A New Lady in the Land of 1000 Dances
SATISFACTION welcomes Natali Renee to the City of Angels
Chicano Music has become as endeared as a family member to my Lady and I, and our big group of family and friends. We are truly blessed and fortunate to live in the Land of 1000 Dances, an ever changing, yet static, kaleidescope of warm feelings, good times, family , friends, and of course, the music from the World that is... Aztlan!
Published on LatinoLA: March 13, 2006
There's hardly anywhere we go in our World where music isn't playing, usually in 2 languages. The genres CHICANOS dip into have become widely diverse for us, with Texas DJ "Crazy Chuy" Hernandez , Arizona's Robert "Froggie" Camarena, and New Mexico DJ's "Fredtastico" De Herrera and Vince Guillen adding to the diversity while keeping alive ALL the music that is distinctly CHICANO. Music producer Steven Chavez is always "on the hunt" for new music talent.
You know, most Chicanos are notoriously faithful, loyal, and protective about certain things... like parents, significant others, children, family, homies, and THEIR MUSIC. (Just try to turn down the volume of TEJANO music at a family gathering in the middle of a song in San Antonio, and you WILL get thumped on!)
That being said, I just had to be one of the first to announce that there's a new girl on the block...and home~girl definitely fits in the mix! But first, some background...
One of the top CHICANO bands in L.A.( or on the West Coast of Aztlan for that matter), and one that I am truly proud to call my friends, is the SATISFACTION BAND.
A tight East Side group of talented veteran CHICANO performers, they have in the past 3 years risen above most of the crowd of hot bands in L.A. (and make NO mistake...the City of Angels in the Land of 1000 Dances has NO shortage of great Chicano Music talent) by virtue of their exceptional sound, exciting stage persona, the success of their 2 CD's, and of course, the presence of their beautiful and talented lead singer, the marvelous Lady Eileen Banavides.
With a smile and voice that could break a thousand hearts, Eileen and SATISFACTION (a band that has become known as true gentlemen) have packed houses & dance floors from L.A. to Ensenada, Mexico, and back. They were always somewhere on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night in L.A., and I've always had a good time whenever SATISFACTION's in the house. My Lady and I have become 2 of their biggest fans, never tiring of their great sound, always out on the dance floor.
But...like all good songs and rides, something this fine had it's limits, and ultimately something had to come to some sort of an end...
Last year, at a private gig we were doing together, Lady Benavides reluctantly announced that she was taking a much needed break, and stepping down from the Band that had become her 2nd family.
My mouth dropped open. My Lady got watery eyed. I could see the genuine hurt that the band members felt. A collective "awwwww...." went out amongst the audience. We all knew the announcement was coming, but it stung just the same.
The disappointment matching the shock I felt when the Raiders left L.A., all my Lady & I could do back stage afterwards was hug "mija", and wish her well. Her decision was well thought out & responsible, albeit sad.
What do you do after a kick in the tripas like that? Hmmm...something to think about, que no?
Band members Chris Reserva, Jimmy Silva, Daddy Robert Benavides, Ruben Martinez, Art Alvarado and Ralph Orozco all assured me the "show would go on" , and I had some doubts.(Not a lot, mind you, afterall, this is the SATISFACTION band we're talking about!).
Over the next couple of months, word began spreading around that more than a couple of L.A.'s top Chicana divas were showing up at the band's invitational "open mike" jam sessions with some good parties happening and possibilities being pondered. I attended one where 3 top notch Chicana singers blended with the band, and I thought it almost fixed, but alas... all 3 belonged to top L.A. bands in their own right, and simply came down for the privilige of jamming with the SATISFACTION Band.
Almost in compensation to their fans, the band seemed to work more harder, and their sound was becoming even more electrifying, to say the least! Wow! Something was coming, you could just feel it in the air. SATISFACTION was not going down without a fight!
Then, about a month ago, Chris Reserva and Jimmy Silva got word to me that they had found "her". Hmmm... I thought. These guys know what they want, and they're good enough to be picky. What had influenced their decision, I thought? Who was this "her" they had found? Where was she from? How good was she? Hmmm....
Being that ALL of L.A. has been itching to catch SATISFACTION and TIERRA in an old fashioned East Side Battle of the Bands for a couple of years, it finally came down to a showdown in downtown L.A. a couple of weeks ago. (The smoke still hasn't cleared after last year's battle with SANGRIA at the Norwalk Ramada)
SATISFACTION was now banking on "her" to help them get it on with L.A.'s # 1 CHICANO Music heavy hitters, TIERRA, who were bringing back Steve Salas for added heavy artillery. No tender turf here, let me tell you! No room for a beginner, either!
Being that I had made an earlier commitment, I was unable to catch the musical chingasos that night, but word I got from numerous sources was that it got brutal, with both bands slugging it out with talent & energy, and the noise level and dance floor hit the max, as the faithful came from as far away as Texas and San Francisco to support & represent. The party WAS ON, and the fans loved it, getting more than their money's worth.
At least 4 reliable sources (including a band member from TIERRA) told me about this "new girl" of SATISFACTION, that held her own with the big boys, a new kid with an attitude that would have made my girl Eileen proud.
Now!...I JUST HAD to see & meet "her"!
So it was, at one of SATISFACTION's latest invitational "open mike" jam sessions at the Norwalk Ramada Inn, my Lady and I stepped out on a Sunday evening to catch up with my good friends, the SATISFACTION Band...and to finally meet "her"...
You could feel the anticipation and curiosity in the air when we arrived. I ran into many a fan and Ramada Inn regulars. They were all here, basically in Eileen's back yard, to see and hear "what this this new girl gots"...Eileen has some hardcore fans, ya know. (that Chicano faithful thing, remember?)
Ms. Natali Rene Hernandez, aka NATALI RENEE, now of the SATISFACTION Band, strutted up on stage like she owned the place, and with full support and obvious love of the band, proceeded to capture EVERYONE's heart, in the manner in which her predecessor had done only 3 years before. (Where did these lucky guys find her?).
Right alongside Chris Reserva ,Robert Benavides, and Jimmy Silva, Natali boogied, bumped, smiled, and sang her heart out, drawing a couple of "oohs" and "ahhs" when she demonstrated her bilingual vocal range, taking it upstairs and back, that had my Lady & I looking at each other and smiling, our eyes saying "hey! She's good!".
In the crowd, I saw Danny Rios of the SANGRIA Band, "Conga Ray" Ybarra of the East L.A. Revue All Star Band, Tony Escalante of the Lil' Ray Revue and Eastside Oldies Band, veteran East L.A. singers Willie and Susan Mondragon, and THEE MIDNITERS original drummer George Salazar, all enjoying the show...and definitely approving the "new lady in town", NATALI RENEE.
Guest performers included singers Caroline Garcia, and newcomer Melinda Del Toro (who gave up a great SELENA medley tribute). Guitarist Jim Rodriguez of the KAOS Band jammed hard. Singer Anna Lisa Rodriguez of the TRAFFIC JAM Band came up and dedicated her performance to her inspiration SUSAN MONDRAGON, stepping up and kicking butt like only an L.A. Chicana diva can. Wow! The party was on!
Man! Was I having a good time dancing with the Gente!
But the big story of the night was NATALI RENEE, who seems to have re-energized the guys in SATISFACTION. Tonight, they were simply "in da zone!". Jimmy Silva was hittin' them saxaphone solos and singing like I haven't heard him in years. Robert Benavides was back to his jivin', dancing, and seductive, crooning, old ways. The band was able to convince drummer George Salazar to come up and jam on the MIDNITER classic "THAT'S ALL", a tune on which he originally recorded over 40 years ago, with Robert hittin' it and bringing a smile to George's face. Of course, Chris "Lil' Santana" Reserva was in his own world, smiling, dancing, singing, and strummin' his axe like nobody else can.
All of this, to showcase their new lead singer, NATALI RENEE.
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Natali brings a wealth of singing experience, having performed with the likes of Patty Austin, RUFUS, Don Grusin, and the Pete Escovedo Band.
Singing in L.A. in front of the Gente is a dream come true , according to Natali.
"I have been singing since I was about 3 years old", Natali told me afterwards. "Even though there's a lot of RAZA in Colorado, unfortunately it's still pretty racist out there, and not a lot of chances for a performer to perform CHICANO music like here in L.A...this is what I've always wanted...a chance to sing & perform for MY PEOPLE".
As I was interviewing her, the members of the band, as is their custom, came up and pesonally welcomed my Lady and I, thanking us for coming to their show. These guys are family, and I respect each and everyone of them. You could almost feel a protective aura they put around Natali, as they each took turns in praising her talent and enthusiasm, making sure I got it right. One by one, they joined the interview, and gave up the 411 on the "new girl". Jimmy Silva summed it up when he said "She has become an asset to us". For somebody like Jimmy to say that, having performed for over 25 years, and with Lady Benavides in her prime, is a statement!
It's almost as if a heavy burden has been lifted off their shoulders, having the status as one of L.A.'s premier dance circuit bands sans their lead singer, to continue entertaining the Gente de Aztlan in the exquisite manner in which they do. Now they're back to having fun!
"She's lit a new fire under us" Ralph Orozco said. All the band members smiled and agreed...and Natali could only smile back as she heard this, her eyes watering. "These guys are really good, I am so fortunate, and contrary to what you might have thought, I have not felt one bit of hostility from anybody in the L.A. music scene. I have been made to feel so loved and welcome...it's almost unreal. I think it's that universal synchronosity that comes when talent blends so well...especially CHICANO talent!".
And with that, LatinoLA proudly welcomes Ms Natali Renee, now of the SATISFACTION Band, to the City of Angels, in the Land of 1000 Dances!
CHICANA! Si se puede, Hermana! See you at the next gig!
note: for more info on The SATISFACTION Band and Natali Renee , see their website
at www.satisfactionband.com ~ and tell 'em you heard it from Frankie Firme and LatinoLA.com !
Frankie Firme, " The Al Capone of the microphone, and the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul", can be heard on World Wide Internet Radio.