Chicano Batman’s colorful sold-out show at the Fox offered music from the 2017 album “Freedom Is Free.” (Courtesy Josue Rivas)

Chicano Batman’s colorful sold-out show at the Fox offered music from the 2017 album “Freedom Is Free.” (Courtesy Josue Rivas)

Chicano Batman dances through borderlands

Chicano Batman, the psychedelic band from East Los Angeles, seems to understand that to exist as a Latinx person in the U.S. is to be the product of an amalgam of influences.

Its cinematic sold-out show Friday at the 2,800-seat Fox in Oakland, its largest to date (despite appearances at Coachella and L.A.’s Fonda theater) reflected that reality.

Playing from the 2017 LP “Freedom Is Free” — which boasts smooth, tender soul, a genre Carlos Arevalo fondly recalls as a radio mainstay growing up in L.A. — the band elevated the recorded tracks with even more of Arevalo’s sinewy guitars and vocalist Bardo Martinez’s lush synths, and with an unparalleled cohesion.

Some songs, like “It’s A Balloon,” stretched well past their album length, in the show with a set echoing classically stylish televised soul performances of the 1970s.

The four men — Arevalo and Martinez, Eduardo Arenas on bass and Gabriel Villa on percussion — donned matching ruffled tuxedos, an homage to Los Pasteles Verdes, and the backup singers sported glittering dresses.

The band, which formed in 2008, creates a masterful patchwork of sonic histories of Latin America and beyond. It marries the socially aware and subversive pop of Brazilian tropicalia with wah wah riffs and snaking guitars of chicha — Peru’s psychedelic iteration of cumbia. It pairs the infectious 2/4 drum beat of Colombian cumbia with hypnotizing homages to Led Zeppelin.

Its presence is needed today, as people push for an understanding of Latinx and Xicanx identity beyond the limitations of Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente” and the legacy of Tejana queen Selena Quintanilla.

Demonstrating that there is no typical musical upbringing when straddling cultures, Chicano Batman’s music, recorded or live, is like a trip to the borderlands, or even a visit to a space where borders don’t exist.

Friday night’s audience, mostly but not entirely Latinx, clearly enjoyed the journey. Even those in the balcony were compelled to dance.

The concert’s most cutting moments came at the beginning of the encore in “La Jura” (slang for police), a ballad about police brutality and commentary on how black and brown folks are the target of state violence, and how police act as juries before cases go to trial.

Before launching into the song he wrote, Arenas stepped up to the mic and said, “Our cities, Oakland and L.A., have something in common. I dedicate this song to both of our cities.”

The audience stood mournful and reverent as he sang the story of a friend who was killed by police.

The song, like the album, articulates the frustration and resilience of communities of color and marginalized people in the U.S. in the face of today’s tenuous political climate.

 

Bardo MartinezCarlos ArevaloChicano Batmanconcert reviewEduardo ArenasFoxFreedom is FreeGabriel VillaPop Music

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A construction worker watches a load for a crane operator at the site of the future Chinatown Muni station for the Central Subway on Tuesday, March 3, 2021. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Major construction on Central Subway to end by March 31

SFMTA board approves renegotiated contract with new deadline, more contractor payments

Neighbors and environmental advocates have found the Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park noisy and inappropriate for its natural setting. <ins>(</ins>
Golden Gate Park wheel wins extension, but for how long?

Supervisors move to limit contract under City Charter provision requiring two-thirds approval

San Francisco school teachers and staff will be able to get vaccinations without delay with the recent distribution of priority codes. 
Shutterstock
SF distributes vaccine priority codes to city schools

San Francisco has received its first vaccine priority access codes from the… Continue reading

COVID restrictions have prompted a benefit or two, such as empty streets in The City. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Taking the scenic route through a pandemic

Streets of San Francisco are pleasantly free of traffic

Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina provide the voices of the title characters of “Raya and the Last Dragon.” <ins>(Courtesy Disney)</ins>
‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ boasts full-scale diversity

Though familiar in plot, Disney’s latest is buoyed by beauty, pride and power

Most Read