31 12 2012

365 days ago, I swore that the year (in this case 2011) in music simply could not be topped. Impossible. Ever. Musically speaking, it was about as fulfilling a year as any music fan could ask for, should ask for, did ask for.
But I tell you, it’s a beautiful thing when I’m wrong.
Not only did the last 365 days of live music top the previous, but I’m sure there is no way 2012 could ever be topped. From beginning to end, there was a little bit of everything for me — nostalgic moments, jaw-dropping moments, surprising moments … the whole bit.
Admittedly, I value my concert experiences much differently than other critics. I’m mostly about the experience, something outside the music. And there was plenty to celebrate and love about 2012 and the 47 different shows I was able to catch. So while I didn’t come up with a list at the end of 2011 (No. 1, hmm, Watch the Throne at HP Pavilion), there is no way I pass on that in 2012.
I didn’t write reviews for all of these, so let’s not go the critic’s route on this one. Just help me relive this insanely awesome vibe. Here’s my Top 10.


My boy, Marcelo, introduced me to Brownout a while ago. And due to circumstances outside of my control, I missed a lot of their set the first time around. Once they announced a 2012 show, there was no way I would miss them. The band from the Austin Texas area is a clean and precise blend of James Brown funk and Tejano flair. It’s a beautiful sound to treat your ears to — there are a ton of layers to their music and I don’t think I know of a better brass section. I was beyond impressed with the soul of their live set.


OK, so, I almost broke my ankle during this show. At the very start of Perdi Mi Ojo de Venado, an off-timed jump in the air lead to a push from another fan and a severely sprained ankle — one that hasn’t quite healed properly. My fault on that. Had I not had to limped my way out of the venue and treat my foot, this show would have been Top 3 status. As it stands, I missed maybe 30 percent of it. But, man, up until that moment, it had been an insane insane insane time. Osea, mucho amor a la banda de Oakland que me partieron la puta madre.


Part of loving, I mean, truly loving a band, is this idea that they can do no wrong. Even if your logical, musically critical sense tells you otherwise.
I will always feel that way about Mana.
In 2011, I made a trip to Los Angeles to catch two Mana shows at the Staples Center that kicked off the Drama Y Luz tour. Seven months later, they were in the Bay Area for the first of two concerts. And sure, I’ve seen them Mana now nine times, sure it’s pretty much the same fucking show every single time, sure I’m a softy … but I love this band. Love them. The show in September was my favorite because the fans around me and I were able to recreate a bit of Mana old school — complete with a mosh pit for Me Vale (which led to a man vomiting, LOL). Mana will always crack my Top 10. I don’t care how many times I see them.

Big Boi 8

First thing’s first, Outside Lands version 5.0 was insane all the way around. I still get chills thinking about the music I got to experience. So much, too much, fun. So, for the sakes of this countdown, we’re splitting all the individual sets up.
My favorite unbiased set was Big Boi of Outkast fame. After the debacle of 2011, the rapper from the ATL returned to the scene of crime and absolutely tore up the Twins Peak stage. Usually, hip hop shows don’t appeal to me — there isn’t enough musical substance. But Big Boi is definitely the exception to that rule. The man commanded the stage and made waiting another year completely worth it.


It was really hard to leave Rodrigo Y Gabriela out of the Top 5 — musically, I don’t think I’ve ever left a concert more in awe. And I felt really lucky to have caught RYG alongside C.U.B.A. They added an unreal amount of debt to RYGs’ guitars. I wrote a pretty extensive review about this show, but I think the thing that stood out to me was that I enjoyed it so much without it being the kind of show that I usually like — I’m all about the ambiance, the dancing, the crowd. But, it definitely makes the Top 10 because it was a complete guitargasm. So sick, so sick.

Cafe Tac Juan Ramirez

This was one of those shows that symbolized a kind of redemption for me. Cafeta was in San Francisco a handful of years ago and I didn’t go. Because I’m an idiot. And I regretted the move for the longest time — so much that I made monthly checks to their website anticipating a return.
The Rock en Español gods are kind though, and the quartet from Mexico returned to the Bay Area and put on a vintage show. I’m still in the clouds after getting to experience Cafeta’s live touch. And once again, mucho amor a la banda porque tuvimos un fiestazo tremendo. What a great, great great experience. Truly fortunate for this one.


Four friends, 15 or so hours of driving, and one insane night of Mexican ska.
I think I said a long time ago that there were only two bands I would travel long distances for, and sure enough, it came true in 2012. With no Bay Area show in their 2012 tour, I convinced four great friends of mine to hop into a car and ride over to Los Angeles to catch Panteon at the historic House of Blues.
Nursing a bum ankle (thank you, Caifanes), I didn’t get the exact experience I wanted (that’s probably a good thing), but just being at that venue with one of the rowdiest bands that I know, was well worth the trip and the experience. Awesome, awesome time.

Foo Fighters

You know, No. 4 and No. 3 on this countdown were relatively short sets (so was No. 7), but there was so much insanity packed into them that they easily crack the Top 4.
Foo Fighters at Outside Lands was a wet dream. I’ve prayed long and hard for that exact moment since I started covering the music festival and could hardly contain myself when Dave and company got on stage. And the fact that they played Aurora, one of my all-time favorite songs that they almost never play, makes this a Top 3 show/set. Insane, insane time. Thank you, baby Jesus.


My second choice of 2012 comes as a surprise even to me — if this was a countdown of my favorite Rock en Español bands, Kinky is lucky to crack my Top 15.
BUT, I absolutely loved this show. As live performers, I put Kinky up there with Panteon Rococo as one of my favorites ever. Why? Well, I wrote on Facebook as soon as I walked out of The Independent that Kinky had restored an almost-dead faith in the live R.E.E. concert. For a long stretch, I felt that the passion and sheer craziness of a Rock show had died thanks to cell phones and over-protective boyfriends and their uptight, too good for moshing girlfriends.
But lo and behold, Kinky’s show at the Independent proved to me that the R.E.E is alive and well. And that makes me super, super happy.

RHCP Apes On Tape

I’m not the biggest RHCP fan — although, no ones loves their Californication album more than me — but that said, the guys are southern California was rock gods. And they played a heavenly show at the O, one that I will never forget for just, how blown away I was. The two hours of RHCP hits past and present was mind-fuckingly insane. It was seriously a dream and one of the experiences of my life. Period.


12 05 2012

Eight months ago (or something close to that) I was at Outside Lands covering the festival. And in my schedule, I circled an artist by the name of Ana Tijoux. Honestly, I had no clue. I thought, “Ana” and Latina came to mind. So, I decided to go check her out. And she blew my mind. 

The woman has got a straight up mean flow — better, nay, head and shoulders better, than anything the female rap game here in the U.S. has to offer (well, at least of the rappers that are in the spotlight). I wrote a nice little story to accompany Ana’s visit to the Bay Area and she was actually here not too long ago with a Nacional Records tour stop. BUT, my car went all stupid and I missed that show. NOW, she’s back. Tuesday. At the Independent in San Francisco. I’m super excited. Ana will be performing from ‘LA BALA’ which you need to get. She’ll be there with Oakland’s own, Los Rakas.

Los Rakas are sick. They’re off of Nacional’s label. Here’s a video (or more like slideshow) of one of my favorite songs:

Dudes are smooth. Anyways, on to the matters of this post. My publication, the San Mateo Daily Journal, got hooked up with tickets to the show to give away via our Facebook page. So, venture on over to the San Mateo Daily Journal Facebook page, LIKE it, and comment on the link with Ana and Los Rakas. A winner will be chosen on Monday … so stay tuned!

Maná — OAKLAND REVIEW (2012)

30 04 2012

The hardest part about writing a review for a band you happen to love is to be objective. And believe me, if the show would have sucked, I’d be the first to say so. But I’ve seen my fair share of Maná shows to know when it just falls by the waist side. Friday’s show in Oakland did not. It was great … which then posed a different difficulty as a writer. I’ll let the beginning of the review explain (photos are from Maná’s Facebook page).

Maná is stronger than ever
By Julio Lara, Daily Journal Staff

To properly judge a Maná concert is to run into a giant wall of repetitive — in a career that has lasted more than 25 years, every single word imaginable to describe how epic and genius the quartet from Jalisco Mexico is has been exhausted.

For a writer, one that has experienced his fair share of Maná concerts, this can be a huge problem – unfortunately, the thesaurus only lists ten or so different ways to say “awesome.” 

Friday’s show at the Oracle Arena in Oakland only further adds to this dilemma. Of the 24-song set that lasted a little more than two hours, five of them were off of “Drama y Luz,” their newest No. 1 album, and thus, longtime Maná fans were probably getting their first taste of these renditions live. Such has been the success of their latest project, one that took home five Billboard Music Awards last Thursday, that in order to avoid sounding repetitive, perhaps it’s a decent idea to focus on those and write a good overview of the show.

But the truth is, a review like that would miss the point entirely because Maná’s magic lies in a God-given gift to make the old feel new —  in having you re-live those moments in your life when their songs served as your personal background music. The band didn’t pull any new punches for their show in Oakland. Frankly, if you’ve heard “Oye Mi Amor” or “Me Vale” once, you’ve heard them a thousand times. 

And yet somehow, Maná still (after thousands and thousand of live shows) has the power to make you feel what you felt after your first kiss, your first heartbreak, your first encounter with the idea of true love. 

What other band in Latin music can do that?

The answer to that is: Not many.

It’s here that I should give KUDOS to the Oakland crowd. You guys were sensational. I mean, there was your fair share of directors that decided to record the entire show with their iPhones (thank you, Steve Jobs, you single-handedly ruined live music for all of us), but then again, I can’t totally complain, it’s because of you guys that we got moments like this:

I wrote in the review that Maná’s rendition of “Si No Te Hubieras Ido” was one of the most magical moments I’ve ever witnessed at a live concert. And I wasn’t kidding. It was simply amazing. Maná had many of those types of moments, which is odd for a band that tours as much as they do. When they go on tour, they go HARD. I couldn’t help but feel that this was the band at their best — in a sense that, if we were to see them again, Father Time will take his effect and, it just won’t ever be the same. Here’s your playlist for the night. 2 hours and 20 minutes worth of show.

We’ll be at it again in September. I can’t wait.


26 04 2012

The date for Mana’s tour stop in Oakland is only a couple of hours away (OK, so, I’m getting ahead of myself here. It’s more like 50 something hours, BUT TIME FLIES!)

The show on the 27th of April will mark my 8th time watching Mana live. And honestly, it’s always felt like the first time. I get that excited. Some bands just, well, they just speak to you.

I wish I was playing when I say I like almost every one of their songs … but it’s true. Above is from my favorite album, Sueños Liquidos. It’s around then, I feel, that they made a real conscious decision to pull away from their Rock en Español label and focus more on making music that spoke to them. It’s actually a stigma and a move that the band carries to this day. Fans who fell in love with their self-titled debut album, through “Donde Jugaran Los Niños” and then “Cuando Los Angeles Lloran” nowadays still expect the same sound. And man, Mana’s sound has changed drastically over the years. It’s for that reason that if you’re a fan of the genre (Rock en tu Idioma), you probably hate Mana and cringe when someone says they’re a Rock en Español band.

They’re not. They’re … f*ck … they’re the best band alive. I debated over a Top 5 list for a bit during my Herman Melville class the other day, but here are the five Mana songs I cannot live without (haha, like, Vivir Sin Aire, but, Vivir Sin Mana … I crack myself up).


It would not be a Mana playlist without arguably their biggest Rock hit.  And please, I dare you to name another opening riff more recognized than the Bm F#m of Oye Mi Amor. … You can’t.


The first Mana song I ever heard. I “borrowed” the CD from a family friend after falling in love with Alex’s drumming in the first 10 seconds of the song. I returned the CD having not listened to ANY OTHER SONG. Sergio’s guitar solo is among my favorite by any guitarist ever.


I take that back, Sergio’s solo in this song is my favorite. I used the non-video version because the radio edit takes out that bit of reggae that comes in the last minute of the song, right after the solo. The hell is that! The album version is so much better.


Hmm … in an image …


The first time I saw Mana was back in 2002. The Giants were playing the Braves in the NLDS (if my memory serves me correctly, Bonds hit a couple homers off of Kevin Millwood), and my brother Max and I had to sneak out of house and drive to San Jose’s HP Pavilion to watch Mana. We were still going to church frequently at the time, and there was no way my mother would have approved. We snuck out and took the risk because we both wanted to see them play THIS SONG. THIS WAY. To this day, some seven shows later, I pray this play this song.



17 04 2012

For 3.5 years, I have prayed and wished and thrown pennies in fountains and tried to spot shooting stars all in an effort to get the musical gods to grant me one wish.

It seems all of that has paid off in 2012 — Ladies and gentlemen, more on this lineup for the festival later on. But for now, just know that having FOO FIGHTERS at the 2012 edition of the area’s best festival is going to be mind-blowing. I cannot be more excited. Wait, let me try to be … no, cannot be more excited.


7 04 2012

As I mentioned before, getting access to the Rodrigo y Gabriela show at the Fox Theater in Oakland was no easy task. The show was sold out from the get-go. Luckily for us at the DJ, we’ve built pretty solid rapport with our friends at Another Planet and were able to cover the show. 2012 has been pretty mellow so fair in terms of concerts for July! Nothing too nuts. The RYG was, at times, electric.

Rodrigo y Gabriela Shine at the Fox
By Julio Lara, Daily Journal Staff

OAKLAND — If you’re a Bay Area purist of Rodrigo y Gabriela, the guitar maestros from Mexico, you woke up Friday morning with a bit of an internal conflict.

OK, a rather big one.

On the one hand, you have the purist side of your persona. You’re in love with RYG’s carefully crafted, yet masterfully erratic guitar artistry that has catapulted them into international stardom. RYG’s spanish influenced style is not unique by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, there is something about watching them play with one another that has captured the heart of countless fans. Thursday night’s ticket for their show at the Fox Theater in Oakland was without a doubt the hottest, most difficult to come upon of the Latin music concert year so far. And with good reason — there is something darn near magical about watching the duo treat their guitars like art canvases. 

But on the other hand, there is part of you that went to their show on Thursday and got something you weren’t expecting and, as a RYG purist, perhaps it fell a little short of your initial expectation. So you don’t quite know if you liked the concert or not. What a moral dilemma to have. Those who came to the Fox Theater in Oakland expecting two hours of the duo sitting, picking, plucking and strumming their way to musical nirvana instead got the pair plus the Caribbean rhythm machine C.U.B.A. equipped with piano, brass and percussion to accompany the RYG guitars. If you didn’t do your homework and had no previous experience with “Area 52,” their fifth studio album, you were caught a bit off-guard and it probably didn’t take too long into their rendition of “Santo Domingo,” and “I Like It Like That,” (the former being off of the 52 album) for some in the audience to go, “hey, what gives? Is this even Rodrigo y Gabriela?”

Truth is, the show was incredible. If you read the rest of the review, you’ll see that I talk about the fusion of the music. I went with my brother, Max, to the show. We grew up around music, happen to be a pair of musicians (albeit, I’m retired and haven’t picked up drumsticks in years, but my brother, he’s a genius), and in searching for an underlying theme, we thought that the collaboration between RYG and C.U.B.A. was indeed special.

To me, what stood out what their ability to fill a space like the Fox with so much energy without, singing. That was a first for me. And it’s what impressed me the most. Anyway, here are more photos. Click on it, it’ll take you to my Facebook account. If you want a particular photo, message me, I’ll get you a print.

Once again, thanks for reading. We have Michel Camilo coming up on the 14th. Then, the grand-daddy of them all, MANA! once again on the July! calendar. Followed shortly by another mammoth show at the Fox, CALLE 13.


6 04 2012


By far the hottest ticket of the Latino concert season so far was the Rodrigo y Gabriela show at the Fox Theater in Oakland.

And thanks to the powers that be, the Daily Journal and yours truly got the opportunity to cover the show. The review will be out officially on Saturday, in time for their show in L.A. Here’s a bit of the unedited review …

If you’re a Bay Area purist of Rodrigo y Gabriela, the guitar maestros from Mexico, you woke up Friday morning with a bit of an internal conflict. 
OK, a rather big one.
On the one hand, you have the purist side of your persona. You’re in love with RYG’s carefully crafted, yet masterfully erratic guitar artistry that has catapulted them into international stardom. RYG’s Spanish influenced style is not unique by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, there is something about watching them play with one another that has captured the heart of countless fans. Thursday night’s ticket for their show at the Fox Theater in Oakland was without a doubt the hottest, most difficult to come upon ticket of the Latin music concert year so far. And with good reason — there is something darn near magical about watching the duo treat their guitars like art canvases …

And it continues after that. I’ll post it later, when it comes out. Here are a couple more shots.

OK doke. Enough for now. See y’all tomorrow.