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Latin Oldies Festival 2003
November 1, 2003

by Mark Guerrero

     On November 1, 2003 there was an historic concert featuring some of the top bands in Chicano music.  The lineup included Tierra, Thee Midniters with special guest Little Willie G., El Chicano, Mark Guerrero & Radio Aztlán, The East L.A. Revue All Stars featuring The Premiers, The Best of Everything, and Caldron.  The venue was the Arrowhead Credit Union Park (a baseball stadium) in San Bernardino, California.  It so happened that major fires were raging that week around Southern California.  The San Bernardino mountains and foothills had numerous fires and bad air quality warnings were being issued in the area.  In addition, one of the top officials of the venue had the misfortune of his house going up in flames.  Due to these conditions, there was talk of postponment, but the organizers decided to go ahead with the concert.  To complicate mattters further, the day of the concert was overcast and there were forcasts of rain.  Because of the aforementioned factors, the turnout was less than expected, however, the people who turned out were treated to some phenomenal musical entertainment.

     Cauldron and The Best of Everything opened the show, in that order, and got the show off with some solid sets to get things rolling.  Thee Midniters’ horn section (Romeo Prado, Larry Rendon, Bobby Navarette, and Bobby Loya) sat in with the latter band on their set. Next in the lineup was The East L.A. Revue All Stars.  They played a set of doo wop, r&b, and “Eastside Sound” oldies with authenticity.  They have a fine lead vocalist in Maria Sandoval and band members who are veterans of the Eastside sound of the 60s and 70s.  Special guests with The East L.A. Revue All Stars were Mickey Lespron, former lead guitarist of El Chicano, and Lawrence and John Perez of the legendary Eastside band, The Premiers.  Mickey put his instrumental abilities on display, and The Premiers played some covers as well as their classic 60s hit recordings, “Farmer John” and “Duffy’s Blues.”  My band, Mark Guerrero & Radio Aztlán came on next with of set of my original songs, including “On the Boulevard,” “Pre-Columbian Dream,” “Zoot Suit,” and “Orale,” as well as “Los Chucos Suaves,” and “Tin Marin de do Pingue” written by my dad, Lalo Guerrero.  Our lineup included, yours truly on guitar and lead vocals, Ron Reyes, guitar; Leo Valenzuela, bass; Bobby Dominguez, drums; Al Lopez, sax; Alex Armstrong, acoustic guitar and background vocals; Aaron Routteneberg Guerrero, timbales and congas, and playing with us for the first time was Karl Carasco on keyboards.  El Chicano followed with a strong set, which included their hits “Viva Tirado,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” and “Tell Her She’s Lovely.”  Next in line was Tierra, who tore it up as usual with a set that included their classic hit, “Together.”  Closing the show was Thee Midniters with Special Guest Little Willie G.  They did a magnificent set, which included their classic hits “Sad Girl,” “That’s All,” and “Whittier Boulevard.”  The show’s master of ceremonies was Hank Castro, a veteran Eastside vocalist, who did a great job introducing the bands and keeping the audience interested and entertained during the transitions with his comments and by singing to tracks.  He seemed to enjoy his duties as M.C. and had the necessary enthusiasm to pull it off.

     Aside from being one of the best lineups of Chicano bands ever, the reunion and camaraderie between the bands was great.  n addition, a camera crew was there to interview various musicians for the documentary in progress, “Chicano Rock.” Tom Waldman and David Reyes, co-authors of the book “Land of a Thousand Dances” conducted the interviews.  I witnessed a great interview by Tom Waldman with the leader of Thee Midniters, Jimmy Espinoza, where he talked about playing at the Rose Bowl in the 60s with a lineup that included the British Invasion band, Herman’s Hermits.  Also footage was taken of a conversation between yours truly and Bobby Espinoza of El Chicano, reminiscing about some of our experiences in the 60s with our respective bands, Mark & the Escorts and the VIPs.  I had a chance to speak with Little Willie G., Jimmy Espinoza, Romeo Prado, Bobby Navarette, and Bobby Loya of Thee Midniters, and John and Lawrence Perez of The Premiers.  In the audience were many Eastside music veterans such as Andy Tesso, formerly of The Romancers and The Mixtures, and John Valenzuela and Ernie Hernandez of my 70s band, Tango.  The unfortunate and unforeseen forces at hand could not, and did not, diminish the quality and enthusiasm of the performances of all the bands or the unforgettable reunion between musicians who have played together, or in parallel bands, since the 60s.

Click here for Latin Oldies Festival concert videos

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Mark Guerrero
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Cathedral City, CA 92235

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