Blues on a Rainy Night in Aztlan...

The Blues Straight Up Band Rocks Tia Chucha's

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: January 20, 2005

Blues on a Rainy Night in Aztlan...

It was a record week-end for L.A. recently, as one of the biggest storms in over 30 years drenched everything & everybody in the Land of 1000 Dances.

Traffic accidents, mudslides, road closures, flash floods, property damage, cancelled trips & events...everything & anything to give you the blues if you live here. I do, and I had 'em, big time!

Music has always been a tonic for me, getting me through many situations, and it's been said that the magic of Blues music is finding a good way to accept some of the bad things that happen in life..and taking that good feeling with you. Works for me!

That being said, on a thunder & lightning soaked Saturday night, I had to find a way to deal with so many things going wrong in my part of the World (like a leaking apartment roof and power outage) while staying local and dry. Luckily, I live near the popular Tia Chucha's Cultural Cafe in the San Fernando Valley where tonight the legendary Blues Straight Up Band was performing...so I braved it.

L.A.'s Big Mike Rincon (of The Blendells fame) has put together a musical ensemble that has been dubbed "the finest Chicano Blues on the Planet," and tonight for a small , fortunate audience that braved the elements, the title was reinforced.

Combining classical & traditional blues music, classy veteran musicians of different backgrounds, and mixing in some hot Chicana vocals with attitude, the Blues Straight Up Band makes an impression on audiences with their interpretation of The Blues, making new fans of the genre whenever they perform.

As I came in out of the rain, you could smell the fresh hot coffee and feel the cultural ambience Tia Chucha's is renowned for. The art, bookstore and Latino flavor of Tia Chucha's made the perfect backdrop for a warm night of live Blues music, and the small capacity (maybe 50 people max) made the moment somewhat intimately friendly, making you feel lucky you got a seat in such a cozy atmosphere.

The Blues Straight Up Band features such well known names as Big Mike Rincon on Bass, James Rodriguez on Keyboards, Smilin' Jack D on drums, Dave "Harpdog" Pearce on harmonica & vocals, Byron "B Man" Domingo on guitar, and tonight featured guest congero Ray "Conga Ray" Ybarra of the East L.A. Revue All Star Band. If that's not a band to say "wow" to, top it off with the sassy Chicana vocals & stage attitude of the ultra talented Lava Gonzalez (of L.A.'s Lava & The Hot Rocks fame) and the Blues come at you red hot!

Each member can hold their own, each giving polished solos when called upon, otherwise blending expertly and perfectly as a well oiled machine should . Lava Gonzalez's multi range voice can go from sultry & sexy to hot,raw & seductive, in both english & spanish, making you wonder why you never listened to the Blues before. Her stage antics and Chicana wit & attitude makes it all the more enjoyable.

Like all good rides & songs, the Blues Straight Up Band's performance ended too soon. Afterwards, I had a chance to talk with Big Mike, Lava, and the other band members, and they all looked in a better mood than when they started, despite the heavy rains and long drives home they all had to make. Music does that to people...especially good music!

Big Mike tells me a new CD and future performances are in the mix. I am not gonna miss out! Hope you don't either!

...and so...even in bad weather...who knows where Frankie Firme will show up next?...
...only LatinoLA knows...stay tuned!

Note: for more info on The Blues Straight Up Band: www.bluesstraightup.com

For more info on Luis Rodriguez's Tia Chucha's Cultural Cafe, coffeeshop, cultural
center and bookstore in Sylmar, California: www.tiachucha.com

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme spins the finest Chicano Oldies but Goodies & Latin Soul music on the World Wide Web, rain or shine, every Thursday at 6:00pm, pst, on www.kclafm.com, and daily on www.chicanoexpress.com

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