Live Review: Los Lobos @ The Hamilton Live — 4/16/19

Shakespeare's Birthday
Los Lobos performs at The Hamilton Live on April 16, 2019. (Photo by Chester Simpson)

Los Lobos performed at a benefit concert for JusticeAid, raising money for the Immigrant Defense Project, recently at The Hamilton Live.

JusticeAid, formed in 2013, holds concerts to raise money for worthy progressive causes, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to beneficiaries. Over roughly five years, JusticeAid has given away some $900,000 to groups including the Civil Rights Corps, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, and the Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project. Several artists Parklife DC has covered have worked with JusticeAid: Trombone Shorty, Dar Williams, Ani DiFranco, and Dom Flemons.

In 1996, Congress passed legislation that ramped up the detention and deportation of immigrants in the name of the war on crime. Immigrants with even minor convictions can face separation from their families. Even worse, they can be deported for these minor infractions no matter how long ago they took place. Immigrants who have built a new life as productive citizens with good jobs and families are sometimes taken away at gunpoint, in front of their children, for 20-year-old convictions for marijuana possession and shoplifting. Once in the immigration system, they can spend years in detention without a hearing, and they have no right to counsel.

The Immigrant Defense Project formed in response to the 1996 legislation. It works to protect vulnerable immigrants by pursuing a multipronged strategy: legal advice through its hotline, and trainings for immigrants, advocates, and lawyers; litigation, including five recent victories in the Supreme Court; advocating for laws and policies that protect human rights and fighting criminalization; and supporting communities and grassroots groups by providing resources to defend their rights against ICE and during immigration proceedings.

On April 16, Mark Rochon from JusticeAid welcomed the crowd. This fall, JusticeAid has two concerts coming up, including a Rent party. Mark shared some information about JusticeAid, and let the crowd know that the night’s event had raised $130,000 for the IDP.

Three members of Los Lobos performed to open the show with a song in Spanish. The rest of the band joined them for the second number, a Puerto Rican song they dedicated to their brothers and sisters there. David Hidalgo, their lead guitarist said, “I hope you’re having fun. We’re trying to loosen you up.” The song had a Caribbean rhythm with Hidalgo’s signature, far-out electric guitar. Louie Perez shook the maracas and sang, and Steve Berlin played the soprano sax.

The band followed with two of their better-known numbers — the rocking “Will the Wolf Survive?” from their breakout 1984 album, and the ethereal “Saint Behind the Behind the Glass.” The audience got up and started dancing during the next song as Steve played the flute, and they continued to boogie through the last piece of the set, “Set You Free.”

During the intermission, a video aired showing a personal story of someone who had benefited from the assistance of the IDP. Alisa Wellek, the Executive Director of IDP, addressed the crowd, speaking about the organization’s mission and goals, and thanking the crowd for their support.

Playing all acoustic except for bass, Los Lobos opened their second, longer set with “One Time, One Night,” followed by “The Road to Gila Bend.” They turned back the clock with Richie Valens’s “Come on, Let’s Go,” and got the crowd on their feet. When the movie La Bamba was being made, Valens’s widow specifically asked for Los Lobos to play his songs. Later, they closed their encore with “La Bamba,” which they rode to #1 in 1987.

After “Evangeline” and another song, David Hidalgo traded his acoustic for a big red electric guitar, and the band jammed its way through “The Neighborhood” and “Jupiter or the Moon.” Even seated, I couldn’t help but bop and move to the rhythm. With roots as a party band, Los Lobos combine incredible musical talents with a fine sense for a good time. At their shows, the music grabs you and grants you release from your worries and cares.

Los Lobos play an incredible range of music, and the last couple of songs and their encore really demonstrated that. They’d already played ’50s roots rock, and they went a little country with Eddy Raven’s “Shine, Shine, Shine.” I’ve read that no one plays electric guitar like Jerry Garcia, but David Hidalgo is as close anyone comes, and while that showed throughout the concert, it was especially evident on a cover of the Dead’s “Bertha.” For their encore, the band played a classic piece of alternative rock, Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” in addition to the aforementioned “La Bamba.”

Here are some pictures of Los Lobos performing at The Hamilton Live on April 16, 2019. (But first a photo of Los Lobos backstage in San Francisco,  shot on assignment for Rolling Stone Magazine, in 1983. All photos copyright and courtesy of Chester Simpson.

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