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Spotlight on the Brown

Music Promoter Steven Chavez

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: August 24, 2004


Spotlight on the Brown


Ever think about how a great occasion is put on? You know the planning, time, expense, more planning and frustrations you have to go through just to put on a good family event like a quincea?era, wedding, baptismal, engagement or divorce party, verdad? (ha! That last one is always a killer, huh?)

Now multiply that times ten, with people you're not related to or who aren't friends, people who are expecting to get paid no matter what, people who remember they're your "friend" at the last minute, fickle artists, add a hundred little nickel & dime last minute bullshit details, unexpected acts of nature, the prospect that you may lose your shirt, shorts & mortgage, finicky audiences, and everybody expecting freebees & so much more than for what they paid for and bamm!....welcome to the wonderful world of the music promoter! Talk about mylanta moments!

For most of us, we hear about a hot event, buy our tickets, go out and enjoy ourselves with only the simple complaints that we had to walk so damn far from the parking lot, and the lines for beer are so damn long! The next day we talk about what a good time we had and how we can't for the next one....if life were only so simple!

Hardly anybody knows the trials & tribulations music promoters go through.

Some promoters walk in the door with money, some walk in the door with good connections, still others have the luck, combined with money & good connections...the rest of the lot have to work their asses off behind the scenes, with little or no appreciation as the performers get all the credit. Many don't last past their first show.

This month's Spotlight in Brown is about one such music promoter. A Chicano promoter. One I have been lucky enough to call my friend. One who I observed (like myself) nobody took serious 4 1/2 years ago when he proposed bringing back a unique sound from a time era many considered musically irrelevant. One who didn't have the money & the connections, and (other than his beautiful, supportive wife), didn't have much luck in the beginning.

I first met Steven Chavez (pictured, with his wife Janie) after one of his first shows with his now renown East L.A. Revue All Star Band, after a coming out performance at a concert in Los Angeles in 2002.

After I wrote a story on the East L.A./Boyle Heights Tribute concert in LatinoLA.com, (http://latinola.com/story.php?=538) which featured such heavy hitters as Lalo Guerrero, TIERRA, and the new Cannibal & The Headhunters, I started getting inquiries from Gente asking who are these "East L.A. All Stars" & when do they perform next?

A group from Central California asked me to organize a show for them (which eventually never came to pass), which would feature the East L.A. Revue All Star Band and Cannibal & The Headhunters as their headliners. This being the impetus, I set out to find out who these guys were, and who managed them. After a week of phone calls and cyber-searching, I got a call from somebody who knew somebody who knew Steven Chavez, the manager & promoter of The East L.A. Revue All Stars & Cannibal & The Headhunters.

As I was new to the business, I half expected the arrogance and the "I'm great, pay me if you want to talk to me" attitude of some of other artists & promoters I had come into contact with in my quest to step into the Chicano music world in a role other than fan. (I won't mention names, but I was sure tempted to kick the shit out of a couple of them who so dearly deserved it! Some still do!)

I called Steven on the phone, and after about 10 minutes of talking, it was evident that we were on the same page of life. A die hard Chicano born & raised in L.A., a former lowrider, a Viet Nam Vet, married to the neighborhood babe for over 30 years, a doting grandfather, and a lover of Chicano music from back in the day, we ended up gabbing on the phone like 2 comadres before Steven suddenly remembered that The East L.A. Revue was rehearsing later on that week, and invited me down to catch them (http://latinola.com/story.php?story=997)

After that meeting, Steven & I began working together, promoting each other's endeavors in Chicano music when nobody else would, and eventually getting the attention Chicano flavored Rock n Roll, Soul, & R&B music has been denied for so long. Musical racism is a lot more subtle, believe me, even from our own Gente!

Steven relates how, at age fifteen, he took on a street car in Los Angeles to the Shrine Auditorium in downtown L.A. to catch one of the first "West Coast East Side Sound" concerts featuring 15 local Chicano bands & acts. Enthralled at such up & coming greats as the Jaguars, The Blendells, The Premiers, The Romancers and Cannibal & The Headhunters, Steven became hooked on Chicano Rock n Roll almost 40 years ago, and remains addicted along with his lovely wife, Juanita (aka "Janie"). It was at one of these early concerts that he met his wife to be...who initially gave him a wrong phone number when he asked!

In the spring of 1968, Steven enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, finding himself serving tours of duty in Viet Nam and Siam. He later served 20 years in the Air Force Reserves, and is proud of his military service to his country.

After returning home from Viet Nam, Steven found that his beloved East Side sound was all but lost, as many Chicano artists subject to the draft left for Viet Nam, taking the music performance with them. Some didn't come back, and lives were forever changed for those who did. Music was taking a different direction in the U.S., and the commercial world was overpowering in their exposure of the caucasian led rock movement, leaving many Chicano artists to either adapt & change, or sink into oblivion as American music all but ignored Chicano tastes. Like many music consumers, Steven reluctantly "went with the flow," listening to whatever came on the radio, while concealing a low burning flame of resentment and missing his music in public.

That low burning flame ignited an impetus years later, when he & his wife attended a long awaited return performance of one of Chicano music's legends, Cannibal & The Headhunters, at a small sports bar in Palm Springs, California.

Expecting an enthusiastic crowd and grand performance like back in the day, Steven & Janie were dismayed that the Headhunters were relegated to little more than a novelty act in a dive, where the patrons were the usual beer guzzling, wannabe jocks & morons who haunt sports bars, for lack of better place to be tolerated. The stage & sound system was amateur to say the least, and the bar owners didn't even have the consideration to turn off the blaring TV's showing various weekend sports events at which the patrons whooped & yelped over the sound of the performance.

Dismayed, as they left, Janie had the idea that "Somebody" has to step up and promote these Chicano groups and their music in a respectful manner befitting their talent and historical contribution to American music, lest a generation lose their connection to music history and cultural innovation. Many of the artists & their music are virtually unknown, hence lacking respect & imitation, in Gente under the age of 35, while young caucasians still cling to Led Zepplin, The Beatles, Ozzie Osborne, the WHO , heavy metal and Beach Boys like this was the only music from an earlier era that is significant.

Starting off with small venues & connecting with established but struggling groups, Steven began promoting a string of Southern California performances starting in the Inland Empire, stretching across the San Gabriel Valley, East Los Angeles, The Long Beach area, to the San Fernando Valley and back. Each performance a learning experience, each performance gaining new fans, each performance gaining new respect for the Chicano East Side Sound, and making Steven Chavez & The East L.A. Revue All Star Band a force to be reckoned with on any stage.

Culminating this musical journey, Steven was asked to organize, promote & market this year's Latin Oldies Festival in San Bernardino, California, on September 18th, which will showcase some of the best in Chicano talent for the world to see...which will of course include his East L.A. Revue All Star Band.

Like myself, Steven & his wife Janie are committed to "bringin' it back, and keepin' it alive"!

Orale, Steven & Janie! Thanks for being there! Si se puede!...it's a BROWN thing baby!

note: Steven Chavez's website: http://www.eastLArevue.com. e-mail: stevenchavez68@hotmail.com

for information on the 2004 latin Music festival: www.santospro.com

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme's website: www.frankiefirme.50megs.com




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