Chicano Batman: “Pan-Latin” in the broadest sense
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A few weeks back, Chicano Batman held a “warm-up” show at Soul in the Park, a weekly party at the Cypress Park bar Footsie’s. There’s no formal stage there so the trio of Bardo Martinez, Eduardo Arenas and Gabriel Villa took over a cramped corner with some true DIY-zeal: They rigged up an ironing board as a keyboard stand. Despite it being a Wednesday night, the La Mirada group pulled in a crowd of local fans (and curious rubberneckers) and despite a wonky sound system, managed to transfix the bar with a short set drawn from their recent eponymous debut.
A name like “Chicano Batman” doesn’t lend itself to easy guesses as to what their sound is like. Los Lobos covering Danny Elfman? Thee Midnighters as fronted by Adam West? What you get is no easier to pin down -- a mesh of Brazilian bossa nova and samba with spacey psychedelia with slow jam soul with surf rock cumbia. It’s “pan-Latin” in the broadest sense, like some bizarre love child between Milton Nascimento, Anibal Velasquez, Los Diablos Rojos, Rita Lee and half a dozen other singers and bands from the 1960s/70s.
The one shining constant is that whatever style Chicano Batman plays in, they nail the essence of summer music: warm bass lines with a tidal undertow; languid, drifting guitar chords; and, most of all, a sensation of laid-back cool evident in everything from their easy tempos to the soft ache of their vocals.
Chicano Batman’s official release party comes Saturday at the Paramount in East L.A., with DJs Lengua, Franko and Fresko helping to open. It seems only apropos that they do this all on Memorial Day weekend. What better way to kick off the summer than with a band that understands and captures the sound of the season as beautifully as Chicano Batman does?
-- Oliver Wang