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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Culture Clash
Will the wolves survive? Oh yeah.

I ASKED Los Lobos bassist Conrad Lozano about the time the band opened for the Clash in Oakland back in the '80s. He felt nervous, yet amazed, about the audience response: "They gave us the finger and spat at us." No stranger to punk crowds, having played with X and the Blasters, the band soldiered on until denser projectiles zipped by. "It was pretty cool until the bottles started to fly," Lozano admits.

Things have changed considerably for Los Lobos--so much so that the world-famous Mexican-American roots rockers rarely spend Cinco de Mayo at home anymore. "We'll be in College Station, Texas," Lozano says about this year's festivity. "Normally, we're doing a show somewhere, but if we're home, we'll spend it hanging out with our families." Los Lobos will hang out, and perform, at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz on May 14.

Lozano has resigned himself to the fact that Los Lobos' big hit, "La Bamba," will probably be remembered over Ritchie Valens' version. "I guess that because our version was put out later in life, people will relate 'La Bamba' to us," Lozano figures. "That is, until someone comes along and records another version of it." The song became both a blessing and a curse. In 1987, "La Bamba" hit No. 1 in 16 countries. Never content with commercial appeal, the band retaliated by moving in a totally different direction, recording La Pistola y el Corazon, an album of traditional Mexican folk songs. Los Lobos even left "La Bamba" off the set list for a while. "It's a great song, but we just wanted to move on," Lozano explains.

Over the years, Los Lobos has gone through several startling transitions, the latest of which is the challenging, blues-tinged Colossal Head, an album that took four years to create. Longevity can be credited to musical schizophrenia, with no imminent cure in sight. "That's the way this band is," Lozano says. "Ever since we started, everyone had different tastes, everyone wanted to have a different say. We got started playing Mexican folk music, but we were still playing in our own bands. I was in a three-piece rock & roll band that played Blue Cheer, Jimi Hendrix and Creedence. The other guys were playing soul, country, blues, but we came together playing Mexican folk music."

Warner Bros. has backed them all the way. Surprisingly, Los Lobos hasn't been exposed to too much racism in the industry, according to Lozano. "We've been pretty lucky in that respect," Lozano says. "Most of the people we've worked with are music lovers. Nobody's ever tried to change our image. Our fans are the ones who give us pressure--telling us to lose weight or get a haircut." (Colossal Head is reviewed here.)

Cough Drop

Faced with time to kill before Barbara Manning last Tuesday, I whipped over to the San Jose Museum of Art to see New York combo Soul Coughing performing a private party for RealAudio. I'll admit I passed on Soul Coughing the first time. The band sounded cold and clammy on Ruby Vroom, but after a few minutes at this crazy soiree, Soul Coughing--sampler M'ark De Gli Antoni, guitarist/vocalist Michael Doughty, bassist Sebastian Steinberg, drummer Yuval Gabay--swept me away. The band's quacked-up melange of jazz, brainy beat poetry, sampling and hip-hop had folks head-bobbing and twirling. If you missed the party, you can relive it on the web. Soul Coughing's newest, Irresistible Bliss, is set for release on May 14. Oh, by the way, Manning was cool, though slightly out-of-place at the opulent Agenda Lounge. Her noisy troubadour style would fit better on the corner sidewalk and that's not a diss.

Kogura & Co.

Tyler Kogura will conclude a tremendous three years of booking the San Jose State University Amphitheater with the Mr. T. Experience on Friday (May 10). Tyler was responsible for bringing Rancid, the Spinanes, Heavenly, Lois, Seaweed, Dance Hall Crashers and every local band that mattered to San Jose State. He'll now concentrate on projects both musical (doing promotions with the Usual) and nonmusical (getting his MBA). Thanks again, Tyler.

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From the May 9-15, 1996 issue of Metro

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