by Adam McKinney for OLY ARTS
One would be hard-pressed to find a band more intimately ingrained in the Los Angeles scene than Las Cafeteras. Their sound is an eclectic mixture of styles, combining elements of folk, hip-hop, cumbia, punk and Americana, reflecting the vibrant multicultural makeup of L.A. They formed at local community center Eastside Café, which inspired their name. Being as immersed as they are in a politically active area like East L.A., the band is deeply socially conscious, focusing as much on message as they do on crafting compelling music.
“We’ve always done community organizing and community education, so, for us, the political nature of our work is really natural,” said Las Cafeteras member Daniel French. “We’re trying to be more mindful about how we’re telling stories and how we’re amplifying stories that don’t get told as much. … We’re hopefully inviting people who maybe need to listen to those stories to open up their ears more, and hoping to inspire people to come together and celebrate who they are and where they come from and to become more human — to dance a little together, to sing together.”
On their most recent LP — appropriately titled Tastes Like L.A. — Las Cafeteras comes out swinging with the bright shuffle of “Tiempos De Amor”, and they don’t let up for another nine songs of genre-blending bliss. Highlights like the joyous, brass-heavy “Vamos to the Beach”; the raucous cover of “This Land Is Your Land”; and the politically charged “If I Was President”, itself a spin on a Mexican folk traditional, all paint a picture of Las Cafeteras as omnivorous consumers of art and promoters of unity.
Las Cafeteras is a huge band, made up of Leah Rose Gallegos, Jose Guadalupe Cruz Cano, Denise Carlos, David Jesus Flores, Hector Paul Flores, Gloria Estrada, Jorge Mijangos and Daniel French. Through sheer numbers and an impeccable musicality, they create lush, immersive sounds that inspire their listeners to move. With their activist streak, they also aim to inspire people to, as French said, “leave the concert hall and go do something, whatever they know they need to do.”
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 26
Washington Center for the Performing Arts,
512 Washington St. SE, Olympia