Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bajo Las Estrellas All Across Los

The weeks were a dizzy spectacle. One of those dizzy in-a-good-way friezes that stand out in bold relief and linger like a warm day spent soaking in cool water. Eloy Torrez, painter, musician and muralist was asked to perform songs from his repertoire of original music on October 13th at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) where he currently has work in a show of paintings from the much-heralded Cheech Marin collection of Chicano Art. While many might know of his brilliant mural on Broadway or the Hollywood High School tribute to the film industry, not many are aware of his work as a singer-songwriter or the fact that he painted a mural in France in a Algerian neighborhood that was not immediately receptive. His work, like his music is—as a result—about inclusion, erasing differences and redefining what it means to be a person of color. With an almost Psychedelic Furs-inflected selection of about ten songs, Eloy and two of the boys from Maria Fatal along with Charles Jefferson on bass delivered soul searing music on the LACMA West patio to a small but enthusiastic crowd. Ofelia Esparza was there to hand out marigolds on honor of los muertitos as Eloy opened the set with a song to his late mother. Self Help Graphics was there in spirit and with giant paper mache calaveras as stage decoration. It was pretty near perfect.

And this while I was still glowing with euphoria at having attended and participated in a more personal fundraiser for Daisy Tonantzin “Bajo las Estrellas” on our end of town just a week-and-change before. To go from the booming and melodic vocals of Rocio Vasquez AKA Lobamora, the ultra-lounge Latin retro experiments (all successful) of Chicano Batman and sage spoken word from Los Poets del Norte on the East Side at First Street Studios to equally soulful sounds at LACMA would have been itself a marvelous, but then you follow that with a birthday party for Ruben “Funkahuatl” Guevara, a tried and true rocker, music historian, producer as well as poet and you have something on the order of miraculous. Guevara founded Ruben and the Jets once upon a time and even has the onerous distinction of having jammed with Frank Zappa before pioneering LA’s Rock en Español movement. With a crushed-velvet robe and a pork pie hat, he was channeling the Dalai Llama and shared a set that was barely contained by the teaming East Side Luv Wine Bar. The guests included so many artists, poets and musicians that you couldn’t turn 10-degrees to either the right or left with out literally bumping right up against one.

And Rubén’s show only brought us through to Thursday, if you can believe that. Hence my description of the recent weeks as dizzy. I’d have lost my blogging rights if I’d even thought about missing the Epicentro Poets and their Poetic Epidemic the following night at Casa 0101. Born in the Salvadoran and Central American Diaspora the followed the civil wars and those fleeing to LA and San Francisco to avoid the right-wing paramilitary death squad inspired chaos, Epicentro refers to the center of the earthquake that hit San Salvador and these poets put it down with all the might of a major magnitude terremoto. Leticia Hernandez-Linares and Gustavo Vásquez are the most familiar of the group, but the new faces were not far behind in terms of depth and delivery. It was one of those nights when, instead of the music, it was the poetry, pure and right-out-the-barrel, that drew tears to my eyes. The photographs from Cuba in downtown gallery on Saturday (the next night) were the proverbial frosting since they took me back to a recent time when poets from throughout the hemisphere gathered for a tribute to indigenous people. And finally, there was Willie Herron’s Boyle Heights open mic on Sunday night, which took me back to the birth of Chicano Punk and Los Illegals. Willie might have been joking but he said he’ll christen the weekly forum for music and poetry “I Am” as in “yo soy” but it can also be read as an acronym… IAM or Illegal Acoustic Movement, a fitting name and a fitting end to 14 days in LA. You’ll forgive me if I just want to nest for awhile… maybe try to finally get that first issue of Brooklyn & Boyle out. Even if I have to crank it out on a borrowed machine.

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