Fans of Latin Soul are being treated this weekend to another visit from the great Joe Bataan, with his first appearance last night at the Hop in Lakewood CA.
I have played at the Hop before, the first and (thankfully) last time being when I was with Slowrider. When we played there the sound onstage and off was terrible and last night was no exception. Due to the fact that he could not hear himself adequately, Bataan had to frequently change microphones and ask the soundman to make adjustments to the onstage mix. You could see the frustration in his face and body language as he led his group through such classics as "I Wish You Love" and "Ordinary Guy". This was an all too familiar example of someone who has given their life to music having to put up with substandard playing conditions.
In spite of all of this the show was still great, getting to hear the songs mentioned above and many others. Hearing Bataan speak of his first trips to LA with Ralphi Pagan, how St. Latin's Day Massacre took on a life of it's own after his first performances of it's songs in San Francisco, and the dedications that he took from the audience underscored the longtime personal relationship that he has with his LA fans.
Except for the problems mentioned above the band, assembled from local musicians, handled the music well. As I listened to the whole crowd sing along to "I Wish You Love" I was struck by how a musician can make such an impact on people's lives that the awful acoustics are forgotten as they sing along with a song that still means something 30+ years after it has been written. As we enter into a time where music commerce is changing rapidly we could all take a lesson from someone who will travel across the country to make a connection like this. It still comes down to that relationship between performer and audience that cannot be found on MySpace, Facebook, iTunes or the technology of your choice.