The Healing Power of Chicano Music

JEG's Dan Rios benefit concert heats up a cold, rainy and windy night

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: January 30, 2008

The Healing Power of Chicano Music

There are many horror stories describing the dark side of the entertainment business for sure, and music people, like movie & TV celebrities, as well as politicians, are out in the public eye for your review for whatever scandal arouses your curiosity.

This piece today is not about that. This one's about love & healing. This is about the good side...on the Brown Side of Town, circa 2008!

Whether you enjoy or detest, dance or bemoan, hard working artists are out there, entertaining us day & night, weekends & holidays, indoors and out, as some of us seek brief diversions from life in the form of art enjoyment known as "partying down with the Gente".

(A unique sense of adult being in Aztlan, where you don't just stand or sit around, and problems are something to be avoided - youngsters under 35 may have not reached this level of maturity yet)

Whatever we do in life, it is usually somebody else who entertains, amuses, interests, or gets our attention in public, usually an artist. Whenever we laugh, cry, dance, or sing along to our favorite song or movie or play, we are, in essence, showing our appreciation for the artist that plies his or her trade for our enjoyment.

After each gig, the artists, like the audience, goes home and resumes life, a little more refreshed and sophisticated that their art was shared and enjoyed, and that they made an artistic contribution to the process of being civilized, in a hostile world that is gradually losing its appreciation of art for the benefit of future generations.

Because of their larger than life existence by virtue of their talent, we sometimes take for granted that they'll always be around, and don't expect them to have any "regular guy" problems.

Only a small percentage will ever reach superstar-millionaire status, but for the many more who don't, their efforts of artistic expression do not go unappreciated by the grateful audiences they entertain. This piece today exhibits gratitude for longevity from both sides of the stage in a manner that sadly just doesn't happen enough...

...the World would be a better place if it did.

Recently, my friend Peter Jaramillo of Jaramillo Entertainment Group told me about one of the bandleaders of one of L.A.'s most popular Chicano music groups who had suffered a massive heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery. He invited me & my Lady to the most talked about benefit concerts in the Land of 1000 Dances he was putting on, one where just about EVERYBODY in L.A. music knew the recipient.

Dan Rios, a brother Viet Nam Vet whom I've known for over 30 years, and the leader of L.A.'s legendary SANGRIA band, recently went down for a standing 8 count on November 20, 2007. Down but not out. Dan is home from the hospital and recuperating well, but bills keep coming, and life keeps moving along.

Dan and SANGRIA have entertained audiences throughout southern California for over 35 years. Besides performing in just about every music venue throughout Los Angeles and southern California, they've volunteered their musical services to many charitable events over the years, and Dan has helped many a new artist or band get their first L.A. exposure on stage at one of their gigs. During hard times or good, SANGRIA takes you to another level of Chicano music, making you dance, sing along, and love...

... helping you forget the hassles of life, even if just for one night. That's the power of good music, when it's performed right.

Because of their high level of talent, diversity of music and on-stage professionalism, not to mention longstanding popularity, SANGRIA has naturally challenged, encouraged, and inspired others to musically compete with them in the Land of 1000 Dances, as they strive to compete as well, thus giving Chicano music audiences something they can't get anywhere else on earth but in L.A., as the best of the best help make the West Coast one of the richest pools of music & talent anywhere in the Country, if not the World.

As if to define that significance, and exhibit for the world the respect and admiration Chicano music artists in the Land of 1000 Dances have for each other in L.A., a virtual "Who's who" of L.A. Chicano music assembled for a benefit fundraiser concert & dance for Dan Rios at the elegant Whittier Radisson Hotel Grand Ballroom that was attended by a most elegant and good-looking crowd of Chicano music lovers that packed the Radisson to standing room only capacity, while raising money to help a brother in need ...

Opening the show, promoter, host, & MC Peter Jaramillo welcomed the crowd, who were enjoying a generous buffet dinner, and introduced the opening act, The DIVERZITY Band, who got things started in a hurry.

Then, the pride of the San Fernando Valley, THE COMPANY Band, came on stage and wowed everybody, with the dazzling Becky Cordova showing her stuff and getting the crowd off their seat and on their feet with their brand of funk, rock & roll, soul & oldies. Ever the crowd pleaser, the COMPANY Band was on it tonight!

Afterwards, in tribute to their leader who has led the band for over 35 years, SANGRIA took the stage and belted out some of the hottest Latin Soul/Funk/R&B fusion you've ever heard, proving why they're one of L.A.'s best. Sitting up front in the audience, although a little weak and under the weather, I could see that Dan was itching to get up on stage and play with his band as he has for over 3 generations, as the music got better, and the dance floor spilled out all over the ballroom to the sounds of SANGRIA.

Next came the veteran SUAVE Band, 12 strong and belting out hot brass sounds and Latin Funk to beat the clock, just the way everybody likes it, and keeping the atmosphere hot and moving. It was cold, windy, and raining outside in uptown Whittier, but you couldn't tell from inside the Radisson Hotel, where everybody had worked up a healthy sweat, and the temperature prompted the hotel staff turn on the air conditioner.

Then, one of the big boys of L.A. Chicano Rock & Latin Funk, SOTO, took the stage, with the Soto brothers Bruce & Artie personally coming off stage to give a warm tribute to their good friend and L.A. Chicano Music team mate & competitor over the years, Dan Rios, before busting out into their trademark Latin Rock & Soul, once again filling the dance floor to over capacity. Their hot stage performance kept everybody happy, dancing, and drinking, and NOBODY was going anywhere! SOTO seemed to supercharge the electricity in the air, and everybody was smiling and having a great time as the music took on an almost tribal beat, sensual and rhythmic, making me & my lady stay on the crowded dance floor, absorbed by the moment, as we all danced to the hypnotic sound of SOTO.

Closing the show in style, grace, and with straight out kick butt funk, soul, cumbias, & rock & roll, PEPE MARQUEZ and his new LATIN SOUL REVUE Band, all the way from Santa Barbara, simply tore up the stage, stole the show, and kept the place full to the end. Giving a another heartfelt public tribute to Dan Rios, Pepe showed them all why he is one of the West Coast's up & coming premier entertainers, dancing and singing his heart out for the crowd, with his veteran band simply going off in a cacophony of well blended sound & rhythm, especially when Pepe & female vocalist DeeAngel Marshall gave up a sensuous version of "Very Special" that had the crowd "oooh-ing & ahhh-ing" as they teased and interacted with each other on stage. Percussionists Dale Villavicencio (SOTO, TIERRA) and Martin "Chili" Ortega (SANGRIA) were moved to jump on stage and join Pepe for some killer cumbias afterwards, as the party spilled over almost 2 hours past schedule....nobody complained!

In between it all, DJ Tyme and DJ Gibby kept it all the way live with their hot club dance mixes that had ALL the ladies smiling, and all the bands staying to boogaloo after performing, to give back the love & respect they got.

In the audience I saw such dignitaries as members of the TIERRA, SATISFACTION, TRAFFIC JAM, WESTSIDE CREW, MIDNITERS, and MIDNITES MOON bands, all dancing and having a good time. Cable/Internet TV stars THEE MR. DURAN and EAST L.A. REY were spotted on the dance floor kicking up chancla, as well as many other musicians, singers, promoters,producers, and all the other good Gente from the Land of 1000 Dances.

It was a magical night, you know, one of those "good old days" type of memories we'll be talking about for years to come...and through it all...a grateful Dan Rios said "Thank you", as his beloved Chicano Music world surrounded him with love.

Note: For more info on upcoming shows: stevenchavez68@hotmail.com or go to www.jegrp.com

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme is the Al capone of the Microphone, and the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul.

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