Love on the Goldline

This past Saturday May 29, LaEastside’s Pachuco 3000, many Eastside artists, art administrators, and familia from LA, Juarez & Texas attended the wedding of our dear friends & curators Pilar Tompkins and Adrian Rivas.  I don’t think Harry Gamboa, Jr. will mind that I’m sharing his photo showing the procession accompanied by mariachis and guests leaving the ceremony at Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles [Placita Olvera] to the Mariachi Plaza on the Metro Goldline.  Strolling from the church through Olvera Street, the joyous couple’s first dance was to “Volver, Volver, Volver” played by one of the Placita’s scheduled bands.  Tourists and locals joined in the glee of the whistle blowing guests en route to the Union Station.  The perfect day included a unique 1930’s reception at the beautiful Plaza Salon, formerly a speakeasy that is within walking distance from Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.  Pilar & Adrian’s love of Los Angeles history, art and architecture [which was featured on Saturday] was a blessing to all that attended.  Que vivan los novios!

The Mariachi-Oke Experiment con Trio Ellas

ESL patron channeling his inner Linda Rondstat

ESL patron channeling his inner Linda Rondstadt

Mariachi Plaza has been home to many troubadours, seeking to serenade the ears of passersby with their songs for sale. Across the way, this tradition has held true in the local neighborhood bar, Eastside Luv, a familiar and favorite spot of mine and many, away from the “Los Angeles” of late but with an added interactive twist to los Canciones de su Padre. For several months now, the barra monument to many things Mexican and Mexican American culture has been hosting “Mariachi-Oke!”  Yes, it is what it sounds like, and it is the first and third Sunday of every month. Patrons step on to the stage and attempt to belt out the ballads of Beltran, Negrete, Gabriel, and Fernandez without fear and hopefully, without forgetting the lyrics.  There are no bouncing balls highlighting the sing along words; it’s a sink or swim policy that ESL holds, which has filtered out the amateurs, but not always the hard of hearing. Not to worry, though, you are in more than good hands with the Trio Ellas, the live mariachi music accompaniment who will toss you a lifesaver from time to time when you feel, and when the audience lets you know, that you’re drowning.

The three very talented young ladies Natalie Cortez (Guitarron), Suemy Gonzalez (Violin), and Stephanie Amaro (Guitar) make up this trio. Every other Sunday night, they explore the range of mariachi music, from somber love songs to ballads of brokenhearted lovers scorned by cheating spouses. Emotional catharsis is music, and very much mariachi. The group took some pre show time on the ESL patio to chat with us about life, prison, and the love of music.

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January Downtown L.A. Art Walk


Starting last year, as proclaimed by our mayor Tony V, January is Art Month here in L.A. and it’s all about the arts. This is the second year of bringing attention to the plight that the arts are facing, which I’m sure a lot of people are already aware of because when things get tight, the arts go out the window. So, the whole point of Art month is to get people out and about into museums, galleries and events all month long to check out what L.A. has to offer and stimulate the local economy. Well I did some stimulating of my own on Wednesday at Corazon del Pueblo by listening to amazing poets put themselves out there. They even inspired me to get up there and read. Aside from that, I knew I had to hit up the Art Walk because not only is it Art’s Month, but it’s the first one of the year.  The cities website states, “we are urging Angelenos to enjoy the best the art world has to offer without leaving Los Angeles.  And we hope they will make it an adventure by discovering a new museum or performing arts venue!”Adventure ? I’m game.

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¡Sounds Like Burning: Play From Your Fucking Heart!

¡Sounds Like Burning is about psychos, angels and psychotic angels. Who else deserves mention?

Mister Bill Hicks introduces the series because he is… Bill Hicks. He condensed the first law of all the Arts: Play From Your Fucking Heart!

The performances to be aired here are rigodamnediculous. The biblical scholar Bon Scott once commanded: Let There Be Light. And There Was Light.

Bask in it.

Can one make the unknown known? Tune in and Trip out.

Bill Hicks “Burning Issues”

Ron Shock remembers:

Other than the drunken orgies… we (Bill Hicks and I and the rest of the Comedy Outlaws) were pretty wild, we did a tremendous amount of drugs and we drank a tremendous amount of whiskey, and usually we did the drugs and the whiskey together. But there was one show we did… Hicks is on stage doing his impression of Elvis where he uses toilet paper instead of handkerchiefs and he would wipe his forehead with toilet paper and throw the toilet paper into the crowd. Jimmy Pineapple who was just drunk as a skunk comes running from side stage and tackles Bill, for no reason, just to do it, right in the middle of a show, in front of 900 people and tackles him and as Bill is laying on the ground without missing a beat, keeps on with his act, he’s still Elvis…

Mariachiando: Me miro en el espejo

In this issue of Mariachiando we jump from 1999 (last post) to Nochebuena 2006…

In high school, I was part of a mariachi group with other high school friends. We formed it sometime before the beginning of high school in 2003 (we were all in the same year at school) and we performed at private parties, etc., throughout Southern California. Though it was a (tax-free) source of income for many of us, we always hesitated about taking gigs after December 15th because members traveled with their families or had very packed calendars. In 2006, however, almost all our members stayed in South Gate for Christmas and we accepted a gig on Nochebuena only because it was a one-hour performance in South Gate.

We only had one replacement for that night, another mariachi musician from South Gate and a friend of ours (always up to substitute in our group). I arrived at the house about half-an-hour early and warmed up with other the mariachis outside. It was a really cold night, notwithstanding the fact that we were wearing mariachi trajes (not the best protection for legs), but looking forward to a quick performance where there wouldn’t be anyone drunk.

We went in and performed in their backyard. Though they had hired us, they did not seem too much into the songs. Maybe because it was Christmastime, who knows. They had a fire going and all the embers and smoke were blowing toward us, messing up our singing and choking us throughout the performance. When our hour was done, we bowed and started to take our leave. One of the men stopped us and said (in Spanish), “Stay for one more hour.”

“Can’t, it’s Nochebuena and we agreed to only one hour. We have to go with our families.”

“I’ll pay 500 dollars for the second hour.” “Sorry, we really have to go.” “$700?” “Look, we must…” “$1,000?” “We’ll talk about it with the rest of the members.”

One hour of our time in Nochebuena was worth $1,000 to him. Our first hour went for $300. Continue reading

Mariachiando: La raíz

Mariachiando will be an ongoing series of posts at L.A. Eastside and my blog about my experience as a mariachi musician throughout Los Angeles. The posts will not be in chronological order in order to fully document these experiences and create a narrative. To follow these posts here at L.A. Eastside, visit the Mariachiando category.

My paternal grandfather was a mariachi musician in México. in the weekends, my grandfather often left for a whole day or a weekend with his violin, guitar, or vihuela, to play with compadres in other pueblos around los Altos de Jalisco. Often, he’d be in the plazas, playing and singing with friends. When he came to the United States to work in the 1970s, he spent time working, but eventually quit and spent the rest of his time in East L.A., playing throughout the area with other mariachis and friends.

Meanwhile, my dad and siblings grew up listening to my grandfather’s music and the music that filtered to their pueblo’s radios from Guadalajara. When they had some time to themselves, either when they walked from their rancho to the pueblo, they played games or sang. While none of my grandfather’s children became mariachis themselves, they all sang, a few of them very, very well and my dad learned to play the guitar.

My dad is the third-oldest male and the fourth-oldest child. The eldest three males immigrated first to the United States in the late-1970s. They originally lived in East L.A. & Boyle Heights, but moved to South Gate in the early-1980s. All the siblings eventually moved out to the Bay Area, the last one, the oldest male of the family, leaving South Gate in 1989 and his stove to my dad (which is still in operation today). Continue reading