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King B: Karlos Paez of the B-Side Players at Moe's last weekend


Curtis Cartier catches B-Side Fever.

By Curtis Cartier

The seven members of the B-Side Players hail from both sides of the border in San Diego and Tijuana, but with the kind of hours they log rocking Moe's Alley, they might as well be surfboard-shlepping locals. So what is it about this Latin-reggae-funk-and-salsa consortium that makes it the closest thing Moe's has to a house band? Mu_Z checked out Saturday's show to find out.

It's always a good sign when you arrive at a club and there are people dancing outside in the parking lot. Indeed, it seemed that even the faintest whisper of the Players' jams were enough to keep groups of cigarette-break-taking fans locked into well-oiled routines of hip gyrations and hand claps. Inside the club, a rich mist of cologne-soaked air floated above the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of well-dressed concertgoers and, right away, it seemed the band knew just how to deal with them.

After shouting a stream of chirpy Spanish instructions to the crowd (recognizable parts included: "Bailamos" and "Lavanta las manos"), lead singer Karlos Paez launched into "Mascara," a chant-heavy horn jam that meant "party" in any language. From there, the fiesta only got mas loco, with jam after jam--some pure roots reggae, some sex-drenched salsa--all of which the crowd seemed to know every word to. By the first break in the set, almost every member of the septet had let loose a funky solo that drew a raucous response from the fans but was always reigned in deftly by the cherry-red jacket-sporting frontman. For Moe's Alley head honcho Bill Welch, the Players deliver exactly the kind of experience his club strives to bring, which is why he keeps the invitation open for this group of fusion funksters.

"The B-Side Players are just a really fun band with a great message and great musicians," Welch explained later. "They're in it for all the right reasons and they make music that matters, but also music that's a good time."

It was lead vocalist Paez who built the group from the ground up back in 1994. Recruiting friends and neighbors from nearly every stop on the well-trodden road between Tijuana and San Diego, the group became synonymous with the diverse culture that exists on the California/Mexico border. Later, the band would expand to include Africa, Cuba, the Caribbean and South America into its international flag of influences, but its appeal to Latinos never waned, even though a host of new fans joined the ranks. The set's latest album, Fire in the Youth, sees a push further into the political and philosophical realm with songs about immigration reform, world hunger and alternative energy.

Back at Moe's, after shelling out another hour and a half of rump-shaking funk in the second half of its extended set, the group gathered onstage for the customary end to the show. Raising their tequila-filled shot glasses high, the seven musicians saluted the crowd for coming. Leaving the venue, some of the fans looked sad to see the concert end, but if history is any judge, one can be assured that the B-Side Players will be back soon.

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