Los Lonely Boys will ‘flip you on your head’
BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Concerts get canceled for many reasons.
Some shows don’t happen because the artist does something ill-advised like getting caught with something illegal or overdosing on some combination of drugs and alcohol. Or maybe someone didn’t get the right visas or something’s wrong with the venue. And there have been shows that didn’t happen because accumulated stress or discontent or artistic differences or sheer fatigue resulted in a sudden midtour meltdown.
LOS LONELY BOYS
Presented by BAMP Project
» Where: The Republik, 1349 Kapiolani Blvd.
There are also times when shows get canceled simply because “‘stuff’ happens.” Los Lonely Boys — West Texican rockers Ringo Garza Jr. and his brothers Henry and JoJo — were days away from performing here last March when Henry fell off the stage during a show in California.
There went Hawaii, along with several other shows.
The good news 11 months later is that Henry is fully recovered. Los Lonely Boys have a newly released album (“Revelation”) to promote. And, the trio is currently working overtime to make good the shows that they canceled last spring. That includes a Los Lonely Boys one-nighter Saturday at The Republik.
Things have been so hectic for the trio since the make-good concert was announced that none of the “Boys” was available to talk about the new album or anything that’s happened since The Big Fall last February. But when JoJo had time to talk with Honolulu Star-Advertiser entertainment writer Steven Mark last February, he said that the trio was looking forward to playing here.
“Hawaii is kismet,” Garza said. “The people are just so embracing and warm, going there is like going home. … I know it’s weird because we’re not Hawaiian, but we are people, and when we get there we feel the love from the people of the islands.”
And, despite a series of hit songs and a Grammy Award-winning single, Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 2004, the brothers have stayed in touch with their down-home roots. They live by choice in San Angelo, Texas, the midsize, ethnically mixed town where they grew up.
“People ask us, which one lives in L.A., which lives in New York, and we say, ‘None of us.’ Austin or Dallas? No, we’re still here in San Angelo,” Garza said. “It’s a small community. I really love being in the big city, but when we get to a really tiny town, that’s when I say, ‘This is just like home.’
“We didn’t buy our first eggs from the grocery store. We used to get them from the chickens. And what I’m getting at is when you’re that close to nature and that close to where it all begins, when you’ve done farm work and all that, you can really appreciate what we have.”
People unfamiliar with the group and its music might make the erroneous assumption that Los Lonely Boys are the Texas equivalent of Los Lobos, the multiple Grammy Award-winning Mexican-American rock band from East Los Angeles that has been exploring the intersection of rock, R&B, pop and various types of Mexican folk music for more than three decades.
They aren’t, except for the fact that Los Lonely Boys also embrace many genres of music. Some songs are sung in English, others in Texican Spanish or “Spanglish.”
“If we could speak Chinese or Japanese really well, we’d be doing the same thing in that language,” Garza said last February. “It’s just that we know a little bit of Spanish, so we use it whenever we think it’s OK.”
The Garza brothers grew up in the musical shadow of their father, Ringo Garza Sr., a professional musician who played an earlier style of Mexican music in the ’70s and ’80s. Ringo Sr. encouraged his sons’ interest in music and initially played with them in a two-generation family band. The brothers jelled as a tightknit unit when Ringo Sr. took them to Nashville, Tenn., with dreams of breaking big as a “family country music band.”
The immediate problem was that with the exception of Freddy Fender (born Baldemar Garza Huerta), there hadn’t been any notable Hispanic artists in country music. The Garzas’ ethnicity got them attention, but they had to win over a new group of skeptics every time they played.
JoJo’s description of the brothers’ experience brings to mind Willie K walking into an Irish bar in Chicago and asking the locals if they’d mind if he took a try at singing “Danny Boy” — and then bringing down the house.
“I can remember looking at people (in Nashville) who were talking down to us while we were on stage. I can remember thinking to myself, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t be in here,’” Garza said. “By the end of the song, they were buying us cherry Cokes and beers for my dad and were like, ‘You guys are just like us!’ It really opens up your eyes and your heart.”
The brothers took that experience with them when they returned to Texas. They’ve refined it over the past decades writing and recording several studio albums; their originals include the Grammy-winning single “Heaven.” In concert they can stretch out and jam it improv style for 10 or 20 minutes. They can also perform as an acoustic trio with Ringo Jr. setting his drumsticks aside and doing beautiful work on lead guitar.
If Hawaii is lucky and the mood strikes him, JoJo might also entertain the crowd by playing bass while lying on his back, then toss the bass to a roadie and jump upright in a single fluid motion. (Look long enough and you’ll find it on YouTube.)
“Don’t ever think that you have ever heard what Los Lonely Boys are capable of doing,” Garza said, “because we will flip you on top of your head. We’re not solidified into any one corner; we’re not solidified into a statue thing. We’re fluid, like Bruce Lee said.”