This weekend, the streets of old town Orange will receive a slice of 1960s Spanish Harlem. When the sound of Latin brass, timbales, piano and party vibes ring out from the doors of the District Lounge, you know it could only be the work of the Boogaloo Assassins. Though it's been a while since this powerful, 11-piece band has rocked a stage for a hometown crowd in OC, their sound and flavor is unmistakable for those starved for old-school block party music with an East Coast flair. The fact that the Assassins are still one of the only bands on west coast paying homage to the likes of Joe Bataan, Larry Harlow, Johnny Colon and so many others makes their show a rare link to the past that should never be passed up.
A lot has happened with the band once known for packing Fullerton clubs like Commonwealth or Continental Room in Fullerton before moving onto the international stage. Including their recent signing with revived Latin label Fania Records which put out just about every relevant artist in the genre's heyday.
“It's definitely a dream come true, it's a legendary label,” says vocalist and band co-founder Bobby Soul. “I can pretty much die happy. The whole reason we even started our group was because of that label.”
A constant stream of opportunities, festivals, and chance gigs backing up stars like Bataan and Roberto Roena have also allowed the group to boost its status as torch bearers for an artform that once stood in the face of mainstream disapproval and was derided by music's old guard as “Latin Bubblegum.” But the rhythm of the streets was eventually revived and continues to live on in Soul and his 11-man tribe. This month, the band has even been asked to perform for a west coast premiere of We Like It Like That: The Story of Latin Boogaloo on September 20th at the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory.
“It's not what most west coast salsa groups want to do and we just went another direction than everyone else,” Soul says. “And it ended up working out to our favor–the artwork, the branding, the singing, English/Spanish lyrics.”
The ability to crossover to a wide range of audiences (whether they consider themselves rhythmically challenged or not) is the key to the band's success, Soul says. Adding a welcome change from the consistent stream of reggae and rock bands that often pervade the OC Street Fair is already enough to make them stand out in the crowd of thousands who will descend on the city of Orange to party and taste bites and beers from around the world.
With their next album on the horizon and a dose of new members who've cycled into the band in recent years, Boogaloo Assassins return to OC as deadly as they ever were, especially when it comes to killing your inhibitions on the dance floor .
“It's a full sound it's an experience. I'd really love to see everyone out there letting loose. That's what this music's about, it's a party.”
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