Rockin' in the Inland Empire

Riverside, Califas on a Sunday afternoon

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: October 19, 2005

Rockin' in the Inland Empire

?Orale! Mother Nature is NO match for the Goddess of Ritmo, when their elements clash.

I know, I was there this week~end in the Inland Empire, when rain threatened to put a damper on the Annual Dia de las Familias Festival held in Riverside, Califas.

Braving the elements in good spirits and harmony, the Gente came out in force for 2 days of fun, food, drink, community, and great music. Raincoats, umbrellas and smiles was what I could see among the large crowd on Sunday, who caught some of the best music in Aztlan.

At the invitation of popular Inland Empire Chicano DJ and Radio Personality Angel "Baby" Rodriguez (KUCR 88.3 FM, Riverside), Music Promoter Steven Chavez and I took a cruise away from our usual stomping grounds of the City of Angels, to join Angel and the firme gente de Aztlan in the Inland Empire oasis that is Riverside, Califas.

Arriving during a mild drizzle, Steven & I were impressed at the large crowd of Gente that didn't let a little moister in the air spoil the action. Upon arriving, we were greeted by Angel Baby and his staff, who promised a great show. (...and Homie isn't known to lie, either).

Taking a walk amongst the Gente between music and other entertainment acts, we were drawn to a growing crowd and some great Latin Soul music at another end of the Festival. With the weather beginning to clear, and the familiar aroma of Chicano bar-b-que in the air, coupled with the magic of the sight & sound of happy children enjoying the day with familia, we began to feel right at home! (It's like that in Aztlan, know what I mean?).

Finding the source of the music, we came upon the stage where Riverside's favorite sons, A LIL' BIT OF SOUL (formerly known as the Dupremes), were keeping the Gente warm and dancing with their great sounds. A popular Chicano group for over 30 years, it was easy to see why these guys are local favorites...they jam!

After their performance, a buzz began to circulate among the crowd that "the main show" was about to start back at the main stage with Angel's crew...

As we returned, Angel was working the crowd, shaking hands, giving out CD's, and promoting his love for his beloved Chicano Music. (I could relate!)

Seeing me back in the vicinity, he graciously called me up on stage to a warm reception from the Gente, who let me know how much they appreciate what Angel, Steven Chavez, DJ "Crazy Chuy" Hernandez, and I are doing. Then, I was privileged to introduce the main act: Rocky Padilla (pictured) and the TIERRA All STAR BAND, featuring Chicano Legends Steve Salas, Bobby Loya, Johnny Burrola, and Edgar Salas.

Opening it up to hard hitting Latin Soul sounds, Rocky Padilla, Bobby Loya, Johnny Loya, and Edgar Salas wowed the crowd with impressive solos, accompanied by some excellent musicians in the band (including Rocky's Dad at timbales), before Steve Salas came on stage to an appreciative crowd. Dancing, smiling, joking, and singing like he has for the Gente for over 4o years, Steve drew a loud response when he gave an inspiring message to the youngsters in the crowd, extolling the vitures of education~familia~hard work, and Chicanismo. Hitting their trademark TIERRA classic "together", Steve and Bobby sang their hearts out for the crowd, who joined them in song...it was one of those "Kodak" moments for Angel, who had earlier wondered if the Gente would come out for this.

No worries, ese...didn't I tell you? Steve, Rocky, Bobby, Johnny & Company always draw a crowd, and today was no exception!

After the show, Steven & I left Angel, (who was at stage after the show, beaming like a proud papa, and enjoying the warm accolades of the large crowd who all congradulated him on a great show) for a short walk to the Mission Inn, one of Downtown Riverside's more elegant places to congregate.

At the invitation of the San Francisco~Oakland Bay Area's Legendary Horn Man Jeff Eaton, the 2nd reunion of another of the Inland Empire's beloved Chicano music groups, MAYA, which was attended by a large, well dressed crowd, is where Steven and I ended a great Sunday evening.

Along with MAYA, Nightlife and Mic Gillette's HORNS, STRINGS, and THINGS put on a hot performance of music and singing, demonstrating their renown talent for filling dance floors wherever they go. Between sets, both Jeff and Mic came out and mingled with the crowd, greeted Steven Chavez and I, and let us all know how much they appreciated the warm crowds of Aztlan. The music and dancing was good, and I'm talking GOOD!

As the evening ended, I had to ask Steven "Can it get any better in Aztlan, Homie?"

Steven just smiled and said "Yes it can....", and we parted ways with those last words. (...what can he be up to now? Hmmmm.....)

Whatever it will be, wherever it's gonna happen...you'll hear about it here, on LatinoLA!

Note: Angel Baby will be a studio guest on the 2nd Time Around Show October 27, 2005.

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

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