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Friday Night in the Valley

The SIDETRACS Band keeps it alive with great music

By Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: January 12, 2010


Friday Night in the Valley


Friday night in the San Fernando Valley....

Ever since the Marines stopped having their popular "Friday Night at the Legion" Dances in Reseda, and 2 of the more popular Valley club/dance bands, The COMPANY Band and The BAG OF TRICKS, have started gigging out of town, and with the recent sorrowful loss of the multi-talented ISSAC AVILA, there's not a lot of regular musical happenings going on right now in the Valley on Friday night for veteranos like me, and other good looking Gente over 40 that like to step out and boogie‘«™.

‘«™or so I thought.

Last Friday however, at the urging of some of the LatinoLA road dogs, my Lady & I chanced over to another part of the Valley I don't haunt much, Woodland Hills, to check out the latest popular hang out for that older, hip crowd, Monty's Steakhouse on Topanga Canyon Blvd.

Place is upscale, food & service are top notch, and the ambiance is good for a Friday night‘«™the bartenders "know their business", and take care of you nicely. A good mixed crowd, everybody's cool, loose, and friendly.

But the attraction here on Fridays is the featured Friday night house band that has been surprising a lot of folks lately, and gathering a growing following: SIDETRACS .

The SIDETRACS Band, led by guitarist RIK CANTU, is one of those "we play everything" bands that truly comes through while really playing everything! I had downloaded some songs from their website and played them on one of my radio shows during the holidays, and got good audience response, so I had to go check them out live.

Whether it be rock & roll, funk, alternative, soft rock, cumbias, hard rock, soul ballads, boleros, soul, Top 40, or disco, SIDETRACS delivers a pleasant punch to the soul that can fill a dance floor and make the moment a party‘«™and my experience was a good one.

Featuring a dazzling and exciting female lead vocalist in Sarah Morgan, I haven't been this enthralled by a local band since I stepped out to see Eileen Benavides and the hard hitting SATISFACTION Band for the first time many years ago.

(NOT to be confused with the Satisfaction Unlimited band, Mi Gente!)

Looking simply gorgeous on stage, and packing a killer smile, voice, and a dynamic stage presence that turns heads & gets attention, Sarah, who previously sang with the group SOULSATION, takes the audience on a musical journey in rapid, professional succession with her multi-talented repertoire of genres, easily going from English to Spanish and back. Her sensual but hard hitting performance doing Tower of Power's "What is hip?" brought her one of many standing ovations of the night. She can also croon and melt hearts with the best of them. Between the breaks, Sarah is sociable, approachable, and friendly, easily gliding amongst the crowd, taking time to sit and chat with her fans. "I love doing what I'm doing, and we're here every Friday at Monty's just having a ball!" she enthusiastically says. "Come out and join us!".

She made a new fan here, let me tell you! I will be back !

Band leader Rik Cantu is simply masterful at lead guitar, taking a page out of the great L.A. guitartist Chris (SATISFACTION) Reserva's playbook, and jumping out onto the dance floor in mid song and blowing the crowd away with colorful guitar rifts. Giving up a great performance in all genres, one of the highlights of the night was Rik's clean solo on "Europa" , one of my all time favorites.

"I can feel the audience when I'm on stage, and it's always a good warm feeling to know that my music is being appreciated, and it makes people want to get up and dance"‘«™spoken like a true artist !

With playing credentials that includes stints with MIDNITES MOON, The COMPANY Band, and SOULSATION, among others, Rik's colorful music talent is what drives the hard hitting sound & performance of the SIDETRACS Band to a high level of entertainment.

...dude can chop an axe, know what I mean ?

Along with the other experienced & talented members of the group, Bruff Brigham on 5 string bass guitar, Matt Lesser on drums, and Ken Menardi on dual keyboards, the band meshes nicely together through all genres, and their voice chorus on some favorite tunes isn't bad at all, blending well and making the night's performance memorable.

The SIDETRACS Band‘«™.you gonna be hearing more about this group !

Welcome to the Land of 1000 Dances, guys! I await your performance in Los Angeles soon !

Note: for more info on SIDETRACS: www.sidetracs.com

About Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the "Al capone of the microphone & Hitman of west coast Chicano Soul" heard daily on Internet Radio
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