Laughter in the Rain

Gilbert Esquivel & company paint NoHo brown

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: March 10, 2004

Laughter in the Rain

Even on rainy nights, in the middle of the week, with the infamous L.A. traffic, and so much bad news on the airwaves, Mi Gente knows where to go to have a good time when the occasion arises...and the occasion arose recently. Tu sabes, it doesn't take us too much to make it a party!

So it was, on a rainy Wednesday evening when I would have usually stood home out of the rain, kicked back and watched TV or prepared some music for my show, I find myself in North Hollywood ,California, checking out the Gilbert Esquivel Comedy & Oldies Revue Show. Having been a fan of Gilbert's for many years, and having seen him perform numerous times, the "Oldies Revue" part just made this too irresistable an event for me to pass up. I had spoken with Gilbert a couple of weeks ago, and he told me this was coming, and graciously invited my Lady & I to be his guests. Couldn't turn the Homie's invitation down, being the warm & engaging person that he is, I felt honored. ?Orale!

It didn't take much to convince my Lady that on this rainy night, there probably wouldn't be a large crowd, and there's so many great places to eat in North Hollywood (NoHo to the locals) that we should break from routine and step out in the middle of the week and show brother Gilbert a little support in his new venture. Being that it was also in the avante-garde theatre section of Hollywood, we seriously wondered how a Chicano Show would go over. Hmmmm...too much for us to pass up on!

Vamanos, baby, I'll drive!

My initial speculation proved to be wrong, as we walked into a standing room only crowd of 150 or so Gente in the quaint HaHa Cafe on Lankershim Blvd. The enthusiasm in the crowd was obvious and most welcoming, and the smell of delicious food cooking & being served bade everyone to forget it was raining & miserable outside.

There were many Chicano dignataries in attendance, and Gilbert, ever the epitome of an entertainer & host, took efforts to recognize everyone. Then the show started....

With a mellow house band made up of some of the San Fernando Valley's finest, the mood was set with an opening of Chicano Oldies favorites, while the crowd warmed up with food & drinks, and happily sang along while getting aqainted with each other. It gets that way among the Gente, ya sabes, when the environment is comfortable.

Then Gilbert jumped on stage with his trademark enthusiasm, smile & Chicano attitude, giving up a side-splitting stand up routine before introducing his first guest, the beautiful & talented Chicana lead singer of SOTO fame, Stefane Alvarado. As expected, Stefane wowed them with her sensual crooning and high note hitting interpretation of the Oldies. Even the band looked wide eyed & surprised when Stefane let loose with her hard hitting vocals reminiscent of Chakka Khan/Lucha Villa/Aretha Franklin styles, especially during her rendition of "Sabor a Mi". I heard a lady sitting behind me tell her husband, "Damn! And there's no room for dancing in here!" Stefane brings that out in people....girl got pipes!

Then to the pleasant surprise of everyone, Gilbert jumped on stage after Stefane's performance to recognize El Chicano great Bobby Espinosa, who was sitting in the audience enjoying the show, and unexpectantly invited him on stage to play a tune with the band. Known for politely turning down such public invitations to play non-rehearsed, Bobby surprised us all by coming up on stage and performing his trademark "Viva Tirado" theme song. As he was about to walk off, Gilbert jumped on stage again and whipped up the crowd, who made so much noise & showed so much love for this Chicano music icon that Bobby was moved to perform and sing "Brown Eyed Girl," dedicating it to all the lovely Chicanas in the house. Talk about seizing the moment! Bobby's keyboard talked to us all!

As he is known to do, Gilbert couldn't help but feel the love & warmth of the Gente and take creative efforts to turn it back on us. Giving the band a cue, he went into a rendition of "Rapper's Delight," another Chicano old school favorite. I initially thought he was just doing a good spoof, but after a minute, I got what the rest of the crowd got after watching Gilbert make some moves on stage: Homeboy can sing! And GOOD too!

After a great rendition of Rick James' "Give It To Me," in which he put his own twist to it, Gilbert introduced the next two comic greats, AJ Jamal, and "Rooster" Darren Carter. Both these guys seemed to absorb the Chicano attitude easily, and their routines were tasteful, timely and damn funny! I laughed till it hurt, and I could see the entire audience doing the same, having a great time and feeling glad to have been here!

After another great performance by Stefane Alvarado, Maxie Rico gave up a kick butt rock performance of Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Pride & Joy," which had people beginning to dance in the aisles. As if this wasn't enough, Gilbert then introduced Tex Nakamura of WAR fame, who joined the band in a touching rendition of "All Day Music," which had us all singing along as the show came to perfect close, with Gilbert thanking everyone and reminding us all that being Chicano doesn't mean we're subversives, stuck on the porch, uneducated, or musically aliented from any genre, as we can do it all.

That night's show proved that. Gracias for inviting us , Gilbert. And for all you do for the Raza...this one's for you! Si se puede, carnal!

Who knows where Frankie Firme will show up next? Stay tuned, mi Gente!

Note: The Gilbert Esquivel Comedy & Oldies Revue is playing for a limited time, every Wednesday evening at the HaHa Cafe on Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood. For info and reservations, call (818) 508-4995. Different comedy & musical guests every week!

Check it out! And tell 'em you heard from Frankie Firme!!!

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme spins the finest Chicano Oldies but Goodies on the World Wide Web every Thursday at 6:00pm, only on www.kclafm.com
e-mail: frankiefirme@Migente.com
website: www.frankiefirme.50megs.com

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