa's best Soul & R&B groups. Co-lead singer, guitarist, and former U.S. Army Ranger TONY BARELA softened things up a bit with some sweet Al Green luvin' tunes, but soon the band was back at it, hammering out original BARELA and Earth, Wind, and Fire tunes that kept the elbow to elbow dance floor flowing and never slowing.

During their set, singers Erik and Billy Mondragon of DOWN WITH 3, came on stage for a quickie and melted everybody's heart with a soulful rendition of Billy Paul's classic "Me & Mrs. Jones", that got the slow dance grinds started‘«™but when lead singer ANDY LEMCHECK hit the heart strings with an emotional rendition of "You're still a young man" , there wasn't any room left on the dance floor, so people danced in the aisles !

THAT, ma Bruthas‘«™was a performance! Git on wit yo bad selves, BARELA !

After a brief break with some great killer Old School dance jams with Inland Empire's DJ Rich R, DOWN WITH 3 hit the stage.

Featuring the Mondragon Brothers, Billy & Eric, along with primo Damon, and special guest, TIERRA's Dale Villavicencio at timbales, DOWN WITH 3 began to show THEIR stuff to the Gente, giving up some sweet soul, funk, and contemporary R&B performances that kept the dance floor full throughout their set.

The combined 3 part harmony that has made DOWN WITH 3 one of the most requested bands in the Land of Cali, aboard cruise ships, and overseas was evident throughout the set as Eric, Damon, and Billy each gave up killer solos that filled the air with sweet music you don't hear much on commercial radio very much anymore (dammit!).

The response and love from the crowd was deafening, as loud applause and couples refusing to leave the dance floor after each song was evident that DOWN WITH 3 had touched a nerve in the soul of the Gente, and you could feel the electricity in the air they sparked with their performance.

Another brief break and a couple tacos later, the chingones de Southern Cali, SOTO, came on stage opening both barrels and blasting the Gente with some enthusiastic cumbias con rock en roll that had people actually screaming while they were dancing.

Led by brothers Bruce & Artie Soto, the band seemed to be in their element as the jammed and danced on stage to everybody's approval, and Latin Soul was the call of the day, adding to the already rich offering of popular genres presented & performed so fine on this night‘«™just couldn't get any better anywhere else on the planet, I thought as I boogied my nalgas off on the dance floor.

Even without partners, the large group of Ladies in attendance didn't let the lack of dancing dudes slow them down, as they simply formed circles and did their thing for the rest of the night‘«™BROWN women are NEVER intimidated on a dance floor, ya know!

By this time, the place was packed with everybody who bought a ticket and those lucky enough to be squeezed in at the last minute ( one estimate had it that almost 600 people were in the house), and EVERYBODY was dancing and having a great time! It was such a pleasure to meet people from as far away as Arizona and San Francisco who had traveled to the Inland Empire to catch this one.

As if the night couldn't hit a higher pitch, all the Brothers (SOTO, BARELA, and MONDRAGON) came on stage for a killer finale of "Ain't no stopping us now" that had the entire house singing along as we danced anywhere there was space.

Ahhh‘«™one of those nights you just don't want to end, ended a little bit after 1am, and the happy party crowd of RAZA bid goodnight to the bands and each other in the spirit of love, BROTHERHOOD, and peace‘«™promising to meet & see each other again "at the next one"‘«™

‘«™why can't it be this way all the time?

About Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the Al Capone of the microphone, The Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul, and the Voice of Aztlan heard daily on www.eastLArevue.com
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