Howling with the wolves
Park Record columnist
It had all the trappings of a town hall meeting that would be even more raucous than the Jason Chaffetz affair. This one would showcase subtle notes of deportations and border walls not to mention to-go bags from Red Iguana strewn about the Green Room.
Whenever a delegation from East Los Angeles the stature of Los Lobos arrives in town, it automatically becomes a Holy Day of Obligation on the socio-political front. And Sunday night’s sold-out show at the Stateroom down in Salt Lake proved no exception. An excitable crowd waited. They would hang on every lyric and riff.
Calls to “Do your job!” would not be necessary this time around. This bunch has had their nose to the “norteño” grindstone as well as their shoulder to the gringo-rock wheel for far too long to be called out by anyone. They are not part of the problem but, rather, a huge slice of the solution pie.
Although I was quite fortunate (birthday tickets) to find myself amid that most always well-behaved but passionate mosh-pit ethic that follows the lads on tour, taking full advantage of the opportunity, of course, proved to be a no-brainer. This level of musicality is not only a call-to-arms but also enlists the lower extremities in ecstatic dance.
With “Clockwork Orange” in the air since early November, a not-necessarily nuanced resistance solidarity pervaded the joint. The paradigm of our cosmos had shifted and the air was so thick with the new reality that they probably should have handed out napkins — maybe even aprons.
Just the fact that Los Lobos was in the building seemed to enable the collective endorphin. Neural synapses began spooning-in backup “menudo” just in case an agave rampage ensued. The group pain threshold increased as sedation and euphoria settled in. Bring ‘em on! We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!
As to be expected, familiar faces from both Park City and the flatlands populated the room. For many, this wasn’t their first rodeo. As is the norm for those who have achieved “wolf- mind,” each and every side of the cultural tracks showed up to pay their respects to that most American of bands.
Even without the ever-so-cool on-stage presence of Cesar Rosas, who missed the gig due to a family emergency, the band of brothers flat-out killed it. They have yet to fashion a “slack” David Hidalgo, Louis Perez, Conrad Lozano, Steve Berlin and Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez can’t pick up.
I once liked to brag that I had never missed a Los Lobos show in Utah since that first gig they did at the old “Dirt Palace” out on the Utah State Fairgrounds with Warren Zevon opening back during the late ’80s. Well, those days passed quickly enough and these days we don’t seem to cross paths that much.
That, and the fact that there is this “glow,” this “contact high,” a “wolf-essence,” as it were, that pervades whatever landscape hosts their performance art. It has been known to lead to an addictive personality among those followers who are forced to go without for any length of time. There’s no “jones” like a Los Lobos “jones!”
They’re about as soulful a band as you’re likely to run into and the emotional level in the room Sunday night was pretty much off scale. But, if you had to select just one moment to take away from this quite special evening, I suppose you could do worse than one that occurred near the end of their second set.
During the second verse of the band’s brilliant cover of Marvin Gaye’s pop anthem “What’s Going On,” with the crowd totally understanding the implications involved and, vocally, nailing the chorus in a sing-a-long, David Hidalgo paused his lead vocal to re-gather himself.
The emotions of what was happening to his country and “la raza,” his people, rolled over him like a wave. What transpired during the 1971 civil rights context that Gaye wrote about translated almost too easily to the 2017 of Trump’s cultural pillaging:
“For only love can conquer hate/You know we’ve got to find a way/To bring some lovin’ here today.”
The show was like a real long shower on the inside. Its cleansing component was both celebratory and stark. When hope fuses with reality, you will have that. By the end, we were one — all howling with the wolves!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.