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Rocking The Greens Central Coast Celebrates New Concert Venue in Nipomo With First Annual Cinco De Mayo Festival

article & photography by L. Paul Mann

The first Festival Blacklake brought a diverse line-up of East Los Angeles roots rockers to the Blacklake Golf resort in Nipomo, California. The first concert ever held at the natural Amphitheater venue took place on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, (May 6th), amidst a patch of old oak trees perched on a rolling green hillside right on the golf course. In an amazing showing of tolerance, local residents shared their backyard view with several thousand perfectly behaved strangers for the day.

The venue could be the most beautiful and comfortable in all of the tri-counties. A steady sea breeze, kept the air cool, while the hot afternoon sun warmed the ground between the towering trees. The spot was reminiscent of the old glory days of the Santa Barbara Bowl, before the corporate takeover and technical transformation to a modern day concert venue.

Back in the 70's and early 80's, shows at the bowl, (which looked a bit like an abandoned Coliseum in Rome in the 1800's, with crumbling walls and weeds growing in the lawn section in front), took place during the day, sans the elaborate lighting equipment of recent times. Neighbors would gather at most every show with tickets costing little more than a movie for a social outing. Patrons could pack their own picnic basket complete with wine and beer in plastic containers, and layout a blanket on the front lawn section.

Mariachi El Bronx

The same was true of the ethnically and generationally diverse crowd that arrived for the Cinco De mayo celebration at Blacklake. The well behaved crowd, with only one visible law enforcement figure in sight, chatted, feasted, drank and danced in a per-summer celebration of life.

The show began with the new Latin hybrid band Mariachi El Bronx. Born from the roots of the original Los Angeles hardcore punk band, The Bronx, the new group evolved into a fusion of different types of Mariachi music such as, norteno, jorocho, juasteka, bolero and corridos, with a hint of punk and other more modern rock sounds. The band consists of the five musically schizophrenic core members of The Bronx, plus three more members playing various horn and stringed instruments, all clad in traditional Mariachi outfits.

As the hot afternoon sun began to wane, the alcohol-infused crowd fidgeted excitedly for the next act, the legendary punk band X. The band’s impressive pedigree began like all the other groups on the festival roster in East Los Angeles. One of the key players in the early California punk movement, the group had already achieved commercial success by 1980.

In that year the band toured across the country and played at the Arlington theater in Santa Barbara. The concert was the first of many appearances in the city, including later headline shows at the Santa Barbara Bowl. X quickly established themselves, along with a few other bands as the new face of a distinctly Los Angeles punk scene.

X

The band, widely known for their seductive live performances, did not disappoint. Exploding out of the gate, the band kept up a rapid fire pace, playing their short punk anthems, like bullets in a Gatling gun. In just over an hour they managed to squeeze in much of their most popular songs from their extensive catalog of albums. The set list included a heavy dose from their classic first two albums. It may be no accident that you could hear the ghost of Jim Morrison and The Doors in the unique vocal exchanges between Exene Cervenka and bassist John Doe. In fact, the bands first album, Los Angeles, released in 1980, was produced by Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for The Doors.

Doe stirred up the crowd a bit when enthusiastic members of the crowd began slam dancing in front of the stage, blocking the view of the reserved seating section. “What’s the matter?” he asked, when security guards made a feeble attempt to move the crowd back. “Are they blocking the view of the rich people seats?”

“Maybe they will stand up for Los Lobos,” he quipped before launching into a dramatic version of “The Hungry Wolf” that had three generations of music fans pogoing in front of the stage.

Headliners Los Lobos took the stage. Their two-hour and ten minute set was an all-encompassing fitting finale to the musically diverse day. The band began with a set of Latin songs, playing traditional musical instruments. They ended with a full-on amplified hard rock, jamming double encore, and played a variety of sounds and covers in between.

Los Lobos

It was no accident that Los Lobos evolved out of the same neighborhood and at the same time as the early Los Angeles punk movement. In fact, their first gig was at the legendary Los Angeles punk venue, The Olympic Auditorium, in 1980, opening for Johnny Rotten’s Public Image Ltd.

The band has altered the line-up as of late, including adding new drumming sensation, Enrique Gonzalez, and moving veteran drummer Louie Perez to guitar, alongside guitar masters David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas. Other original members included bassist Conrad Lozano, and mufti-instrumentalist extraordinaire, Steve Berlin. They were also joined by percussionist, Oscar Bolanas, for the opening set of traditional songs from La Pistola y el Corazon, their 1988 album consisting of Mexican folk music tracks.

Versions of guitar classics from Santana and The Allman Brothers could be heard in innovative jams meshed with the groups’ own material. By the time the band got to classics like their trippy trance version of “Kiko and the Lavender Moon”, and their hit remake of “La Bamba”, the exhausted crowd was on the verge of collapsing.

However, a spirited guitar drenched double encore brought everyone back to life until the very last note. The band members stuck around until after sunset signing merchandise for grateful fans that had waited patiently for the chance to meet them. What an awesome inauguration concert for Blacklake Amphitheater. I hope they invite us all back soon for another round.


 

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