This year’s Millpond Music Festival will feature just another band from East L.A. – Los Lobos. The band will close out the 20th Annual Millpond Music Festival on Sunday night, Sept. 18.
The band is best known for covering “La Bamba” for the movie of the same name, but the band has been honing its own brand of music – a mix of rock and roll, Mexican folklore, country, pop, blues, ethereal psychedelia and gorgeous ballads – for more than three decades.
The band has won multiple Grammy awards and released more than 15 albums. Most recently the band can be heard in the Disney animated movie “Rango” starring Johnny Depp. The band will be supporting their newest album, “For Tin Can Trust,” set for release Aug. 3.
Lynn Cooper, director of the Inyo Council for the Arts, the organization that puts on the event, said everyone is involved is “very excited … OK, really excited Los Lobos is coming.”
Millpond Music Festival has been trying to get Los Lobos on the bill for years but scheduling and finances have been against that effort. This year the stars have aligned and a grant has been received by the ICA that will allow the band’s appearance.
Cooper added that Los Lobos will fit with this year’s theme of focusing on local, Eastern Sierra communities. New to the event this year will be cultural villages: one representing the local Hispanic community, another the local Native American culture and people.
“Millpond has always been a multi-cultural event,” Cooper said.
Not only is Los Lobos fitting for the theme of the event, but a fitting band for the event’s 20th anniversary.
The band has shared a long history that started in the late 1960s at Garfield High School in Los Angeles, and their first paying gig in 1973. The bands website provides a timeline of the band and its milestones.
The band is, and has always been, Louie Perez on drums, Conrad Lozano on bass, musical prodigy and virtuoso David Hildalgo on vocals, guitar, drums, violin, organ, etc., and Cesar Rosas on guitar – never without his signature dark sunglasses and goatee. Steven Berlin on saxophone and percussion and Cougar Estrada on percussion did not attend the same high school as the other four members made famous in the movie “Stand and Deliver,” but are an integral part of the band nonetheless.
Lozano, Hidalgo, Perez and Rosas were all playing in different bands through school. After graduation in 1973, the four got together and the band solidified in 1976 and released “Just Another Band From East L.A.” in 1978.
It was the height of the L.A. punk scene in the mid-70s but the band played a variety of gigs and earned street cred’ playing dates with punk bands like the Circle Jerks and the Blasters. The band would pick up Berlin from the Blasters, and build on their already eclectic and diverse sound.
The band won its first Grammy in 1984 for “Anselma,” a hybrid of the punk-classic “Farmer John,” played with traditional Mexican folklore fashion and instruments. The band released its first full-length album “How Will The Wolf Survive?” and tied with Bruce Springsteen for “Artist of the Year” in Rolling Stone’s year-end critics’ poll in 1985.
While working on their sophomore recording they were approached to do a soundtrack for a biographical movie about Ritchie Valens. The band’s second album, “By The Light Of The Moon” did not sell well, but the release of the movie and soundtrack to “La Bamba” were smash hits in the summer of 1987.
Now bona fide stars, thanks to “La Bamba” the band released, unexpected to fans and critics alike but sticking to their roots, a full-album of acoustic Mexican folklore songs, “La Pistola Y El Corazan.” The band earned its second Grammy for the album in 1990.
In 1992, the band released the experimental, psychedelic and ethereal “Kiko” – considered the band’s masterwork.
The group would contribute to children’s recordings for Disney and Sesame Street and various members pursued solo and other collaborative projects in the following years.
The band celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2003, and Estrada joined full-time in 2004. The band released its first live-recording and DVD in 2005, “Los Lobos Live At The Fillmore.”
Along the way the band has toured and played with as eclectic a list of performers as their own music, from Bob Dylan, the Clash, Elvis Costello and Dave Matthews Band, to ZZ Top, the Eagles, Santana, Lou Reed, U2, Johnny Rotten’s Public Image Limited, or PiL, and the Grateful Dead (whose longtime lyricist Robert Hunter would eventually contribute lyrics to a Los Lobos tune).
The band will be stopping in Bishop in between gigs with Taj Mahal, Eric Clapton and Los Lonely Boys in 2011.
AllAboutJazz.com said of the band, “The genius of Los Lobos resides in their innate ability to find the redemptive power of music, no matter the style they choose to play.”
The 20th Millpond Music Festival runs Friday evening, Sept. 16 through Sunday, September 18 at the Millpond Recreation Area, a few miles north of downtown Bishop.
Los Lobos will be closing the festival on Sunday at 6 p.m. The festival lineup, ticket information, and artist web links are available at www.inyo.org  at the Millpond Music Festival link. For more information, call Inyo Council for the Arts at (760) 873-8014.