BY NATE JACKSON
Last Night: Allensworth, Boogaloo Assassins at Detroit Bar; Saturday, January 10.
Better Than: Break dancing on hot coals.
Despite years spent incessantly trolling for talent on the local music scene, there is still something oddly special about showing up early to a great gig. You know, that golden half-hour or so before a quiet neighborhood bar turns into a massive, impolite swarm of warm bodies and cold booze. If nothing else, beating the rush usually translates into a front row spot in the crowd. Those that enjoy a relaxed, pre-show bullshit session and speedy bar service know all about the perks of punctuality.
And a raging combo of local Latin and soul courtesy of Allensworth and Boogaloo Assassins was certainly a good reason to get your ass to Detroit Bar on time last night.
Trailing through the dim lights of the venue, the hum of weekend bar hoppers was slowly mounted as stocky, bearded soul-singer Jamie Allensworth wrapped up a sound check. Backed by dynamic roster of seasoned funkateers, his band gathered up some gusto as DJs occupied the incoming crowd. A handful of B-boy break beats, a flash of disco and other vintage audio was just enough to conjure the signature vibes of south county's most faithful monument to the undying old-school.
It only took a few sharp, electric twangs from Allensworth's guitar to reel in the energy of the half-drunk masses. It was the kind of crowd that could potentially tare the house down to the heavy tones of brass, bass and congas rumbling inside the opening verse of "Push Me Off," one of their opening tunes. Needless to say, shit got crazy really quick.
But even though this Huntington Beach collective is known for hitting fans with a bucking brand of live soul that knocks you on your butt faster than a handle of Jack Daniels, they've also got a tender side--look no further than Allensworth's sentimental vocals on "Let It Rain." Or the sweet opening melodies of "Standing In Line," a grown-and sexy-sound reminiscent of Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite.
Though the crowd seemed a bit weary after an hour of bouncing and swaying, the show was far from over. The pounding percussion of the Boogaloo Assassins delivered a sweaty dose of Latin fever. How much fever, you ask? A few drinks into their set, the dance floor of Detroit mirrored the intensity of a basement party on a hot night in Havanna.
Whether you were busy showing off your years of salsa lessons or just faking a two-step during the entire three minutes of "Watsui Boogaloo," fun was definitely not in short supply. This LA/OC all-star band of ska and salsa musicians were fronted by several energetic vocalists, a ripping hot horn section and drums galore.
If there's one thing everyone should respect about this group, it's that music like this is finally being thrust into the heart of lily-white OC in a major way. With more distinct pairings like the one going on at last night's Detroit gig, the payoff for early birds like myself is sure to be well worth the wait.
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Personal Bias: The best part of Latin music is the Latin women who dance to it. Try to argue with me on that.
Random Detail: I noticed that about 87 percent of the people on stage that night had facial hair.
By the Way: Allensworth and Boogaloo Assassins are teaming up again in L.A. at Bordello on Jan. 29. You should be there.