By Francisco H. Ciriza
On April 29, 2006, the Jaguares tribe descended upon Pala Casino Spa and Resort in north San Diego County. Well before the band took the stage at 7:30 p.m., fans wearing black Jaguares t-shirts began filtering into the hotel lobby and Vegas-style casino and were even seen at the pool.
One pair of fans, two men in their early twenties, peeked through the concert venue’s closed doors as the band ran through sound check procedures. Their excitement shone brightly on clear-skinned faces as they explained they’d just arrived from Tijuana and joking with each other about taking a wrong. Alas, they’d found their way and were anxious for the ritual to begin.
By the evening’s early show time, the estimated crowd of between 1,200 and 1,500 fans was abuzz. Then with at first a dimming and then flashing of lights, Saul Hernandez (guitar, vocals), Alfonso Andre (drums, vocals), ‘Vampiro’ Lopez (guitar), Leonardo Munoz (percussion, vocals), and Marco Renteria (bass) took the stage in an explosion of guitars and crashing cymbals and deafening roar of the crowd.
From the onset, fans sang every lyric along with the beloved and revered Hernandez. Fans see him as an icon, a hero, a sage, and sex symbol. The finest example were the crowds vocal solo during the first verse of “No Dejes Que.” Hernandez makes it a point to draw the crowd. He revels in the increasingly loud cheers of the crowd in anticipation of his completion of the song’s opening guitar passage.
Hernandez words between songs included a host of heartfelt thanks to the band’s followers and a nod to the Mexicali contingent. He called for “more men and fewer machos” and for ‘raza’ to unite and forge ahead to fight violence against women, discrimination, and corrupt governments on both sides of the border. He also spoke of his support of the Latino community’s efforts in the struggle for immigrant rights. The band even moved up the concert’s date two days in support of the May 1 economic boycott.
The band, as always, played songs from throughout its long storied history dating back to the mid eighties. Already loud the crowd only grew louder for old favorites like “Matame,” “Ayer Me Dijo Un Ave,” and the Juan Gabriel classic, “Te Lo Pido Por Favor.” The band, in it’s current configuration, now cohesive enough to have mastered its set list, also to included classy bits of showmanship to further the evening’s level of excitement. Solo’s by Munoz and Renteria displayed each players prowess on his respective instrument. The results easily demonstrate why they’ve been retained by Hernandez and co.
Fan favorite Cesar ‘Vampiro’ Lopez wowed the crowd with a flashy, but tactfully brief guitar wiz solo reminiscent of 70’s era arena rock guitar gods. His charm and wit shone through as the short but severe blast of notes served ultimately to simply introduce the band’s next song.
Pala’s security team was calm cool and collected even as the fans challenged during the show’s closer, “La Negra Tomasa.” Beefy security team members moved in to retake control of the crowd which had collectively jumped to its feet at the onset of the old favorite, but only became spectators as fans danced and fervently cheered their rock and roll and cultural champions up close.