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Curtain Up: Sounds of the City


By David Landau

Published Jan 1, 2008 8:00 AM

Copyright © Photo Courtesy of UCLA Live

If you could hear twilight, it would sound something like Los Lobos, East L.A.'s unofficial band for more than 30 years. Part punk, part Mexican garage band, part dance-hall power players, Los Lobos command a style all their own that's impossible to categorize and as diverse in influences as Los Angeles itself. On February 1, their music will fill another Southern California icon: UCLA's Royce Hall.

The band that Time says has "master[ed] the synthesis of styles that has always been the driving force of American music" started in East Los Angeles in 1973, coming together to play weddings and other small gigs. They went on to release more than 18 albums, gaining the number-one spot on the Billboard Top 40 charts in 1987 with their remake of Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba," part of an album that went double platinum.

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They followed their huge mainstream success by recording an album of original and traditional Mexican music called La Pistola y El Corazón, a decision that was looked upon as commercial suicide at the time. But the band played on, never settling down or conforming to a strict genre. Los Lobos traveled with Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, releasing the brilliant, eclectic album Kiko in 1992 and scoring the Antonio Banderas hit film Desperado in 1995.

Their new tour, which promotes their latest album The Town and the City, makes its way to California after playing 10 Midwest states alongside John Mellencamp. And if there's one thing you can always expect from Los Lobos, it's that they'll do what you don't expect.