Los Lobos | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN
Los Lobos spans eras and genres in a grand finale for night one of XPNFest
Los Angeles legends Los Lobos are masters of their craft. Sure, it can be it can be exhilarating to watch young musicians discover themselves on stage, but sometimes only the best of the best will do, and that was the case late Friday evening at Wiggins Park, where Los Lobos brought night one of the 2021 XPoNential Music Festival to a close with a simply clinical performance, one decades in the making.
Los Lobos have a discography dating back to the late ‘70s and through that time, they’ve basically tackled every form of North American music, from soul and R&B to zydeco and more traditional Tex-Mex styles like cumbia and boleros. All of that was on display Friday night, as the band reached deep into their bag of tricks. From the extended shredding on “Venganza” to the groovy, hip-swaying “Wicked Rain” — which luckily did not describe or summon any inclement weather to Wiggins Park — the first half of the set boiled with an energy the River Stage audience grabbed on to immediately and never surrendered.
Friday was very much a triumph for all involved. There have been dozens of XPoNential opening nights, but all the same, this one felt a little different. From the opening notes of the indomitable Hoochi Coochi, the night had the distinct feeling of an especially joyous reunion. I cannot tell you the amount of furious waves, screams of recognition, and bear hugs I saw litter the River Stage lawn on Friday but it seemed to grow exponentially throughout the evening’s festivities. This was a community desperate to get back together and enjoy the music they missed so much these last few years.
Which brings me back to Los Lobos, the perfect band to put a bow on a cathartic and joyous evening. You’d be lucky, as a festival programmer, to find five bands who could do what this band is able to on their own. A veritable jukebox, Los Lobos’ set ran the gamut. From the tex-mex stylings of “Chucos” and “Maricela”, which gave rise to some salsa-dancing festival goers, to their swingin’ cover of The Blasters “Flat Top Joint”, to the impressive run of new songs of their 2021 album Native Sons, Los Lobos gave the Wiggins Park crowd a bit of everything to take home with them Friday night. If this set, and the night as a whole, was any indication, we’re in for quite a festival this weekend.
Love Special Delivery (Thee Midniters Cover)
La Venganza de Los Pelados
How Will The Wolf Survive
Flat Top Joint (The Blasters Cover)
Down On The Riverbed
Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes
Saint Behind The Glass
That Train Don’t Stop Here
Volver, Volver (Vicente Fernández cover)
Don’t Worry Baby