Another Musical Weekend in Aztlan

I'm glad it never ends, even when I'm broke!

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: November 29, 2005

Another Musical Weekend in Aztlan

Thanksgiving week~end, L.A., 2005....what DID you do?

After traveling the highways throughout southeast Aztlan for a week, making arrangements for yet a 3rd Internet Radio Station slot (www.QVOradio.com beginning in December 2005), getting news of a 4th grandchild on the way, a heart touching moment with a young veteran, and a chance to meet up with some music homies and search some abandoned music mines, my Lady and I survived yet another Thanksgiving with our families .(and Latino families are usually big, and we share the grub bigtime!)...burp! 'cuse me!

That being done, we looked at each other, both realizing that our wallets are looking dangerously thin, and we pondered what to do with ourselves this weekend on a shoestring other than watch some tube?

...The first thing that comes to me (as usual), MUSIC & DANCING!!

...The first thing that comes to her afterwards (as usual), WHERE, Baby? Your car or mine?

(..aren't WE some cool grandparents?)

So it was, after making a few calls around the 'hood, we took a short cruise to the now well known open arena of L.A. Chicano music gladiators known as the Santa Fe Springs Swapmeet on Saturday afternoon.

Always a good crowd of Gente on hand, always some great deals on stuff we didn't know we needed till we got there, always good food & cold drinks, and of course, ALWAYS good Chicano music....all at a great price! ($1.00 admission, all day long).

This last Saturday being no exception, I put on my best jeans and chanclas, and off we went! Arriving on a mellow Califas afternoon, and not knowing who was playing, we walk up to the bandstand, following the sound of music, and to our pleasant suprise, Mr. Aaron Ballesteros and "After Midnite" are cranking out some fine Latin Soul on stage. Along with his homeboys,Thee Midniters greats Bobby Navarrette, Bobby Robles, and Bob Luna, the band was joined be L.A. diva extraordinnaire, Ms Irma Rangel. The music was flowing, and the Gente were glowing, as good music brings out the best in my people. Aaron can hit them skins, and today, he was in "da zone!".

As we sat down in the shade to enjoy a cold one and a snack, Gente came by to chat with DJ/Sound master "Phil", a great guy and somewhat of a local celebrity, making music requests and stopping by to say hello to us.

Clarisa Ballesteros, lovely wife of Aaron, came by and sat with us, and we ran into music producer Steven Chavez, author/music producer Ruben Molina, and NightFlight 2's guitarist Peter Jaramillio, all enjoying the sunshine and music that makes the Santa Fe Springs Swapmeet the mellow, kick back, open air music hang out that it is on weekend afternoons.

Had a great time, heard some great live music, and hung out with good Gente for a couple of hours, and didn't even spend $20.00! Getting home around 9 pm, the tube didn't sound like such a bad idea after all.

The next day brought out the best in musical carnalismo as L.A.'s finest came out for a benefit concert in honor of musician Tony Banda (Poncho Sanchez Band, L.A. Rythm Kings band) at the Barca Cantina restaurant in uptown Whittier. From 12 noon to 10 pm, music talent too numerous to name came out and jammed. (for more info go to www.bandabros.com or www.ponchosanchez.com). Not making the scene, I got reports that it was happening big time in Whittier, with some of my homies the SATISFACTION Band, Rocky Padilla, KAOS, Poncho Sanchez, and Ruben Molina in attendance.

Feeling kind of left out, my Lady reminded me that we live 60 miles away, we're kinda short a couple hundred at the moment, and it was a Sunday afternoon by the time I was up, showered and dressed. (...you know how good them 'jammies feel all day when you're just kickin' it, right?)..oh well, I thought.

As if feeling my blues from afar, I got a call from my home~boy, master guitarist Chris Reserva of the legendary SATISFACTON BAND, admonishing me for not showing up at the Tony Banda thing. "It was great! You missed a good show! Where were you & Josie?" he asked.

Before I could answer, he reminded me that they were having their first ever open jam session at the Norwalk Ramada Inn that night, and that some of L.A.'s finest would be coming by to jam....then he hit me with the "deal I couldn't refuse" : "Hey, homie! It's free admission, and I'll buy you a beer when you get here!"

(...Chris IS convincing like that, sometimes, you know!)

Being the big fan of SATISFACTION that she is, and us both being friends with all the band members, my Lady had no problem saying "Let's go, Babe! Get a jacket!" once I gave her the 411. We were also eager to catch the return of sax man Jimmy Silva, who had been off the set for a while due to health problems, and reports were that he was 'lookin' good and back on stage.

Arriving to the Norwalk Ramada, I was suprised at the good sized crowd. With the Gente still jamming at the Whittier benefit for Tony Banda, and SANGRIA rockin' the house at the nearby Montebello Inn, Sunday wasn't looking too bad for "the kid" after all. To my suprise, making all the scenes like he does, music promoter Steven Chavez was there for a minute, greeting us, digging the music and having a quick cold one, before dashing out for another gig. (...are there more than one of these guys?..Hmmmm...)

As usual, it only takes SATISFACTION one cumbia, and me and the babe are on the dance floor, kickin' chancla with everybody else!

And as usual, the band was tight, even though Eileen Benavides took the night off. The dance floor was alive, and the joint was jumping, as some of L.A.'s best music talent came out like it was a summer Saturday, and the crowd was privvy to some fine, unannounced, unrehearsed, kick butt dance music.

Singer Robert Benavides (aka Chicano Frank Sinatra-Rick James-Ricky Martin all rolled into one), was on his stuff, as Chris Reserva (aka Lil' Santana) and the guys were flawless! And there, looking 20 lbs lighter, and 1o years younger was Jimmy Silva himself, blowing the sax, hitting timbales, and singing his heart out for the crowd! Of course Ralph Orozco, Ruben Martinez and Art Alvarado all turn into happy teenagers on stage, proving what a fountain of youth Chicano music is...when played well, and who plays it better than the guys of SATISFACTON?

Welcome back, Jimmy! You were missed, Carnal!

To my pleasant suprise, the cast of guests was first class all the way!

Female vocalist Mareva Allen from the KAOS band, L.A. Divas Perla Perez, and Alma Gonzalez got up there and showed their stuff with style and attitude!(we're talkin' hands on the hip, in your face, beautiful singing voices that dared you to sit still!)

All night long, congero George Rueda from EUROPA was in the mix. Male vocalist Dominic Pantoja from IMPACT stepped up to the plate and gave Robert Benavides a Rick James-run-for-the-money, as he cranked out some hot dance tunes that motivated Robert to take it up a notch.(And homeboy did just that!) Also on hand and showing their stuff for us was guitarist Paul Reynaga from IMPACT, bass guitarist John Faustino from TITANIC, and keyboardist John Lopez from WESTSDE CREW.

Whew! Talk about a party on a Sunday night of good looking veteranos! It was Sunday night, 8:30 pm, and the place was packed at closing! I wan't ready to leave, but then I was reminded that it was Sunday, the kids were still awake at home, and work tomorrow.

...doesn't reality just get in the way, sometimes? I hate when that happens!

Once again, I had a great time, me & my Lady kicked up the chancla, we were in the company of Aztlan's best, listening and dancing to MORE of Aztlan's best, and I don't think I spent $30.00 !

...And so! For less than $75.00, my Lady and I (good looking grandparents that we are) cruised, ate, drank, danced and laughed in the Land of 1000 Dances on Thanksgiving week~end with the beautiful Gente that are Aztlan....what did you do?

....Who knows where Frankie Firme will show up next? Wherever it is, was, or shall be, you'll get the full report here on LatinoLA.com

Note: The Holidays are coming, make your plans now, 'cause almost everywhere in L.A. will be happening!

About Frankie Firme:
When he and his Lady aren't cruising around L.A. broke and looking for a party, Frankie Firme spins the finest Chicano music on the World Wide Web.
website: www.frankiefirme.50megs.com

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