For rock fans who tend more toward instrumental and lyrical virtuosity than decibel levels, have I got a concert for you! Not that Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys, and Alejandro Escovedo can't rock it with the best of them, it's just that there is a lot of art involved in their collective craft.
And with the St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series at Deer Valley kicking off their season on the evening of Independence Day with this classic lineup, Park City music fans are in for a very special treat. This will be one genre-busting show. Bring both an eclectic mindset and your dancing shoes.
I mean, Los Lobos alone brings rock, jazz, R&B, folk, blues, Tex-Mex, and country to the table not to mention gorgeous Latin ballads and their signature "La Bamba." Since I first came upon their music on a Slash Records EP back in the early '80s, I knew they belonged on the top shelf of American music.
In fact, since they became part of the scene, I've grouped them with The Band as America's two best rock groups. Now, I'm quite aware that 4/5 of The Band is actually Canadian. Their music, however, harkening to the Civil War era as it does, is as American as baseball, apple pie, and corn liquor.
Nor does the argument that Los Lobos is more Mexican than American hold water in this quarter. Although the four original members are kids from Garfield High School in East L.A., whose experiences in the Chicano community along with the traditional Mexican musical forms of cumbia, boleros and norteños are certainly reflected in their set lists, they are as American as soccer, enchiladas, and tequila. Cultural cross-pollination is everywhere.
I came to Los Lonely Boys much later. They were the final act on the grandstand stage out at the Utah State Fairgrounds as the 2004 State Fair wrapped up. A rock power trio from San Angelo, Texas, the Garza brothers, Henry, Jojo, and Ringo, were all teenagers at the time but it didn't take them long to grab my attention. Mixed in with their on-stage histrionics was some damn raucous rock!
Not being a top-40 radio buff, I hadn't yet heard of them or their hit single, "Heaven." However, that was not the case for the rather large quorum of young females in the crowd who, obviously, were well versed in LLB and their brand of "Texican rock an' roll" that fuses elements of blues, soul, country, and Tejano.
The next two times I caught them live were at the Red Butte Garden amphitheater, both times as part of a bill with Los Lobos in a dual-headliner package. Admittedly, I wasn't all that comfortable when, during the first of the two shows, Los Lobos was reduced to being an opening act. But I got over it.
It seemed that as LLB matured, however, so did their music. My most recent Los Lonely Boys show took place here in Park City at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. I jumped to my feet and slithered into the shadows for some covert dancing moves almost immediately following their opening riffs and remained that way though the encores. With each show, it seemed, they grew on me as performing artists.
And that brings us that longtime, under-the-radar, secret-handshake, knowing-wink kind of act that is Alejandro Escovedo. Alejandro was always the guy that Austin music-scene insiders spoke of in hushed and revered tones. Both as a songwriter and as a performer with or without his band, fans would gush: "Wait'll you get a load of this cat!" It's like, if you were hip to Alejandro, you had passed the litmus test.
"I can take a punch, I can take a swing," he sings/snarls/celebrates on "Man of the World," the first song out of the chute on "Big Station," his most recent release on Fantasy Records. Although it could allude to many life events in the Alejandro saga, I couldn't help but think of how many times medical conditions have knocked him down, only for him to get back up off the mat and fight again.
Onstage, Alejandro exudes an air of coolness that a diamond couldn't scratch. With songs and stories that transcend both that which has gone before and that which is yet to come, he has mastered a musical alchemy for the ages that embraces truths so hardcore they are flat out huggable.
The Fourth of July at Deer Valley will be a day of flaunting the independence, cultural diversity, and creativity of All-American music! Run up the flag and seize the rapture!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.