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Despite the drag of tobacco promotions, Poncho Sanchez lights up Palookaville

By David Espinoza

AS IF THE BOOKSTORE monstrosity across the street wasn't offensive enough, Palookaville's June 22 show with Poncho Sanchez was mired by the heavy presence of a certain tobacco company with a promotional agenda. Call me a pinko anti-consumer capitalist-commie swine, but I believe it would have been more fitting to say the headlining act was the big-time tobacco company and the backup band was Poncho Sanchez and crew.

Right as patrons walked in, they were greeted by twentysomethings in red polo shirts offering the possibility of winning a shiny new CD player or some other toy as soon as they filled out a survey. Plastered on the walls were rows of the company's posters, as well as a few mini billboards next to the stage with spotlights theatrically shining on them. Considering that P-ville is one of the few venues in town that makes it a point to enforce California smoking laws, this all came as a surprise.

The concert itself went off without a hitch--Poncho Sanchez, fitted in his signature billowy beard, cap and white tape on his fingers, came on stage to cheers from the salsa-dancing crowd. With the assistance of a three-piece horn section, pianist, bassist, percussionist and a guy on the cowbell (well, he sang, too), Sanchez illustrated why he remains one of the most respected contemporary Latin jazz musicians. Early in the set, Sanchez announced a 20th anniversary CD due out in the fall.


Though I'm a bit late telling about it, Los Lobos played a stunning set at the Catalyst June 17. As usual, the show sold out, and the band, not wanting to let anyone's expectations down, made an entrance through the house, wading their way to stage along the balcony. It's always an experience to see lead singers Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo, both on beautiful Les Paul guitars, trade bluesy rock & roll guitar solos, though Rosas still wins when it comes to speed. Los Lobos is the kind of band that could play for two hours and still only scratch the surface of the vast material the players have created over the last 20 or so years. The set stuck to fast-paced danceable tunes with new material from last year's This Time album and classics like "Evangeline." The band also brought out the big guns for Santa Cruz baby boomers, playing Neil Young's "Down by the River." Is it any wonder why this town loves them?

Murder Bloody Murder

This month's "best band press packet" award goes to Seattle's Murder City Devils--a "Confidential"-stamped file that includes a coroners' report on the deceased band members with fingerprints and black-and-white pictures of their grisly deaths. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Great, just what this country needs, more ultra violence-obsessed rock & roll to scare the crap out of parents." The thing about the Murder City Devils is that the band's music--a concoction of trashy post-punk guitars, B-movie-soundtrack organs and vocals reminiscent of the Misfits--has a particularly sinister R-rated aspect that makes it enticing. Check out the band's show at the Santa Cruz Vets Hall Tuesday--just don't bring anyone under 14.

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From the June 28-July 5, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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