Keeping it Alive in Aztlan

Chicano oldies, blues, and rock n' roll rock Montebello

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: November 9, 2004

Keeping it Alive in Aztlan

As I write this piece, I'm still tingling all over from a dream come true. Ever get that feeling?...or has it been awhile?...Check this one out, Mi gente!

As adults we train ourselves as we get older, to learn how to "act our age", and contain our emotions and enthusiasm, less we not be taken seriously as adults.

At this moment, importa madre! I feel like a 20 something year old, and I'm sure everybody who attended the Chicano Oldies, Blues, and Rock n Roll benefit concert on Friday, November 5th, at the Club Montebello feels the same way! Our feet may be sore, and it may take us an extra day to get ourselves back together, but for one memorable Friday night, the Gente rocked the house in Montebello, Califas, like they haven't in years!

The benefit concert was to help raise funds to help keep The 2nd Time Around Show on the World Wide Web. Cory Silva and the staff of Midnight productions were more than accomodating and generous. Promoter Steven Chavez worked his usual behind the scenes magic, and some of the finest in Southern California Chicano talent came out and put on one of their best performances this year, for which I am eternally grateful!

It must also be stated that it was quite an emotional moment for me. I had stated publicly many times that my dream concert was to have 2 of the hottest acts in Southern California Chicano music, The East L.A. Revue All Star Band and Satisfaction (pictured), on the same stage. When I approached these artists to ask for their help, despite their busy touring schedules, they both agreed to perform on the spot! No negotiations, no conditions, no demands...just big smiles, handshakes & hugs, and an enthusiastic "We'll be there, carnal!" I felt like I had just won the lottery...

Wow! I must have done somebody right in 2 lifetimes! This being done, I thought I'd try my luck, just in case the dice were still rolling in my favor.

I contacted my good friend, the Crown Prince of Chicano comedy, Gilbert Esquivel, who was currently on tour. Although he was doing a show in San Diego the night before, when I asked him if he was available for the night, he simply replied "What time do you want me there, brother?". Damn!...when was lightning gonna strike, I thought?

By a devine stroke of luck, I had earlier this year made friends with Hector & Lava Gonzalez (of Rampart Records and Lava & The Hot Rocks fame), along with legendary bass player "Big Mike" Rincon, of The Blendells fame. Both Lava and Big Mike now lead what has become known as the finest Chicano blues band on the planet. I ran into them at the UC Riverside concert last month (commemorating 40 years of West Coast Chicano music), and humbly invited them to my event. Without missing a beat, both Lava & Mike looked at each other, then looked at me and said "Hey, we'd like to come out and help you, brother. Would you like us to play for you too?". Somebody pinch me! This has gotta be a dream!

Alright, I thought, something's got to go wrong here. I'm gonna get murdered by a psychotic paleta man who doesn't have change. Terrorists are gonna blow up the Club Montebello. There's gonna be an earthquake. Al Quaeda's gonna kidnap Chris Reserva and Robert Benivedas of Satisfaction and hold them hostage. The East L.A. Revue & Gilbert Esquivel are gonna be offered millions to perform in Vegas that night....something!

Just for insurance plan "B" and "C", I'd thought I would ask 2 of Southern Califas' newest and upcoming Chicano singers, Cory Silva and Pepe Marquez, if they were available to sing and promote their new CD's. Pushing my luck, I thought. Without hesitation, they both agreed, and Cory even offered his band if something went wrong...can you get your mind around what was building up in my head? Singers like Cory & Pepe aren't just sitting around waiting for a phone call.

To top things off, renowned Texas Internet DJ "Crazy Chuy" Hernandez of Chicanoexpress.com had generously made me some commercial sound bites that I had airing on my show for 3 weeks, with good response. I began getting e-mails wishing me good luck from listeners in Texas!

Hmmmm....I thought. Should I take my Lady for a pregnancy test? Is the World gonna end before Friday? Am I gonna get my heart broken?..a bad case of indigestion, at least?

The night of the concert, after 3 days & nights of worrying & waiting for something to go wrong, it happened...pinche L.A. Friday night traffic!!! The usual 45 minute drive to the Club Montebello from my home in the San Fernando Valley took over 2 hours!! Omigod...I'm gonna miss my own event, I thought!!...

Not to worry...by the time I arrived to the Club Montebello only 15 minutes before showtime, everything was taken care of. To my surprised relief, all of the performers were there early!! They all got together and took care of the seating, sound system and playing schedule. Cory Silva himself assumed welcoming and door duty. A good sized crowd had gathered. My Lady simply turned to me, kissed me on the cheek, and said "Let's have a good time, baby. You deserve this"....icing on the cake, homie!

As I approached the entrance of the club not knowing what to expect, Steven Chavez and Chris Reserva greeted me. "Ain't nothing you can do now but enjoy yourself, Frankie. Let's kick some ass, brother! It's your party!" they told me. I'm sure they read the worried look on my face...it's hard to be cool just before a show with this much talent!

The show went off like clockwork... Like a dream come true!

The East L.A. Revue All Star Band started off the action, coming on hard & strong, as usual. Teri Speed's dynamic vocals "took it upstairs" in style, and got the dance floor going. The band sounded so good. Then, the band called up Santa Barbara's favorite son, Pepe Marquez. Despite fighting off a cold & flu for the past week, Pepe came up and performed a beautiful version of "That's All" (which is also available on his new CD). The crowd loved him! You know I was out on that dance floor!

Next, Gilbert Esquivel came up busted everyone up with his trademark Barrio-Ghetto Soul routine. Man, I've seen & heard this brother many times before, but tonight, he was hot! A true professional, he made me proud to call him my friend.

Then, as if taking the crowd into another zone, Lava Gonzalez, Mike Rincon and the Blues Straight Up band simply hypnotized everyone with their take on the Blues, Chicano style! If you've never heard Lava sing "You can take my husband, but don't mess with my man", or her version of "Stormy Monday" in Spanish, you are missing out, my friends! No lie...they truly deserve the "Finest Chicano Blues band on the Planet" title!

After a brief stint by DJ Johnny, Club Montebello's kick butt house DJ, the Satisfaction band came out to a now standing room only crowd, who were feeling pretty good. Vocalists Robert & Eileen Benivedas were the best I've ever heard them. When Chris Reserva broke out with his version of "Europa", everyone in the house got on their feet for a standing ovation before the song was even over! (Carlos Santana who?). They were quite generous with their props, and to my suprise called my Lady & I on stage for a mid-song dedication that had us dancing on stage with them.

When Jimmy Silva hit that sax solo, I was in the zone!

As usual, Eileen was magnificent, and the band never saw an empty dance floor. When they honored me with a second set (everybody agreed to one), I couldn't believe my luck! Here was Satisfaction, one of the biggies, playing till almost last call & closing time! Here were all the performers, East L.A. Revue, Blues Straight Up, Pepe Marquez, Cory Silva, and Gilbert Esquivel, dancing and partying with the Gente to the end!

I felt I was among familia...not to mention that a lot of my actual familia and the hometown crowd from my old neighborhood in Bassett were also deep in attendance, as I got to dance the night away, surrounded by the love of my Gente!

A true memory, and I wish to thank all the artists, Crazy Chuy Hernandez of Chicanoexpress.com, LatinoLA.com, Ruben Molina of Mictlan.com, my familia, my homies de Bassett, all my listeners across the country, and of course, my golden haired lady of Sylmar:


Note: to contact these great acts:

East L.A. Revue : www.eastLArevue.com
Satisfaction : www.satisfactionband.com
Blues Straight Up : elrincon@att.net
Gilbert Esquivel : www.eastsidecomedy.com
Pepe Marquez : jpmarquez.com
Cory Silva ; CORYSILVA52@msn.com

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme will continue to spin the finest in Chicano Oldies but Goodies and Latin Soul music in the World every Thursday at 6:oopm, pacific time on www.kclafm.com, and daily on www.chicanoexpress.com
website: www.frankiefirme.50megs.com

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