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[whitespace] Radical Rage

Chicano rockers Aztlan Underground unleash a multilingual fury

By David Espinoza

GIVEN THIS TOWN'S multiculti leanings, you'd think that when a couple of bands representing the struggles of indigenous people play a concert here, they'd attract a lot of attention. You'd unfortunately be wrong. It's not that L.A.'s Quinto Sol and Aztlan Underground didn't get a decent-sized crowd at the SC Vets Hall May 19. It's just that the turnout could have and should have been much bigger.

Going on after openers Cara Dura, the nine-member Quinto Sol began their set with a ritual before breaking into the first song off their debut album, Kwikakali. It was immediately clear that Quinto Sol could potentially make quite a splash in Santa Cruz, if only the band visited more often. Quinto Sol's brand of revolutionary Chicano roots reggae gracefully mixed with cumbias and Santana-esque guitar leads is the stuff local dreadlocked earthy types love.

Led by singer/guitarist Mizraim R. Leal and supported by a four-piece percussion brigade (congas, timbales, chimes and set drums) as well as bass, keyboards and rhythm guitars, Quinto Sol churned out thick rasta beats with ease. Behind the band hung a huge American Indian-designed tapestry that read Peace on one side and Dignity on the other--a reference to the Peace and Dignity Journey 2000, a run that unites the northern and southern indigenous nations of this continent.

While Quinto Sol's style could fit right in with SC locals, headliners Aztlan Underground would no doubt frighten most away. Imagine Malcolm X, Emiliano Zapata and Crazy Horse as musicians and the images get close to describing the thunderous fury that is Aztlan Underground. Since the early '90s the sextet has almost singlehandedly set the pace for the radical L.A. Chicano music scene, starting up Xicano Records and Film and headlining tons of benefit shows.

For the band's first Santa Cruz appearance ever, Aztlan Underground unleashed an explosive, inspiring performance that could rival Rage Against the Machine. Opening with "No Soy Animal," a multilingual attack against police brutality, lead singers/MCs Yoatl (always with a black hand print painted over his mouth) and Bulldog acted out a cop confronting a person of color, singing, "Stop! Put your hands on your head, we're trigger happy, now I fill you full of lead!"

The rest of the set consisted of material from the band's infamous underground albums Decolonize and the more recent Subverses with classics like "Lyrical Drive By" and "We Didn't Cross the Borders, the Borders Crossed Us." The band also debuted a new song called "The Haves and the Have Nots," reserving "Obsolete Man" for the encore. The most powerful moments had to be when the band cut out the guitars and bass to pound Aztec drums in unison with the floor toms, giving the Vets Hall a mystical, tribal vibe.

Video Extra

Mark Quinn of local punks Thumbs Down sends word that the band is set to shoot a video for "the Canadian version of MTV," Much Music, with a show Sunday at Brookdale Lodge. Opening bands aren't set yet, but there'll no doubt be time to mosh for position in front of the cameras before the director calls "action." Show is 7pm, $3 at the door.

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From the May 24-31, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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