Hot, dry summer winds buffeted a sold-out audience at the Vina Robles Amphitheater in Paso Robles on Saturday, August 14th. The mostly older audience gathered early at the venue, one of the most beautiful in all of California. The occasion was a night of Latin flavored rock featuring the Los Angeles-based Los Lobos and the Miami flavored Tejano group, The Mavericks.
As is the custom at the pristine venue nestled in the oak-lined mountainside in Paso Robles, smiling music fans arrived early to sample the winery's wares, local beers, and yummy snacks, including wood fired pizza. The back lawn area filled up early, seemingly a favorite spot for the many who arrived with their families in tow.
Los Lobos surprised many in the audience by opening the show late afternoon even though they received top billing in advertisements. But fans of the band were mostly in place and ready for the explosive 90-minute set of guitar-drenched Latin rock. Much like the Grateful Dead, Los Lobos is well known for mixing up their setlist each night. Their hypnotic sets usually include some well-known covers, favoring the Beach Boys and The Grateful Dead, among others. However, this night included some Mexican flavored music from the band's new album Native Son. The more traditional tunes were interspersed between fantastic breakout guitar jams featuring the groups three shredders David Hidalgo, Louie Pérez, Jr., and Cesar Rosas. A smiling Conrad Lozano kept the rhythm with a thumping bass line while Steve Berlin vacillated between keyboard and saxophone duties. The music had many in the crowd dancing in the aisles from the very first song. But by the time the band ended with their trademark cover of “La Bamba," nearly the entire audience was on their feet.
The warm breezes slowly turned cooler during intermission as a spectacular sunset bathed the amphitheater in an orange glow. The Mavericks exploded to life onstage at twilight with their brand of Latin rock. While the band shares some of the Tejano roots music genre with Los Lobos, their sound has its own distinctive flavor influenced heavily by Cuban rhythms. The band fronted by singer and guitarist Raul Malo, co-founder of the iconic rock, country, and Tejano band continued the dance fever brought on by the earlier set by Los Lobos. The rhythm section was held down by bassist Robert Reynolds and drummer Paul Deakin. Animated keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden not only played with passion but also displayed some jaw-dropping dance moves that thrilled the crowd. The set was punctuated with frequent searing guitar solos by axman extraordinaire Eddie Perez, looking a bit like a character straight out of a Sergio Leone movie. The group also featured a talented horn section that gave the band their signature sound. The stand out member of the horn players was trumpeter Julio Diaz, who dazzled the crowd with fantastic solos.
As the stars filled the clear night sky and the band played their final song just before 11 pm, the satiated crowd began to slowly head towards the exits beaming vast smiles of appreciation that live music is back in California!
Vina Robles has an incredibly diverse lineup of exciting live music set for the remainder of their season.