The wolves survive
Los Lobos duo perform rare acoustic retrospective
“I could probably hit his house with a baseball,” offered Louie Perez recently of the distance between his and Los Lobos collaborator David Hidalgo’s house. Perez was speaking by phone from his Orange County home, where he has lived for the past 20 years, having moved there from East Los Angeles, where he, Hidalgo and the rest of Mexican-American roots-rock band Los Lobos first started becoming famous as “just another band from East L.A.”
Perez and Hidalgo’s longtime musical collaboration goes back to even before the days of Los Lobos, however, back to their time in high school together 40 years ago. The pair will celebrate their four-decade musical friendship—and their duo album, The Long Goodbye, commemorating the fruitful relationship—with an intimate, largely acoustic concert Jan. 17 at Laxson Auditorium.
The songs on The Long Goodbye were written more than 20 years ago, said guitarist/percussionist Perez. He and vocalist Hidalgo had gone into the studio with engineer Larry Hirsch “knowing a new record was looming somewhere, and recorded demos—guitar and voice. But we really got into it; they don’t sound like your typical scratch work.” They next added a drum track and overdubbed some accordion, creating a “mini-record,” as Perez put it, “all knocked out in a day.”
The audio tape of that inspired session was put away and forgotten about, while Los Lobos went on to record 1990’s La Pistola y El Corazón and The Neighborhood. “It just got orphaned, left behind,” said Perez of the demo-session tape. “It ended up literally in the closet of the engineer’s home.”
A couple of years ago, Perez said, he and Hidalgo started talking about doing a two-man, acoustic, songwriter show—a stripped-down departure from their work with Los Lobos and the Latin Playboys. “Dave said it would be cool to play some songs that have never been played before,” Perez remembered. “That’s when we said, ‘Hey, what about all those songs we did 20 years ago? Where are they?’”
A call to Hirsch, after not having had contact with him for 16 years, resulted in him digging up the dusty reel-to-reel tape in his closet. “He put on a clean suit and the rubber gloves—the thing was literally falling apart, analog tape, you know—and carefully transferred it to a disc,” said Perez. “He had only one pass at it because it was so delicate—like old, yellow photographs—and he did it!”
The resulting, barely tampered-with album features nine songs—including the eerie “Cure for Love” and the rocker, “Till the Hands Fall Off the Clock”—and one spoken-word piece, “In 1964.”
The last was originally written by Perez “as a piece of prose for the LA Weekly 15 years ago,” he said. Perez had long forgotten about it, until his publicist discovered it on a tape she was perusing for one more track to round out the album. “I don’t remember why I would even take a little cassette from Radio Shack and record this, but I recognized it immediately. It’s not Spaulding Gray,” he laughed. But it is a poignant, entertaining slice of Perez’s So-Cal musical history, just like the rest of The Long Goodbye.
Joining Perez and Hidalgo at their Laxson show will be bassist Juan Perez (no relation) and percussionist David Hidalgo Jr. (Hidalgo’s son, and drummer with Social Distortion).
“We’ve done about 20 shows,” said Perez of his recent acoustic work with Hidalgo. “These are rare shows. We don’t do them very often. … Nothing is scripted. The audience is almost like they’re in the living room with us back in 1985, and will sit with us for a while while we flip through an old photo album. There’s some real kinda cool chemistry that happens there on that stage.
“We don’t ever want this thing to become formal. As soon as we start reading from a script, it’s over.”