Posted by John Sinkevics | The Grand Rapids Press August 03, 2008 05:16AM
GRAND RAPIDS — As JoJo Garza puts it, the tour pairing two of the country’s most respected Mexican-American rock bands — Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys — is “really a dream come true.”
After all, Garza and his brothers in Los Lonely Boys have idolized Los Lobos since they first heard the band’s rendition of the popular song “La Bamba” in the 1987 movie about singer Ritchie Valens.
“They’re living legends to us,” said Garza, bassist and singer for the Texas trio. “We couldn’t be more ecstatic about it. It’s a real honor to share the stage with them. … They did pave the way for a lot of Latin-American artists who sing rock ‘n’ roll and do traditional stuff, too.”
“Everything we hoped would happen has happened,” said Los Lobos saxophone player and multi-instrumentalist Steve Berlin. “We’ve been jamming together every night. I couldn’t have scripted it any better.”
Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos
On Thursday, both bands descend on Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park for one of the most eagerly awaited double bills of the summer concert series. It’s the third time Los Lobos has played the Gardens; it’s Los Lonely Boys’ first appearance in the amphitheater.
Expect the unexpected, Garza and Berlin said in separate telephone interviews during a short break from the tour.
While both bands usually mix in well-known songs from their respective catalogs — ranging from traditional Mexican songs to Tex-Mex tunes to blues-rockers — they also change set lists on the fly, depending on their mood and that of the audience. And they certainly will jam together at some point.
“The cool thing is it’s not been rote. It’s been however it feels best to the participants at the time,” Berlin said of Los Lobos, which also features David Hidalgo, Louie Perez, Conrad Lozano and Cesar Rosas.
“It changes up every night,” said Garza, who formed Los Lonely Boys with his brothers Henry (guitar) and Ringo (drums) after performing for years with their father, Enrique.
“You should always be fluid. It’s good to be fluid, it’s the best way to be. You can feel it when (fans) want to rock, when they want to slow-jam with their old lady or their husband. You can feel that. Sometimes sticking to the way it’s written isn’t always the way it should be done.”
Neither band has followed the usual formula for “the way it should be done,” yet both continue to rack up musical milestones.
Formed in the 1970s in East Los Angeles, Los Lobos has won three Grammy Awards while being widely regarded as one of the most influential Mexican-American bands of the past three decades.
The band just finished recording a children’s album with its interpretations of classic Disney tunes; the CD will be released in November.
“It’s a pretty cool record,” said Berlin, noting it should appeal to parents as well as kids.
Los Lonely Boys, formed eight years ago, also has a Grammy Award under its belt, winning the award for best pop performance in 2004 for the song “Heaven,” still a mainstay of its live shows.
The trio released its third studio album, “Forgiven,” in July and is the subject of a new PBS documentary set to air Sept. 17.
The film, “Los Lonely Boys Cottonfields and Crossroads,” tells the history and rise of the band of brothers from San Angelo, Texas.
“We’re not really old cats,” said the 28-year-old Garza, “but there’s a lot of mileage on what we’ve done and where we’ve been. It’s a way for people to see what Los Lonely Boys is about and where we’re from.”
Part of the film centers on the band’s development under the tutelage of their father, a conjunto and country musician whose sons joined his gigs in the 1990s in Texas roadhouses and cantinas.
“He (Enrique) loves it,” Garza said. “He couldn’t be more proud. He’s always telling us how proud he is of us.”
The Garza brothers burst with pride knowing they’re touring the land with their idols in Los Lobos.
“We (stand) sidestage pretty much every show they play, because we’re still in awe that these guys are out here with us and we’re out with them,” Garza said.
That the veteran group has helped mentor the young trio is gratifying to Los Lobos’ Berlin.
“It’s quite an honor if somebody feels that way about our stuff,” he said. “It’s nice to see them doing so well. They’ve learned really well.”