Manic Hispanic: ¡Pinche Punks!

Two decades of the greatest cult band (and Mexicans) in Orange County history

They never changed their supposedly simplistic schtick—and no one minded. In fact, bands began asking members when Manic would record versions of their songs—and flipped out like fanboys when they did.

"I was pretty shocked. I didn't expect it," says Dexter Holland, lead singer for the Offspring and a punk cholo in his own right with his sartorial stylings and hawking of his Gringo Bandito hot sauce. For The Recline, Manic remade the Offspring's "Come Out and Play (Keep Them Separated)" as "Get Them Immigrated."

"Their humor is on the genius level matched only by the Vandals," Holland adds. "Their version of 'Keep Them Separated' was hilarious! It was an acknowledgment, and it was flattering."

Back row (left to right): Lujan, Soto, Renfrow; front row: Torres, Rivera, Gaborno, Schultz
John Gilhooley
Back row (left to right): Lujan, Soto, Renfrow; front row: Torres, Rivera, Gaborno, Schultz
“When other people try to write social commentary about us, I just laugh,” says Torres. “Everyone tries to be so political and righteous for the cause. it's just a funny song.”
John Gilhooley
“When other people try to write social commentary about us, I just laugh,” says Torres. “Everyone tries to be so political and righteous for the cause. it's just a funny song.”

Location Info

Map

The Observatory

3503 S. Harbor Blvd.
Santa Ana, CA 92704

Category: Music Venues

Region: Santa Ana

Details

Manic Hispanic perform with CJ Ramone, CH3 and the Henchmen at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.observatoryoc.com. Sun., 8 p.m. $17. All ages.

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"You don't feel like you're anything unless Manic Hispanic takes one of your songs for their treatment," says Joe Escalante of the Vandals. The group turned "Urban Struggle," the Vandals' ode to the fights between punks and cowboys outside Costa Mesa's Cuckoo's Nest during the 1980s, into "I Want to Be a Cholo" for the closing track of Mijo, whose title and cover art are a spoof of the Descendents' Milo Goes to College. "They were nice—they asked for permission to [record 'Urban Struggle']. I said, 'You do whatever you want. You do your deal—it's an honor.'

"Too many Mexican comics—they're funny, but after a while, you run out of jokes about your abuelita's chanclas or the Virgin of Guadalupe," Escalante adds. "But with music, you don't need a new set every time. And they're making fun of punk culture as well. They're smart and never tiring."

Internally, though, Manic had to deal with what Renfrow charitably describes as, "certain people slipping back into old behaviors that were detrimental." Occasional breakups happened; members came and went. Any ambitions to expand their profile never materialized. But Gaborno's stroke put everything into perspective.

Gaborno's battles with addiction, and subsequent phoenix-like rebounds, are the stuff of Orange County legend. "Gabby's so tough that I didn't think he'd ever die," says Lujan. But the stroke left Gaborno partially paralyzed on his left side and with memory loss. OC's punk community rallied around him; just weeks after the stroke, the House of Blues in Anaheim hosted a fund-raiser featuring all of their bands—Manic, the Adolescents, Cadillac Tramps, the Grabbers—as well as other guests. Even Gaborno made a cameo to thank everyone for their support, proudly showing off the fresh scar on his chest.

Through all the ups and downs, Gaborno was the only person to have never missed a Manic Hispanic show. "Without Gabby," Schultz says plainly, "there is no Manic." No one thought the band would ever reunite—Gaborno's recovery was more important than the band. For six months, he gritted through rehabilitation just to relearn simple things, never mind saunter as he did in the days of old. There was no Manic show in 2010, the first time the band ever skipped a holiday. Finally, an offer came for a comeback: Warped Tour at the Pomona Fairgrounds.

"I was a bit leery" of letting him return, Renfrow admits of a friend he's known since each was 17. "But he told me, 'Bro, I want to do this. I need to do this.'"

No one knew whether the old Gabby would return. "His banter wasn't as good," Torres admits, "but he was on that day. He was ready to play."

"He was just awesome," Renfrow says. "You see it onstage—he belongs there. And if he was rough that first time, I really think it was because we really hadn't played in a while."

"I'm really lucky to be vertical," says Gaborno. He's now sober and the father of a 3-year-old boy whom he calls "my buddy." "What I love to do is make people smile and make people laugh. When I realized I still have that ability, that's what I did. Nowadays, every day that I wake up that I'm on this side of the dirt, I know I'm blessed. And if I can make someone happy, then that's what I'm going to do."

*     *     *

"Make him skinnier," Renfrow bellows at the makeup artist who's working on Soto outside Alex's Bar in Long Beach. Soto, who's sitting down, just smiles as Renfrow cracks up. "Oh, never mind!"

Manic Hispanic are drifting in and out of Alex's, readying for their Sunday-evening photo shoot. On trucks and chairs are their costumes—flannels, fedoras, tejanas, shorts; the Chucks and tight haircuts are part of their day-to-day fashion. After a couple of drinks with their pal, bar owner Alex Hernández (who was at the infamous Foothill show and said of the night, "The police rounded up every fat Mexican they could find, including me"), everyone dresses up to play. Soto is a proto-zooter in black pants, white long-sleeved shirt, black suspenders and mad-dogger sunglasses as dark as the '56 Chevy they'll lean on for the shoot. Torres sports a skater hat; Rivera has his Pendleton completely buttoned up; Schultz pulls at his knee-high socks. Renfrow wears a narco-chic outfit because just as "everyone has a cousin who's a cholo, everyone has an uncle who dresses like this—straight outta the Anaheim Indoor Swap Meet."

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23 comments
kartik.bharadwa
kartik.bharadwa

Saw the Cadillac Tramps in Calgary, Alberta Canada many years ago, maybe 1994?  Then I saw them in Lethbridge, Alberta at the University and met Gabby as well as Johnny Two Bags who plays in Social D now.  Great band and I was heartbroken when they broke up until I heard Gabby singing away in Manic.  Manic is one of the greatest bands of all time and Gabby is arguably the greatest front man of all time.  They really should make a movie about him.  Thanks for the great write-up and I can't help but think that there might be a new MH record soon....  

Roger Maxim
Roger Maxim

Been to a few of their shows .. not bad for a Gringo!

ElGalloNegro
ElGalloNegro

I love these guys.  Reminds me of being one of the only white kids in my elementary school and having my friends teach me all the Spanish curse words.  Oh, and A Flock of Goo Goo is pretty damn awesome as well.

powergroup
powergroup

Fantastic article man - great detail of OC mexpunk scene and more.  You can go Chavez, or you can go Cheech haha.  I'm looking forward to reading more of your stuff, you clearly get inside, connect and write it well.  Best read I've had in weeks.

char0110
char0110

D.I. was and still is better but it's too bad that Casey Royer kept getting in trouble with the law. But we all hate the laws that weren't written for us anyway and they say that ignorance of the laws is no excuse, if that ain't a bunch of BS I don't know what is. If you don't know about it then how can you follow it?

punxloser
punxloser

Great article!!! Manic Hispanic is a great band, and a pride for the  punk rock scene!! Felicidades a Gustavo Arellano, un saludo desde Tenochtitlán (Mexico City)

Minerva Magdalena
Minerva Magdalena

Gustavo? Y Estoy es que? If anything I'll give the band an A+ for Really Catchy Titles but, an F- for Sucky Music/Lame Lyrics. If their was Intelligence behind the Titles it would be worth Listening.

Jerry Vazquez
Jerry Vazquez

Never heard of them I grew up listening to El Tri! just listened to I want to be a culero ooops i mean a cholo. Cool orale like it.

Cesar Jaime
Cesar Jaime

I want to be a cholo! A cholo?....simoooon!

Anne Bagasao
Anne Bagasao

I would love to see them play The Vex in ELA. Bring it home!

David Gallardo
David Gallardo

My ringtone is "Creeper Is A Lowrider". I love it!

Damion Ramirez
Damion Ramirez

"if the vatos are united, they will never be divided!" orale!!!

jmcguinness
jmcguinness

My favorite OC Band live (back when I went out). Love that they rework songs by bands like The Damned that are ignored in some circles. My students request Rudy Cholo often. Thanks for the great article.

 
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