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Rivalry Is Set Aside for High-Spirited Tierra Reunion

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Reunions of middle-aged rock bands can be pathetic spectacles, the last gasps of lost youth and fleeting fame. But Tierra’s reunion Friday at the Conga Room showed that this band’s brand of Chicano rock ages well.

Not mellow, like wine. But unstable and combustible like a forgotten stash of fireworks. In two rollicking sets, Tierra celebrated its 30th anniversary with the vigor of a band that still had something to prove.

Which it did. Up until the last minute, it wasn’t certain the original Tierra could come together at all under its perpetually quarreling co-founders, Steve and Rudy Salas. The East L.A. siblings had a final falling out years ago and now front two rival Tierra bands. Despite several attempts, nobody had been able to bring the bickering brothers together again until Friday’s concert, negotiated only as a temporary cease-fire.

Instead of causing a meltdown, the old tensions served to ignite the evening. At one point early in the show, Rudy pretended to assault his younger brother, muttering something about the stage not being big enough for both of them. To which Steve cracked: “Yeah, because we all gained weight.”

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They may be paunchy, jowly and gray, but these 10 guys still sound sharp on their trademark mix of R&B;, salsa and swing, which helped define the Eastside sound. Rudy, the more reserved one, played a mean lead guitar, for a guy who plucks every note with his thumb. Steve, who’s more of a ham, played timbales and sang soulful lead on hits such as 1980’s “Together,” reprised for adoring fans who turned the night into a tipsy tailgate party.

The band was clearly having a blast as well. The brothers even did a few silly dance steps together before the night ended in a joyful jam session, joined by other Tierra members who were in the audience. The reunion proved its point: In the history of Chicano pop music, Tierra is truly worth celebrating.


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