Los Lobos — Show at Antone’s on 10/21 with Nuevo opening
At some point in the summer of 1985, a college friend of mine and I went on a road trip from Houston to Dallas, detouring through the Texas Hill Country — more or less on purpose — in an effort to soak in as much beer and live music as we could afford.
Our brief trek through Austin took us to Antone’s, the famous blues club that was then in a converted pizza parlor near the University of Texas campus. For $9 each, which stretched our thin budget to the cheapest near beer we could find, we saw The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
It was, as you might expect, a memorable evening.
Flash forward 36 years. Texas has changed. Austin has too, and locals would say it’s not necessarily for the better. Clubs still abound in the “Live Music Capital of the World,” but many closed at the start of the pandemic and haven’t reopened. Stalwarts like the Continental Club and Antone’s remain, even though the latter has relocated several times and now is housed in a small building on Fifth Street east of Congress Avenue, just a few blocks from its original location.
On Thursday, at the end of a week-long trip to Texas, I saw and photographed Los Lobos as the group played the first of two sold out shows at Antone’s. As usual, the band from East L.A. did not disappoint, playing its usual wide mix of classic songs as well as tracks from “Native Son,” its first album on New West Records.
Formed in the mid 1970s, Los Lobos still has its classic lineup intact, with David Hidalgo, Louie Perez Jr. and Cesar Rosas sharing leads on guitar and vocals, Conrad Lonzano on bass and Steve Berlin on saxophone and keyboards. Drummer Enrique “Bugs” González supports the band on tour.
What remains remarkable about the band is how terrific they still sound and how much fun they appear to be having as they mark their fifth decade of playing together. And, with 17 studio albums and two EPs to their credit, they can change their setlist from night to night almost seamlessly, moving through a catalogue of rock, soul, blues, R&B and surf music. Case in point: The first three songs at Thursday’s show were “Will the Wolf Survive?” “Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes,” and “Down on the Riverbed.” Each of these has been — and could easily be again — an encore for any other band.
Other highlights for me were the tracks from “Native Sons,” an homage of covers to Los Angeles. My favorites were “Flat Top Joint,” originally by The Blasters, and an epic version of War’s “The World is a Ghetto.” Another highlight: The title track from the CD, the only original song played by the band.
One thing I’ve always enjoyed about seeing shows in Austin and Nashville is the opportunity to to see under-the-radar groups with great potential. Nuevo, the “Tejano soul” band that opened for Los Lobos on both nights, is one such group.
Led by Dante Schwebel, the former leader of the San Antonio band Hacienda, and fellow vocalist/guitarist David Jimenez, Nuevo played a seven-song opening set that altered between English and Spanish songs. Highlights were the rocking “77,” the soulful “All Aboard” and the happiness of “Have Our Fun.” With support Anthony Farrell on keyboards, Andrew Trube on guitar and Nico Leophonte on drums, this is a group to watch.
For more tour dates and info on Los Lobos, click here: https://www.loslobos.org/site/
To find music by Nuevo, click here: https://nuevomusica.bandcamp.com/album/nuevo
For more photos from the shows, go to my Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/glenncookphoto/albums.