Los Lobos brings acoustic show to Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek CO, Colorado
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” Not every musician in the business for four decades feels himself transformed back into a teenage rock star every time he walks on stage. But Louie Perez does. Yes, despite 19 albums, three Grammys and a world fan base grown over the course of 36 years, this Los Lobos songwriter (vocalist, drummer and guitarist) still can’t believe his luck.
“I can moan and groan about how much I work, but really, when you think about it, I can’t complain too much,” he says. “I mean … look what I do. This is my job.”
Along with fellow Lobo David Hidalgo, Perez has made his now-five-piece band into perhaps the most renowned, recognizable Mexican-American rock ensemble of all time.
And in the process, he’s learned a few things about the music business. He’ll be the first to tell you that the operative word is, in fact, business.
“There’s so much that’s really all about business,” he says. “We sometimes struggle to maintain the music part. You’ve got to work on that part. But there would be no business without the music. I look at things I do now and ask myself, ‘Is this what I set out to do 40 years ago when I first showed up at David (Hidalgo)’s house to listen to records and start playing guitar?’ It’s just getting back to that.”
Gaining fame and notoriety in their native Los Angeles, the Lobos independently released their first album, “Los Lobos Del Este De Los Angeles,” in 1978 and slowly attracted the attention of movers and shakers in the industry. By 1984, they were signed to Warner Bros. and released “How Will the Wolf Survive?,” proclaimed by Rolling Stone magazine to be no. 30 of the top 100 albums of the 1980s.
The Lobos’ biggest break, however, came in 1987 when they recorded the soundtrack for the film “La Bamba,” recounting the life of Ritchie Valens. By 1990, the band was touring with Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead. Separating from the Warner Bros. label in the mid-’90s, the Lobos joined Hollywood Records and, in 2006, released their last Hollywood album, “The Town and the City.” That record, close to Perez’s heart, was inspired by the topic of immigration, as he thought specifically of his own family’s journey to the United States decades ago.
“I got this image in my head of traveling,” he says. “I’d been thinking about all these things, this sacrifice my parents made to give me a better life. That was their experience. But now that I have children, I say I’ll do whatever it takes as long as I can impact their lives in a positive way. I’m getting older, and I’m looking back on my life.”
Perez says there is not a “process” to making his music.
“As creative people,” he says, “so much of it occurs in your mind.”
He’s never sure of exactly how a song or record is going to take shape until the thoughts and instrumental toying with his bandmates take “a natural course.”
Album after album, however, there’s no question that this evolution holds true. The years have not sapped any creativity or ingenuity from Los Lobos. Though “The Town and the City” is the freshest in Perez’s mind, he views his entire discography as beloved children.
“With past work, it’s like the kids are now out playing in the yard,” he says. “‘The Town and the City’ are the newborns out in the yard. When I think of the songs on ‘Kiko,’ these are the kids going to college.”
The Lobos’ live performances resonate all the creativity and energy of their song-writing. While the band still performs regular rock shows, typically booking, as Perez points out, “more gigs in three weeks than most bands play in three months,” he and Hidalgo have recently taken to simple duet performances. Perez equates this diversity in performance styles with rearranging the contents of his living room.
“There’s a lot to be said for moving around the furniture,” he says. “When it’s just me and Dave with the guitars, it’s frightening because we don’t have this big rock band to hide behind. When you play in a rock band, you’re showing up to this place and turning it on. When you’re doing the songwriter setup, it’s like everyone’s coming over to your house.”
The entire five-piece will bring its highly acclaimed acoustic show back to the Vilar Center at Beaver Creek Tuesday night.
“The acoustic shows are the Lobos songs paired down,” he says. “It starts out as traditional Mexican music with some emphasis on our early years. I really love that show a lot. There’s nothing like it on the planet.”
The Lobos recently put their voices and instruments to the test and recorded an album of tunes from Disney cartoons. As for new material, Perez says he’s looking forward to walking the creative path of the band’s next record without the backing of a fixed label. While for many years, the work of the Lobos and other rock bands was largely steered by record companies, Perez says that a new era of music-making is upon us.
“We’re changing back to quality,” he says. “It’s not about the big record companies anymore. On a political level, we’ve seen the face of America change. Music changes every minute. We’re not kids anymore. You have to wonder, how does a band that’s been together for 36 years still have the enthusiasm to compete with everything new that’s out there? But it’s a thrill of discovery. I’m 55. I still feel like a kid every time I approach a new song.”
When asked about how he’s felt brushing shoulders and guitar straps with legendary musicians, Perez’s youthful spirit leaps forth once again. He gets a charge of incredulity every time he works alongside one of his musical heroes.
“We’ve been able to meet and play with people we really look up to,” he says. “There’s been Richard Thompson, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, George Harris … To tell you the truth, I’m still the awestruck fan. I’m kind of speechless. I turn into a giddy teenager meeting my idol. Then to find out that these artists are into what you do? There’s a certain degree of validation in that.”
This story first appeared in V magazine. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Los Lobos Acoustic
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
More information: Call 970-845-TIXS or visit http://www.vilarpac.org