Just Like a Dream

A musical evening with Joe Bataan

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: November 11, 2007

Just Like a Dream


"It will be just like a dream...fine music, fine people, a good time, in a classy atmosphere. The people will come, all dressed up just like back in the day, you watch. We will have a ball!"

I clearly remember those words by Steven Chavez in mid July, shortly after he brought the KOOL KATZ down from San Jose for their successful L.A. debut in the sizzling summer of 2007. It was one of the most successful Chicano music summers in southern California in many, many years, and we were enjoying a moment. He was talking to brother East L.A. Revue Radio DJ Chico Manqueros and myself right after the KOOL KATZ had opened up for Cory Silva's TRIBUTE TO THE LEGENDS OF THE 1960's concert at the A MI HACIENDA Restaurant and Ballroom in Pico Rivera, California.

As Kelly Galvan and the Kool Katz were "wowing" everyone on stage, I could feel the wheels turning in Chico's head as he mentioned this band had literally "kicked ass" while backing up Latin music legend Joe Bataan up north earlier last year, and asked Steven and I "what about down here in L.A., carnales?"....

Fast forward to October 21st, 2007, a beautiful Southern Califas Sunday afternoon in Whittier, California. Steven and the San Fernando Valley's Mr. Bennie Najar Jr., a man who wears many hats (real estate financier, Commandant of the SFV Detachment of the Marine Corps League, and member in good standing of the prestigious PACHUCO Car Club,
et al), had put their heads together and brought Joe Bataan from New York, and the Kool Katz from San Jose to the Land of 1000 Dances for a magical evening...and it was magic indeed!

The location was the Grand Ballroom of Peter Jaramillo's now famous WHITTIER RADISSON HOTEL. Peter and Radisson management staff, including Vicky, Christobal, and Audrey pulled out all the stops, and luxury was the call of the day.

Steven called in one of L.A.'s top notch sound men, Patrick Bacich, and it was on!

Bennie and his Finance2sell.com staff Christina & Jorge helped decorate the hall to elegance, putting together large candy centerpieces and providing the well appreciated and impressive door prizes.

As predicted, the event sold out, and a packed crowd of over 400 filled every table. Everybody was looking GOOD in their Sunday best, and as the ballroom filled, a special and festive mood grew amongst everybody. You could feel the electricity in the air!

It felt good to be among such an elegantly dressed and classy Chicano crowd...it felt good to be back home with the Gente!

I was honored once again to share Master of Ceremony duties with Chico Manqueros, and we were both honored to have so many listeners and fans come up to us and introduce themselves. Even the Mayor of Santa Fe Springs, Mr. Joseph Serrano, was spotted in the crowd of well dressed Gente, looking good with his lady. I also spotted singer Johnny Hernandez, and A MAS Productions' Antonio Perez rubbing shoulders with the crowd.
(We apologized for the absence of brother DJ Crazy Chuy Hernandez of Texas, of course)

As the show began, I introduced the KOOL KATZ, and Kelly Galvan got the crowd going with her sensual yet furious invitation of "Are y'all ready to par~tay?", to which the crowd loudly responded "YEAH!!"

Kelly and the band were in "da zone", busting out with their northern California brand of Rock, chili, and Roll, and getting the party started. They seemed totally at home and at ease on an L.A. stage in the cavernous Radisson ballroom in front of such a large, good looking Chicano crowd of L.A.'s best.

Not an easy feat when you consider that L.A. is the home of Hollywood, movie stars, the Lakers, LatinoLA, the legendary Eastside sound of Rampart Records, and such internationally recognized music stars and legends as TIERRA, THE WHISPERS, SOTO, MARVIN & JOHNNY, LOS LOBOS, JOHNNY OTIS, EL CHICANO, WAR, ETTA JAMES, QUINTO SOL, and many others. Then, to open for, and back up JOE BATAAN, one of the east coast's most recognized and beloved Latin Music performers for over 35 years who's just as home on the West Coast as any other top veteran artist...

...well, suffice to say, coming down to the Land of 1000 Dances in the shadow of all this greatness for only their second visit, can be quite intimidating to "new kids on the block", even though the Kool Katz have been around the San Jose area for almost 20 years.

The Katz nonetheless shined like a diamond, and impressed many new friends and fans. Kelly "The Kat" was simply sparkling. Girl got heart! She "wowed" everybody with her dynamic stage performance and killer vocals.

Then, just as the crowd was getting in the mood after the Katz's initial set...the lights dimmed...the ballroom grew quiet, and Chico Manqueros introduced the King of Latin Soul himself, Mr.Joe Bataan, to a loud and enthusiastic crowd of adoring fans as the lights went up, and you just knew a special moment in time was happening as Joe strutted out into the open ballroom, the "average guy" himself, with a smile you could see from the back of the ballroom !

...homie still KNOWS how to make an entrance after all these years!

L.A. Chicano music star Rocky Padilla joined the Kool Katz band along with Joe's lovely wife , vocalist Yvonne Nitolino, congero Peter Quintero, Jeff Raigosa sporting a classic stand up bass, and trumpeteer/music director Ray Poncin, and it was on! A superb west coast-east coast assemblage of talent indeed!

Chico surprised Joe by announcing that today was not only Joe's last west coast appearance for 2007, but also his birthday. To see Joe break out into a tearful smile as he got a standing ovation, and the entire crowd sang "happy birthday" even before he started singing, was a beautiful moment.

Then Rocky got the band started into a Latin groove, but as Joe made his way to the stage, the screaming crowd could not contain their enthusiasm, they called out to him, and Joe was almost magnetically drawn into the L.A. crowd, where he was showered with hugs, handshakes, and well wishes as the music played on and Joe circulated the floor among the Gente just soaking up the love...another moment!

Finally, Joe made it on stage, took his traditional place center stage behind his keyboard, and gave a beautiful message about GOD, love, Raza, familia, and the need for people to put their worries aside for just a little while and help him enjoy the moment, the day, and the wonderful atmoshpere at the Whittier Radisson.

Breaking out into his trademark opening number "The good old days", Joe Bataan and the Kool Katz filled the dance floor, and it stayed full the rest of the night, as Joe gave the crowd everything they expected...and more!

As I was kicking up chancla on the dance floor with my Lady halfway into his set , I suddenly turned around, and there was Joe right next to me, getting his boogie on!

Apparently, the music, the moment, and the people caught up to him, and he jumped off stage and joined the party on the dance floor!

Something I've never seen Joe Bataan do at any of his previous performances, he started a "conga line" that everybody in the house joined, leading the crowd on a fun and long snaking line all around the ballroom floor as the band played on.

Man! Another moment! The love and fun in the air was so thick, nobody wanted the evening to end!

...but like all good songs, and all good rides, this one had to...and it did so on an emotional note as Joe said a tearful goodbye and thank you to the Gente of the West Coast for this year, as Rocky Padilla joined him in a beautiful and soulful closing ballad.

Keeping the festive mood alive, Peter Jaramillo and Radisson staff then announced an after party at the Radisson Lounge that almost everybody stayed for, and made arrangements for luxury hotel rooms at half price for all attendees of the night's memorable event. It was definitely all the way live, nothing but class!

The next morning as Steven Chavez, Chico Manqueros and I said goodbye to Joe as he left for the airport, Joe broke into a big smile, hugged us all goodbye, and thanked us for a wonderful time.

"I love the gente of L.A.", Joe said, "Everybody is so warm and friendly, everybody treated us so nice , made us feel so welcome, we had a great party and you people on the west coast KNOW how to throw a party! I can't wait to come back!".

...and Steven just smiled, turned to me, and said, "...just like a dream, huh?"
Exclusive musical exerpts from this marvelous show can now be heard on www.eastLArevue.com, courtesy of Bennie Najar of Finance2sell.com ,the East L.A. Revue, and Mr. Chico Manqueros.
~ For further info on music, future shows, & promotions: stevenchavez68@hotmail.com

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme is the "Al Capone of the microphone, and the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul", bringing it back, and keeping it alive, on www.eastLArevue.com

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