Just Like the Good Ol' Days
Satisfaction & Sangria rock Norwalk
Once again, Mi Gente, I take to the road, cruising down the musical Boulevards of Aztlan, looking for the hot spots where that cool, hip, good looking, and (slightly) over 40 Chicano crowd goes to get their boogie on in L.A....
Published on LatinoLA: December 23, 2004
... and bringing you the full report here, only on LatinoLA.com
Free of baseball hats, cowboy hats, hassels, and youngsters who don't know how dress, dance or act, the classy older Chicano crowd can still dress it up, step out, and kick up the chancla in style when the music gets good, and the environment is right. We take care of ourseleves and our business a tad better than our parent's generation did, and we are aging slower....and we still like to party!
Not that the younger generation doesn't know how to party, tu sabes. I've been criticized lately by some of the younger dudes for not giving them props for their music, or their involvement in the party/music/entertainment scene...hey, to each his own...different streaks for different freaks and all that...it's just that with all the commercial over bombardment directed towards the younger generation's dollars irregardless of taste, and the marketing fad that just doesn't convince me how cool a 10 minute, 3 chord booming song or the "ghetto look" is, this piece is directed towards Gente that take a slightly more mellow, social, and non rebellious approach to having a good time.... Us older dudes want ours, too!
I have met some youngsters who can really sing without screaming, cursing or bumping & grinding. I have also met some who can actually play an instument without electronic synthesizing enhancements. And there are some who can artistically compose original, meaningful lyrics without the "in-your-face-I'm-a-gangbanger-and-I-wanna-get-laid" theme that is so annoying. I'm always impressed with young performers who comb their hair, and don't dress like they live & sleep in a back alley of a drug rehab facility somewhere in the ghetto part of town, or just got out of Juvenile Hall...I just haven't seen or heard a lot of them lately...
...and unfortunately, these qualities just don't sell well in the commercial music world at this time, or to Gente at large. So in lieu of criticizing the up & coming young homies, I just don't focus on them....hope that appeases my young critics, and I wish them well! There is just some music I can't wrap my mind around, know what I mean?
(That being said, I hope I don't get shot by some struggler who's covers I've pulled!)
So it was, on a recent Southern Califas Friday evening that I find myself traveling to L.A.'s newest Chicano hot spot, The Saddleback Lounge at the Ramada Inn, located in Norwalk, Califas, where an old fashioned, "Battle of the Bands" drew a good sized and spirited crowd for an evening of dancing & great music.
Conveniently located off the 5 freeway 15 minutes south of downtown L.A., the environment is clean & classy, parking is free, and popular talent draws a good Chicano crowd who love to dance to good music. Great food and service add to the inviting ambiance, and will keep you coming back....and they enforce their dress code!
Tonight, 2 of L.A.'s heavy hitters, SATISFACTION and SANGRIA (pictured), veteranos who have smoked the dance floors of Southern Califas for many years, took it to the Gente for a showdown that has been years in the making. This was the first time these 2 headliners have been on the same bill, and I wasn't about to miss this one!
I got there early, but I still encountered a large crowd that was buzzing with anticipation. I've been a fan of both groups for years, and play a lot of their music on my show. I began to absorb the crowd's anticipation, and wondered, who drew the bigger crowd, and who will be better tonight? Hmmmm....let's get it on and see!
SATISFACTION started the party off with their hard hitting Latin boogie sound, the guys looking sharp in matching outfits, and as expected, the gorgeous Eileen Benavides brightened up the place by just walking up on stage. The band looked "ready", and they all moved with a rythym that was infectious that quickly filled the dance floor before anybody finished their first drink. Robert & Eileen Benavides, the daddy-daughter vocal team extraordinairre, were simply in the zone as SATISFACTION performed flawlessly through a stimulating, non~stop kaleidescope ride through rock n roll, disco, cumbias, rancheras, R & B, Tex~Mex, and of course, the ever popular Oldies but Goodies that had me & the rest of the crowd on the dance floor through both sets. A compliment I've never heard before, one of the bartenders joked "man, I wish these guys would take a break. With everybody dancing, nobody's coming up to the bar!".(Shhh! Don't tell the owner!)
I don't know if it's because they're friends of mine, or if because my Lady & I are some of their biggest fans, or judging by the electricity in the air the standing room only crowd was feeling, but SATISFACTION just seemed to get hotter & better with each passing song. Each member took their turn "showing their stuff" with dazzling solos, Jimmy Silva cookin' on sax and percussion, Ruben Martinez's keyboard seeming to come alive and adding electricity to the air, Ralph Orozco simply sizzling on drums with the energy of a happy teenager, bassist Art Alvarado carrying the beat ever so fine while staying in step and sharing stage antics with the man becoming known as "little Santana", the multi-talented master guitarist, Chris Reserva, who makes me say "Santana who?" everytime I seem him perform some of the finest guitar rifts & solos I've ever heard. Between he & Robert Benavides, they supply the sparks on stage that make SATISFACTION one of the most popular bands in Southern California.
The crowd finally caught their breath and had time for a drink or two after SATISFACTION finished their second set and the house DJ took over for awhile. I went to greet & congradulate the members of SATISFACTION, and I noticed that all of them were soaked with sweat! (Well... Eileen glistened!) They were all smiles and looked liked they partying instead of working. Suprisingly, most of the band still had the energy to stick around and party to the next group for awhile.
"It ain't over", Robert Benavides told me, "The next guys aren't just anybody. We're talking SANGRIA! And believe it or not, as many people that are leaving exhausted are being replaced by fresh Gente walking in the door". He was right. The door was a never ending stream of traffic, and the place was comfortably crowded, with all the Gente in the house looking good and showing respect for each other as we all were having a ball! It was a nice place to be at the moment..no kids, no pendejos in baseball hats & yardwork clothes, and lot's of beautiful brown women dressed to turn heads and ready to dance!
Next up, the legendary SANGRIA took the stage, recharging the crowd with their 11 member ensemble, which showcases a 4 man brass section. (Shades of Tower of Power!). Not one to be outdone by anybody in Aztlan today, SANGRIA showcased their well known R & B/Disco sound, Chicano style, with percussion & brass that pulled everybody to the dance floor once again. Ties, sweaters & jackets started coming off as the Gente refused to get out of the groove or let the warm temperature in the house slow them down. In a warm show of respect and carnalismo, SATISFACTION's guitarist Chris Reserva was asked to join them on stage due to a last minute scheduling conflict that left them a guitarist short for the night.
I thought he'd be exhausted after the 2 high energy , grueling sets he had just finished, but Chris smiled brightly, and told my Lady & I, "Hope you stick around, 'cause you ain't seen nothin' yet!". I curiously wondered how he would pull it off. SATISFACTION and SANGRIA both have a distinct sound of their own, and being friendly rivals for many years, how do you just jump in with a veteran group like SANGRIA with no rehersal?.
Although some of the SATISFACTION members had left, I saw drummer Ralph Orozco kicking it with crowd and dancing his butt off. He and I both had to compliment Chris's performance on stage with SANGRIA. "Chris's talent is unbelievable", Ralph said of his musical compadre, "He and Robert carry the show so many times when we have a sluggish crowd, and now here he is with a great crowd, and he's just straight out kicking ass!". I had to agree. Unless you knew otherwise, you would have never known the guitarist was from another group as Chris easily joined in on the dance steps and didn't miss a beat to any song, giving up some hot guitar work and maintaining the energy that helped SANGRIA keep the Saddleback Lounge packed till closing. SANGRIA is just that good, and tonight, they were just a teeny bit better!
Whew!! A great night, and a tough decision, but taking part of the evening to interview some of the Gente (when they weren't on the dance floor), the results were unanimous for the Saddleback Lounge's first Chicano Veterano Battle of the Bands:
S A T I S F A C T I O N ... by a song!!
Don't get me wrong, Mi gente, both groups were the best I've ever heard them...
...one just SATISFIED the Gente a little better!! No losers here, just one winner bigger than the other!
..who knows where Frankie Firme will show up next?...only LatinoLA knows!....
Note: SATISFACTION, SANGRIA and other great Chicano dance bands will be performing regularly at the Saddleback Lounge at the Norwalk Ramada Inn every week~end. For entertainment info, room reservations and directions to the Saddleback Lounge, contact Guy Zimmerman at (562) 868~ 0991.
info on the SATISFACTION band is available at their website at: www.satisfactionband.com
~ and of course, tell 'em you heard it from Frankie Firme!
When not cruising thru Aztlan, Frankie Firme spins the finest Oldies & Latin Soul on the world wide web every Thursday on www.kclafm.com at 6:oopm, pst, and a daily segment on www.Chicanoexpress.com