Vocalist/guitarist/accordionist David Hidalgo and guitarist/drummer Louie Pérez started writing songs together while in high school in East Los Angeles, California. By 1973, they enlisted fellow students Cesar Rosas (vocals, guitar, mandolin) and Conrad Lozano (bass, guitarron). Originally, they called themselves Los Lobos del Este (de Los Angeles) ["The Wolves of the East (of Los Angeles)"], but the name was quickly shortened to Los Lobos. At first, Los Lobos played Top 40 rock and roll covers, but the band became a local favorite when the band members began experimenting with the traditional Mexican music they listened to as children. The band performed at hundreds of weddings and dances between 1974 and 1980. When Los Lobos added a rock sound, the band moved into the club circuit on the other side of the Los Angeles River. By this time the band also included saxophonist/keyboardist Steve Berlin and drummer Enrique "Bugs" Gonzalez. Los Lobos gained international notoriety in 1987 with a cover version of Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba." Los Lobos released its 24th album, Gates of Gold, on September 25, 2015.
At City Winery tonight, Los Lobos inventively combined rock and roll, Tex-Mex, country, folk, blues, brown-eyed soul, and traditional Latin music including cumbia, bolero and norteño. The attraction was not that the band did any one of these styles especially well; the mastery was in the mix. The versatile performance was a thick gumbo of rich Mexican and American roots and artistry. Cheers greeted Hidalgo halfway through the set when he strapped on his accordion for the first time, and the audience was transported south of the border. The band performed five songs from the current album and one song each from at least eight albums, and featured guest spots from vocalist Syd Straw and guitarist Marc Ribot. Los Lobos had won over the audience long before the closing cover of the Grateful Dead's "Bertha."
Visit Los Lobos at www.loslobos.org.