Love in the Land of 1000 Dances

The 2006 Radio Aztlan Music Festival was a night to remember

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: April 23, 2006

Love in the Land of 1000 Dances

As I sit here writing this, sipping on a warm cup of coffee and sitting around with my Lady on a lazy Sunday morning after breakfast, the haunting but classic sound of Dimas Garza and the Royal Jesters of San Antonio, Texas, is playing in the background.

I smile and look across the table at her and think ....were these last couple of days a dream?...

Without me saying a word, my Lady starts to sing along with the words of "You've succeeded", a classic and timeless song by this classic Westside San Antonio Chicano group. "You know", she says while glancing through the Sunday paper, "I've heard this music for the past couple of years on your shows, but last night was impressive, seeing and hearing them perform live. I never thought we would see all the talent we saw last night, and enjoy it with our friends like we did...and the finale was probably a dream come true for guys like you, Steven Chavez, and Ruben Molina, huh?".

And with that, I realize it wasn't a dream, 'cause if it was, it came true and became my reality, and I again count my blessings that I live in the Land of 1000 Dances.

The 2006 Radio Aztlan Music Festival in Riverside, California, was the culmination of dreams for a number of people that reinterates my never ending insistence that the Art of Music is a fountain of youth that I invite EVERYBODY to drink deeply from, and CHICANO Music is my favorite flavor.

On Thursday, April 20th, after months of planning , negotiations, and the inevitable headaches and heartburn, Author/Music promoter Ruben Molina proudly escorted some of San Antonio, Texas's finest Chicano Music talent to Hollywood, California, for a guest appearance on my radio show, The 2nd Time Around.

To my pleasant suprise and honor, I welcomed Dimas Garza III, Joe Jama Perales, Rudy T. Gonzalez, Ernie Garibay, "Bones" Arragon, Ralph Saenz, Robert Gonzalez and Johnny Ray Canales(dubbed "Westside Soul de San Anto")to Hollywood and world wide Internet Radio, joined by Ruben and music producer Steven Chavez.

Afterwards, I joined them at the private studio of East L.A. Chicano Music legend Lil' Ray Jimenez, for a rehearsal and sneak preview of what was to come. Just watching Dimas, Joe, Rudy and the guys go through the motions was a treat for me.

The next night brought out the San Anto faithful de Califas, as Westside Soul de San Anto packed 'em in at A Taste of Texas Restaurant in Covina, where the host and Emcee was none other than the East L.A. Revue's Steven Chavez, President of Rampart Records, who was filling in for me at the last minute due to a last minute emergency. (Thanks, carnal).

In addition to my being unable to make it at the last minute, another snafu resulted in an unexpected equipment shortage prior to the show. As if the event had been blessed by the Goddess of Ritmo herself, Ruben Molina reached out to the closest performers on the bill, Rich Garcia & the Midnite Cruzzers, who upon hearing about the problem, not only offered to lend equipment, but also volunteered to perform a set to open up for the homies de San Anto. The result was nothing less than love, as Westside Soul de San Anto were once again warmly welcomed to the Land of 1000 Dances, the packed house and standing ovations testament to the Gente's love of some great performers that made the long journey to the West Coast, to perform the music they so love for the Gente.

The next night, April 22nd, was a night to remember as the West Soul de San Anto joined up with some of the best in Califas for the 10th Annual Radio Aztlan Music Festival, which was a successful, sold out event. My Lady and I, accompanied by our friend, Santa Barbara singing star Pepe Marquez, were lucky to get in at the last minute, as the event was standing room only at showtime. Music promoter Steven Chavez and his wife Janie, and Chicano music pioneer Max Uballez were spotted in the crowd, along with Ruben Molina.

Hosted and MC'd by KUCR FM's Pablo "Tripp" Trevino, the show opened up with RICH GARCIA and the MIDNITE CRUZZERS, who once again proved adept at opening up and getting things started. Excellent Chicano music in it's purest form, complete with some musical & vocal solos, the MIDNITE CRUZZERS received the first of many standing ovations of the night.

Next up was the Inland Empire's classic Chicano group A LITTLE BIT OF SOUL, formerly known as THEE DUPREEMS, who have the distinction of having appeared in the Radio Aztlan Music Festival more than any other group. Their outstanding performance proved why.

Next up, the WESTSIDE SOUL de SAN ANTO were presented a lifetime achievement award for their contribution to Chicano Music by the University of California, Riverside, Chicano Studies Department & KUCR FM's Tripp Trevino.

After that, with Joe Jama leading the group as musical director and as one of the lead singers, they went on to give up a most memorable performance that had the crowd on their feet in a mild state of awe for these talented representatives of Texas, some whom they had never heard of...until tonight.

First, Rudy T. Gonzalez came out and gave up a hot performance, complete with jokes, dance, singing, and moves that pre-date ANYTHING Michael Jackson ever thought of. He received a standing ovation for his trademark slow-motion dance spin, and his tear jerker rendition of "All I could do was cry". He was quite colorful indeed, making a lasting impression, and some new fans.

Next, Ernie Garibay, in touching tribute to his brother, the late, great Texas Bluesman Randy Garibay, stepped up and kicked it up with some fine Blues and Oldies.

Finally, as if to put icing on a perfect cake, Dimas Garza came up and performed a Royal Jesters medley that included "You've succeeded", "Love me", and finally the ever popular classic "I want to be loved". You could have heard a mouse pee on cotton in the packed auditorium as everybody in the house, fans and performers included, all stopped what they were doing and stared in amazement as Dimas's voice came out loud, clear and perfect, and the back up music and vocals blended magically...and the moment was truly magical as I saw many in the audience singing along with Dimas...some fans even shedding slow tears...

...that was an emotional moment I wish could have been captured on video for the Gente de San Anto. They were truly REPRESENTED!

After a short break that included some of the best Tacos in the Inland Empire and the World, supplied by the popular LALO's TACOS of Riverside, an Inland Empire landmark family restaurant that caters to the finest Brown occasions, it was back to the music.

Opening the 2nd set were the Blue Satins, a classic East L.A. group from the 1960's that includes master artists Andy Tesso and Bobby Loya, who helped put West Coast Chicano Music on the map back in the day with their exceptional renditions of rock & roll, and Doo-wop Oldies. After their performance, legendary trumpteer Bobby Loya was awarded a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to Chicano Music by Tripp Trevino and UC Riverside, which brought him a much deserved standing ovation.

Lastly, it was time for the stars of the show, and the time EVERYBODY was waiting for all night: TIERRA, featuring Rudy & Steve Salas.

Killing all controversies and rumors of conflict, the Salas brothers, Pioneers of West Coast Chicano Soul since the early 1960's, publicly and with utter class expressed love and respect for each other on stage, drawing admiring & respectful applause from everybody in the house as they hugged each other on stage, with Steve giving an inspirational message about the love between Chicanos that was evident tonight, and the need for our people to become educated.

Then, they got down to business... like only TIERRA can!

As if rejuvenated and re-energized by the enthusiastic crowd, the love in the air, the excitement of the moment, and the crowd of performers on both sides of the stage, TIERRA seemed to go back in time, grow younger by the minute, and the Brothers Salas proved to everybody once again why TIERRA remains the reigning heavyweights of West Coast Chicano Music after more than 35 years. Dazzling stage moves and dance, electrifying percussion by Dale Villavicencio/Billy Mondragon/Steve Salas, trademark Latin horns, world reknowned drum solos by Aaron Ballesteros, and the harmonious blend of voices of Rudy & Steve Salas with Billy Mondragon, singing the TIERRA classics provided a perfect ending to a perfect night, saluting Chicano Music and the need for Chicanos to pursue higher education.

In an emotional finale, Rudy Salas and TIERRA called up all the performers of the night on stage for the finale song, Rudy proudly proclaiming "Look at all this Chicano talent on stage! From East L.A. to the Inland Empire, to San Antonio Texas, there's nothing but love for our people and our music, let's keep it alive!". Another loud standing ovation.

As I looked upon the stage, with all the performers dancing and singing in unison, I was touched with a moment of sadness...for all the Gente, especially de San Anto, that missed this marvelous moment in time, that may never happen again

Afterwards, backstage was crowded with peformers and family members, as everyone congratulated each other, exchanged compliments, hugs, handshakes, and souveniers.

Although they were the obvious stars of the show and the most revered in the midst of everyone, The Brothers Salas, Billy Mondragon, Aaron Ballesteros, and Dale Villavicencio of TIERRA all humbly told me basically the same thing : "It was an honor to be here with our people, and this great assemblage of Chicano talent, for this moment."

Like I said...love in the Land of 1000 Dances. And LatinoLA was there!

Note: A most humble and appreciative thank you on behalf of the artists and everyone else involved to Ms. ESTELA ACUNA of UC Riverside's Chicano Studies Program, who put IT ALL together, worked all the nuts & bolts, lost many a night's sleep to make this happen...and last but not least, for making LatinoLA her most welcome and personal guests. Gracias, Hermana! Si se puede!!

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

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