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Review Mon Jun 06 2011

Review: Ozomatli @ Congress Theater

For two hours Friday night, Ozomatli was exuberance personified.

That's been their game since they emerged from Los Angeles in the late '90s: an only-in-L.A. brew of rock, salsa and hip-hop tossed with an earnest message of social consciousness and a high-energy show sure to punch through the ironic detachment and cynicism of the most jaded Pitchfork reader.

They turned the Congress Theater into a summer block party with a potent seven-man attack featuring trumpet, saxophone, guitar, bass, drums and loads of percussion. The horn blasts and rock riffs of "Saturday Night" and "City of Angels" got the crowd moving, and salsa favorites like "Chango" and "Cumbia De Los Muertos" had them shaking their hips.

And in closing, Ozomatli cemented the communal vibe with a flourish, wading into the crowd after the lost World Cup anthem "Como Ves" to lead a joyous parade around the dance floor and up into the lobby. Reconvening on the marble steps of the grand ballroom staircase, the band ended with a kinetic drum circle that sent hundreds of sated fans buzzing out onto Milwaukee Avenue and into the warm night.

Sure, the lyrics are mostly up-with-people stuff just this side of the Black Eyed Peas (e.g., "Imagine waking up, solidarity is evident / Harmony moves, time is irrelevant"). They're the reason Ozomatli, 16 years in, have been embraced as exemplars of non-threatening, feel-good multiculturalism by venerable institutions ranging from the U.S. State Department to the National Symphony Orchestra to seemingly every politician in L.A. They have expanded into kids' music ("Ozokidz"), including tracks for the new "Happy Feet 2" video game.

But unless you insist on getting all your music from sneering teenagers, it's hard to fault Ozomatli for growing up and making a decent living for themselves. They're hardly the only band to mature into a robust business in middle age.

Opening act Making Movies, a Kansas City quartet, was noticeably more uneven, engaging the crowd with a few hip-shakers but missing the mark on songs that betrayed their roots as a straightforward indie rock band.

Ozomatli had the crowd jumping immediately with its signature brand of summertime salsa. As they told NPR (NPR!) a few years ago, it's a melting pot of everything you hear driving around L.A. with the windows rolled down.

But on a warm Friday night, they were glad to be here with us.

"There's no place like Chicago," guitarist Raul Pacheco told the crowd. "It's got its own vibe."

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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