By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Ben was of no help; all he did throughout the journey was sing every lyric, mimic Johnny Marr's chiming guitars, and blurt from track to track "This song, only real Morrissey fans understand" or "This song is for Morrissey poseurs."
It didn't matter. I'm immediately enthralled by everything that is Morrissey—the gentle yet intensely morose instrumentation; the velvety voice that spoke to me, only me and no one else; his (and my) sad tales of getting picked on in school, despising your environment; the nagging aspiration to be something much more—and in another place.
At the concert, it's more of the same; the man wins me over, his words come to life and his acknowledgement of my culture is so beautiful. How could I not love Morrissey?
Morrissey sings to the disaffected, and God knows alienation is part of the assimilation tradition—the equal and opposite reaction of the immigrants drive to blend in. We ache; Morrissey soothes.
Morrissey fans pack LA's Knitting Factory and mouth every word that José Maldonado sings. He's the leader of the Sweet and Tender Hooligans, a Morrissey/Smiths cover band with its own cult following in Southern California. Perhaps it's because Maldonado sounds just like Moz, looks like him down to the pompadour and whipping of the mic wire. Or perhaps it's because Maldonado is Mexican.
There are non-Latinos in the audience. But the overwhelming majority cheers wildly when Maldonado introduces his new bass player by revealing, "Tonight, the band is 20 percent browner!"
I tell Ben this story, and he smiles. He can. I had returned his CDs, and now I was a believer, too. We stage an impromptu sing-along to "The Boy With the Thorn in His Side."
"I knew you were going to like Moz," he beams. "All Latinos end up liking him."