House of Blues

August 15, 2004


Encores are overdone. What's the use in clapping your hands off and screaming your lungs out when you know the band WILL be back? Los Angeles band Ozomatli did away with this formality and kept their concert's energy alive Sunday night at the House of Blues. I thought everything was over after Ozo brought members of opening band Kinky back onstage for a joy-filled song that had band members running circles around one another. But, Ozo took their party into the middle of the cramped dance floor. It was a sight to see the two bands(everyone with some sort of instrument in their hand) create a circle that featured Justin Poree on snare, while others struck tribal drums to get a brass band feeling going. Or, since they're from out of town, as close to a brass band sound as they were gonna get. Trumpeter Asdrubal Sierra, saxophonist Ulises Bella, and a trombonist threw out snippets of everything from the "Hokey Pokey" to the "Chicken Dance" to Black Sabbath's "Iron Man." Audience members responded by doing the chicken dance and shouting lyrics in jubilation. The players took the party upstairs where they played for about five minutes until they ended their concert in an impressive, communal fashion--many people followed the band upstairs. Of course, the band led the people straight to the merchandise stand, but that's just smart business thinking.

Ten piece Latin/funk/everything band Ozomatli played an hour and a half set that showed off their full, energetic sound. I hadn't heard such well-formed music come from a large rock band since I saw 2 Skinnee J's for the first time. Even if one guy was just playing the cowbell or shaker, he sounded essential to the band's sound. Nothing was superfluous. It sounded very tight(a band member list is at the bottom of the page). Their sound guy should get a medal.

Anyway, they put on a great visual show as well. The line of members at the front of the stage often did synchronized dance turns, and Poree juggled a large shaker around his body like a basketball. If a band member had no duty for a song, he was dancing, at least. The whole set was one big party. They only played one slow song, so the show was a good chance to show off your best dance moves.

The band often sung in Spanish, but this was no obstacle. Mainly because the band emitted such a large amount of positive energy that it was hard to think of anything mean coming out of their mouths. Even the two MC's they had. They were about getting the people moving, not fostering a turf war. Everything out of the band was quality. I had so much fun listening to their mix of Indian, rock, pop, funk, hip-hop and salsa music.

The band has a video out for their--surprise!--party song "Saturday Night," so hopefully they'll get enough exposure for their new album "Street Signs" to propel them from the jam band circuit--where they don't belong--into the national consciousness. It was interesting, at least, that former Wallflowers drummer Mario Calire sat behind the kit Sunday night. These guys tour a lot, so try to catch them for Mardi Gras or Jazzfest.

Jiro Yamaguchi--Percussion
Wil-Dog Abers--Bass, Vocals
Justin Poree--Percussion, MC, Vocals
Asdrubal Sierra--Trumpet, Lead Vocals
Raul Pacheco--Guitar, Lead Vocals
Ulises Bella--Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Vocals
Mario Calire--Drums
Rene ‘Spinobi’ Dominguez--Turntablist
Jabu Smith-Freeman--MC

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