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Published: 2012/06/16
by Michael Kaiz

HOPEFEST featuring Los Lobos. Park West, Chicago IL – 6/1

Photo by Norman Sands

Rollover has been on the road since the early 90s, yet their set started out with several fresh compositions that hold their own in any setting. Eddie Shaw, famous from his work with Muddy Waters, came on stage a few chords into the band’s “Shipwreck.” Rollover took their playing to another level with a legendary guest on stage. Eddie took the vocals on a pair of tunes, lending his weathered and soulful pipes to Rollover.

With Shaw still on stage, Rollover brought in another unique guest to the mix, Todd Park Mohr from Big Head Todd & the Monsters. With Todd on stage, the band took a more laid back approach and really accentuated Todd’s signature clean playing reminiscent of his own outfit. But Todd really showed his range as the band played on, opening up his presence with some raunchy blues riffs in the second song.

Everyone in the Park West rose to their feet to welcome Rollover’s third guest of the evening. Buddy Guy led the collection of blues veterans into his timeless “Hoochie Coochie Man” with blues expertise stoked in Chicago tradition. A delicate blues rhythm was held aloft by the supporting players as Buddy, Todd and Rollover’s guitarists passed the lead role along the line. Moving into a twelve bar progression, Buddy’s soul shined through both his Fender Stratocaster and his aged singing; the consummate blues man tore his guitar to shreds between verses.

Setbreak saw a polka dot signed Buddy Guy guitar go at auction for $2400. Proceeds from the auction were donated to the Chicago Coalition of the Homeless, the beneficiary of Hopefest. A total of four blues memorabilia items were auctioned off raising over $9000 for the charity. At the conclusion of the bidding, a fifteen foot square banner of the cover of Los Lobos’s Kiko unfurled above the stage.

Cougar Estrada’s intro to “Dream in Blue” on the drums allowed the rest of Los Lobos take the stage shrouded in darkness. Manning their stations, they dove into performing their landmark 1992 album Kiko in its entirety. David Hidalgo’s sweet cantation washed over the Park West crowd like the light of the sun cresting over the lake at dawn.

The slow pace of “Angels with Dirty Faces” allowed the eloquence of Los Lobos’ sound to become easy to discern. With a strong blues cast that highlighted the night’s first set, “The Train Don’t Stop Here” had a swing that Cesar Rosas knew just what to do with; his powerhouse playing highlighted one of two songs on Kiko that he penned. By this time in the set, it was evident that Los Lobos was going to take artistic license with their pieces and stretch out the songs with improvisational interludes that only a seasoned touring act of their caliber can. Louie Perez’s solo on the tune was reminiscent of Buddy Guy’s recently espoused style.

Hidalgo made a switch to accordion as the band tackled the song that bears the album’s name: “Kiko and the Lavender Moon.” The song seethed with the vibrations of a seedy joint on the Las Vegas strip as the accordion howled the memorable melody. The song’s clear departure in sound from Los Lobos’ usual compositions demonstrated the versatility of the East Los Angeles band’s talents.

The left-handed Rosas is a classic rocker, with his “Wicked Rain” being a powerful jam vehicle for the band to work with as the chemistry on stage was cooking. The jam’s climax had more power than a Hemi and about as much rumble too. With the right mojo riding high, Los Lobos took the rest of the set to places that Kiko only hinted were attainable.

For their encore, with the Kiko performance concluded, Los Lobos welcomed a quartet of horn players to round out a south of the border sound. The up and down rhythms got the crowd out of their seats and dancing. Living on the streets can give a soul the blues, but the Hopefest show at Park West used blues and rock music to get people off the streets. With any luck, this night of legendary music performances will brighten the lives of those who would otherwise be left behind.

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