Tower of Power

CPR offers a breath of life to the Valley Latin scene

Local-music fans had a big surprise awaiting them on April Fools' weekend at Nita's Hideaway. The club, located in the heart of Tempe's industrial district, played host to a Friday/Saturday outdoor double bill featuring Mesa indie rockers Jimmy Eat World and Okie-psych-pop legends the Flaming Lips. While both shows were well-attended and not without their merits (especially the Lips' dazzling multimedia display), the throng of unsuspecting indie-kids and the Lips' somewhat older contingent had an equally pleasant surprise waiting for them afterward as the outdoor headlining sets were followed on both nights by indoor performances from Chicano Power Revival, a highly eclectic 10-piece East Valley Latin big band.

Led by keyboardist Raul Yanez (who has a colorful background as a veteran of the Hong Kong lounge/jazz scene) and a genuinely talented cast of musicians and singers, the group's style is one that seems to offer something for everyone. Although ostensibly a dance-music outfit, the group also explores various world-music styles, has improvisational skills worthy of the most versatile jazz combos and offers an idiosyncratic and challenging take on Latin pop that's miles removed from the similarly dubbed pap currently in vogue on the charts. Regardless of genre constructs, their efforts were enough to get those in the crowd moving throughout a pair of highly charged shows.

Bash & Pop has mentioned CPR before, most recently since it's begun a biweekly Wednesday night residency at Nita's. After making its debut with a series of shows last year at Baja Tilly's, the group took a five-month hiatus, made a few lineup changes and has since resumed a regular performing schedule. The genesis of this unique collective is a fascinating tale and one that New Times will profile fully in our April 27 issue. Stay tuned.

Chicano Power Revival leader Raul Yanez works up a sweat during a recent Nita's Hideaway gig.
Paolo Vescia
Chicano Power Revival leader Raul Yanez works up a sweat during a recent Nita's Hideaway gig.
Beautiful Disaster: New York's Libertine, photographed after what was apparently a very long night.
Beautiful Disaster: New York's Libertine, photographed after what was apparently a very long night.

Chicano Power Revival is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, April 19, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Old Hags: The third in Balboa Café's Country Tribute series passed with little fanfare last week. Though a far less elaborate affair than last August's Buck Owens tribute and September's dual Hank Williams/George Jones salute, the event was an admirable showcase of the work of another Bakersfield legend and honest-to-God country outlaw, Merle Haggard. A crowd of about 50 gathered to see what may have been the most rewarding of all three shows. Running through a 20-plus-song sampling of Haggard standards was a combo led by the Dialectrics' Jim Beach (who performs a consistently amazing solo acoustic set at the Balboa every Monday) and including Nitpickers Dave Insley and Tom Post, Peacemakers Danny White and Steve Larson, and former Grievous Angel Jesse Navarro.

Especially notable were goose-bump-inducing versions of "Mamma's Hungry Eyes" and "Snowball" by Beach, a peerless interpreter of traditional country material. Though, sadly, "Silver Wings" was absent from the set list, Valley stalwart Insley, a formidable C&W vocalist in his own right, manned a sprite rendition of "Daddy Frank" -- which, despite its "up" sound, is one of the more ironically depressing songs (blind father, deaf mother, starving children camped on the side of the highway) in the Haggard canon. Later, Dialectrics drummer Andy Mendoza worked his way through ragtag sing-along versions of Hag staples like "Okie From Muskogee" and "Mama Tried."

A much higher profile and expanded cast of participants is expected for the next show, scheduled for May 1 at Balboa and set to salute the Red-Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson. Bandannas and pot are optional.

Eye for an Eye: Local musician Larry Elyea's name seems to be popping up in local circles more and more these days. As we reported in last week's column, the musician, producer and Mind's Eye Digital boss helped record Truckers on Speed's fine debut, No Sense in Runnin'. It turns out that Elyea was also at the controls for Earth in Real Audio, the new release from local aggro-funk rockers Tolerance. As a side note, the group will be celebrating the release of the disc with a party this Saturday, April 15, at the Bash on Ash in Tempe. The bill also includes Swell 26, Yoko Love, Six Point Restraint, and Flowers for June. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

Chicken-Pickin' Again: Last Wednesday's Deadbolt show had all the expected trappings -- from the police tape blocking the stage to front man Harley Davidson's chain saw to the group's virulent onstage hair spraying. You know, the usual stuff. But the real highlight of the evening came early on with a surprise appearance by Flathead front man/guitarist Greg Swanholm, who performed a mini-set with psycho-surf-a-billy openers Grave Danger, a group that features two-thirds of Flathead's lineup -- bassist Kevin Daly and drummer Vince Ramirez. Swanholm's return to the stage comes after a three-month absence, the result of an injury to his picking hand.

The time off has allowed Swanholm's Flathead mates to pursue their own decidedly skewed muse via Grave Danger (which also includes Rumble Cat Rich Merriman). Unfortunately, Swanholm's injury has slowed work on Flathead's follow-up to 1999's Play the Good One. The guitarist, who's recovered fully, says the group has recorded basic tracks for three songs with Clarke Rigsby at the producer's Tempest Studios and plans to return there in the coming weeks to complete work on that batch of songs before beginning a new round of recording. Swanholm adds that the band has "14 to 16 songs ready" for its third full-length effort, which likely will be released late this year, provided there are no further delays.

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