David Hidalgo - guitar, vocals, accordion, percussion; Cesar Rosas - guitar, vocals, mandolin; Oscar Roasa - guitar, mandolin, vocals; Steve Berlin - harmonica, percussion, saxophone; Conrad Lozano - bass, guitar; Louis Perez - drums, guitar
Equally adept at rock, blues, folk, R&B, Americana, as well as traditional Spanish and Latin American idioms, Los Lobos have continually blurred boundaries. In the process, they have become one of the most successful Chicano bands of all time. Like many aspiring 1960s era groups, Los Lobos began playing rock 'n' roll and R&B covers geared toward dancing, but by the mid-1970s had begun mastering traditional Mexican styles. David Hidalgo, the primary lead singer and most accomplished musician of the group co-writes much of the band's material with drummer/guitarist/lyricist Louis Perez. Cesar Rosas, the second lead guitarist and primary singer of the songs with Spanish lyrics is also a gifted musician who provides a distinct bluesy edge to the group. With the exception of sax player, Steve Berlin, who defected from the Blasters to join Los Lobos in the early 1980s, all the band members have been together since attending Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. The longevity of the band and their unique chemistry is a direct result of years of experience playing every imaginable type of gig during their formative years and learning how to fuse many seemingly diverse styles of music into a cohesive stage show. Variety has always been a crucial element in the group's gritty, yet often graceful performances. Inspired by the raw energy of the new wave and punk scenes developing in the early 1980s, Los Lobos developed their own fusion of high-energy rock and traditional Mexican music that despite being played by older seasoned musicians, struck a nerve among younger listeners.
With a career that now spans nearly four decades, Los Lobos have won the respect of listeners, concertgoers, and critics alike, as they continue to spread the word of rock and traditional Mexican music the world over. In that time, the group has produced a wealth of material, but one of the most adventurous eras began in 1992, when band members began working with the production team of Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake. Beginning with the moody and atmospheric 1992 album Kiko, a side project as the Latin Playboys and culminating in the 1996 album, Colossal Head, Los Lobos had established a sound uniquely their own. Having mastered their influences, this second decade in the group's career became a most inventive era, where the band created their own sonic landscape on stage and released several of their most satisfying albums.
This live recording from the archive of Bill Graham Presents, recorded at the Hog Farm's annual Hog Farm PigNic event over the labor day weekend in 1997, captures the band during this memorable era, following the release of Colossal Head and playing before a highly receptive audience at the beautiful outdoor location of Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, CA. A natural music bowl beside a wooded riverside location with unlimited camping, this event brings about quite the inspired performance, featuring choice material from the first two decades of the band's career.
The set kicks off with a triple whammy of great Colossal Head material, the band's newest album at the time. The gritty chug of "Everybody Loves A Train" sets the tone, followed by the slinky rocking title track. Both written by Hiidalgo and Perez, these songs convey a confident band achieving a newfound depth in their music. This continues with Cesar Rosas' lovely and spicy "Maricela," which finds the band already hitting their stride. Another Rosas' number follows with an extended workout on the Kiko track, "That Train Don't Stop Here," displaying more of the band's superb musicianship.
After acknowledging the great set by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, who preceded Los Lobos onstage, they ease into the gently rocking countrified flavor "One Time One Night," a more vintage track dating back to their 1987 By The Light Of The Moon album. A sizzling take on the Kiko track "Wicked Rain" follows, ramping things back up, before they delve into a pair of older Hidlago/Perez songs, both sourced from their 1990 album The Neighborhood. First up is the hard crunch of "Down On The Riverbed" followed by "I Walk Alone," an up-tempo blues that compresses plenty of stinging guitar work into a little less than three minutes. The latter segues directly into the immediately recognizable opening riffs of Traffic's psychedelic classic, "Dear Mr. Fantasy." In no hurry, the band explores the possibilities, jamming with intensity on both post-verse breaks; especially the second break which heads for the stratosphere.
After the preceding treat for the head, the band next aim for the feet with two numbers sourced from their 1983 album, And A Time To Dance. Both featuring Spanish lyrics, the tantalize dancing members of the audience with two spicy polkas, "Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio" followed by "Anselma." After dedicating the next number to Hog Farm founder and event Master of Ceremonies, Wavy Gravy, Los Lobos venture forth into the haunting and atmospheric "Kiko And The Lavender Moon," with altered lyrics that substitutes "Wavy" for "Kiko" in the second verse. Then it's a return to their And A Time To Dance album with the Tex-Mex stylings of "Let's Say Goodnight," fueled by Hidalgo accordion and Berlin's sax.
They head toward the close of their set with the muscular stomp of their cover of Jimmy McCracklin's "Georgia Slop" followed by a great bluesy burn on "Don't Worry Baby," from their breakthrough How Will The Wolf Survive? album 13 years earlier. The latter also serves up a vamp where they introduce the band members and give Hank Ballard another shout out before bringing the set to a smoldering close.
MC Wavy Gravy takes the stage and helps encourage the already ecstatic audience to bring the band back out. When they return for their encore, they cater to a pair of requests, beginning with the title track of How Will The Wolf Survive?, which they hadn't played onstage in quite some time. A perfect complement to the "Don't Worry Baby" that just ended the main set proper, these two songs return to the musical place where many had first discovered Los Lobos and serve as near perfect closers to a superb performance. The band has one important request still to fill though, and that is Wavy Gravy's personal request for "Bertha," the Grateful Dead cover that Los Lobos had contributed to Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead back in 1991. Needless to say, this is a rip-roaring version that cooks along for a solid 10 minutes, bringing their set to a close by channeling some Jerry Garcia spirit into the proceedings. This encore is a captivating conclusion to a remarkable performance at a key time in the band's career.
Taken as a whole, this high quality recording is a perfect example of Los Lobos' relentlessly adventurous spirit, when they had transcended all their influences to become a creative force of their own.