East Los Angeles “romp ‘n’ rollers” Thee Commons rolled into town Thursday night and, with the help of cumbia band La Diabla, made Blonde Bar the next site of the touring musical rodeo they are known for.
La Diabla from Tijuana, Mexico kicked off the night. With their name translated to English as “She-Devil,” and the members dressed in mostly all black with bandanas worn over each member’s mouth, they seemed like they might have been a metal band.
However I was wrong–the band broke out into rhythms of traditional cumbia music. La Diabla’s setup of electric bass, accordion, bongo drum and a Latin percussion instrument called a Merengue Guiro had their audience dancing as soon as they played their first note.
It didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand all their lyrics sung in Spanish because the band’s simple instrumentation and presentation allowed for the focus to be on getting people to dance. La Diabla played their entire set as one cohesive stream of consciousness, never stopping from playing their instruments and only taking a couple moments between songs to exchange words with their audience.
Thee Commons played next. They’ve become known for their vivacious and unruly live show–the young band started by brothers David and Rene Pacheco in 2012 even made LA Weekly’s list of 20 Best Live Shows of 2016.
Unlike their hallucinogenic set at this year’s Desert Daze that included a purple gorilla, parading skeleton, Spanish dancers, and their saxophonist Jesus Salas dragging himself across the sand while still attempting to play his sand-filled sax, Thee Commons played a more toned down show as a three piece with bassist Jose Rojas. They opened up with fan favorite “Juaneco Y La Negra,” where the band conflates an obscure song taken from a Peruvian style of cumbia known as Chicha with a hit Mexican rock song from the 80s.
From the get-go, the three Chicanos never let up their potently blended musical onslaught of psychedelic, cumbia and punk influences. Midway through their set, the members donned wolf masks, and drummer Rene immersed himself into the sea of attendees armed with a Merengue Guiro, inciting coyote howls and chants of “La Vida!” before rejoining the band onstage. Their set ended covering Selena’s “La Carcacha” and the ’60s garage cult hit “Demolición” by Los Saicos.
The band used no other live accouterments aside from the wolf masks, and their collective display of enthusiastic and energetic showmanship won the crowd over. I was curious as to how the band would fare sans their added bits of visual marvel and they exceeded my expectations.