By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
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By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
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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."
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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."