Los Lobos at Wild Horse Pass Casino, 6/15/12

Los Lobos Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino Friday, June 15, 2012

East L.A.'s Los Lobos hit the Ovations Live Showroom stage almost unceremoniously Friday night. They smiled and waved and took their familiar places among one another; RayBan-wearing guitarist/vocalist Cesar Rosas far left, followed by bassist Conrad Lozano, guitarist Louie Perez, guitarist/vocalist David Hidalgo, sax/flute-man Steve Berlin and newcomer drummer "Bugs" Gonzalez. And like consummate professionals, they casually rocked out, jamming nonchalant-like.

The original wolf pack dazzled a crowd of middle-agers with a set that stretched from Mexican folk and cumbias, to country, R&B and good ol' rock 'n' roll.

Tuxedo-clad ushers helped fans pack the 1,400 seat venue at the Wild Horse Pass Casino in Chandler as they delighted in classic hits like, "The Neighborhood," and of course, Ritchie Valens covers. The sextet opened up acoustically with "La Pistola y El Corazón
," and changed up the pace often; extending breakdowns long enough for everyone to flex their musical might.

Aside from all of the phenomenal guitar picking, smooth sax sounds, and grooving percussion, the first highlight of the night came by special request when they played a sweet cover of "Sabor A Mi." Although quarters were cramped, couples managed to make room to slow dance. Rosas and Hidalgo took turns belting out lyrics and chatting up the audience all night. By the time they launched into "Chuco's Cumbia," concertgoers were light-hearted and loose, dancing in the aisles.

And then shit got nostalgic. For me anyway.

I grew up idolizing Richie Valens as a kid. Not the husky '50s rocker from Pacoima, but the Lou Diamond Phillips version in La Bamba. So when the first chords of, "Come On Let's Go" rang out, I about lost my shit. Dedicated to, "all the pachucos," the rest of the crowd shared in my enthusiasm as they sang along.

As a special treat, the band welcomed WAR percussionist Marcos Reyes to contribute congas on "Yo Canto" off of 2010's Tin Can Trust and a medley that included "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," "I Can't Understand" and "Oye Como Va" before Reyes and Gonzalez finished off with an awesome conga/drum battle.

After a little more than an hour-and-a-half, they wrapped up the night to a standing ovation and a one-song encore. Of course it was "La Bamba."

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Los Lobos at Wild Horse Pass.

Personal Bias: There's a home video somewhere of your's truly wearing yellow sweats and (trying to) rock an acoustic guitar, singing "La Bamba."

The Crowd: Casually-dressed, middle-aged folk.

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