Cumbia Tokeson (http://www.facebook.com/TOKESON) is a very good genre-bending sweat-inducing dance band that plays high-energy live shows showcasing their blend of Colombian cumbia, reggae, punk, 70’s guitar, funk and whatever musical spice that happens to be within arm’s reach. Although a relatively new band, they’re good enough that they received an invitation to be the opening act at one of the Fillmore’s biggest annual shows on Friday night, the 16th. They knew that this was a huge opportunity, and they responded. Every opening act dreams of blowing the headliners off the stage, or at least winning over a crowd that has never heard of them. From my vantage point in the back corner, Cumbia Tokeson easily won over the crowd, and I cursed the back injury I suffered the night before in a fall in my living room. The crowd liked C. T. so much that it seemed the headliners would need some time to win back the crowd. And the headliners did need some time.
Ozomatli must have needed, oh, I don’t know, at least twenty seconds.
There is precious little out there quite like an Ozomatli show. Ozo is a Los Angeles band that takes every kind of music you’ll hear if you drive down the East LA streets on a warm Friday night with your iPhone off and the window down, and then blends all those sounds into one non-stop dance party. They have performed a December show at the Fillmore for many years, and to this day the band members approach each Fillmore show as if an oracle had told them, “You will never play another song after tonight, and whether you go to Heaven or to the other place depends entirely on this performance.” Some performers whom I shall not name play live shows with a “Since you have obediently shelled out $150 per ticket, I shall graciously condescend to permit you to adore my prerecorded voice for 90 minutes” attitude that can drive me up the wall in maybe two seconds. Ozo is a “We are here to make you happy for the next 2 1/2 hours for less than 40 bucks!!” group that will sometimes let their hardcore fans vote on the playlist for upcoming shows at their website.
A band that’s been playing for 16+ years that still plays as if their lives and souls were at stake, loves their fans, and concludes every show by walking through the crowd still playing their instruments. Nice. They were generous enough to invite Cumbia Tokeson back onstage for one song, and it was pretty obvious that C. T. were long-time fans; one member of Cumbia walked clear across the stage just to shake hands with Raul Pacheco. Very nice. I am already looking forward to next year’s December show.
Vonn Scott Bair
PS–Incidentally, if you want to win a bar bet, Ozomatli was one of the day signs in the Aztec calendar, a monkey who was in charge of music and dance, among other things. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztec_calendar