It’s not hard to appreciate a band who gives their all on stage, a band who sweeps you up in its insatiable energy. And when that band is Chicano Batman, you find yourself moving to every song hoping that at the end of each tune, there is another to follow.
After a two weekend stint at a dusty desert music festival (AKA Coachella), Chicano Batman made one last stop in Southern California. The band, whose new album continues to make waves among fans and critics, played a sold out show at the Pomona Glass House.
The four-piece group from east Los Angeles is one that doesn’t seem to believe in barriers. On stage, they are a spiraling whirlwind, a dervish of moving parts that sweep through a venue with ease.
Lead singer Bardo Martinez never loses his smile or intensity and plays his keyboard and guitar with a frantic, passionate energy. Guitarist Carlos Arévalo and bass player Eduardo Arenas are more collective on stage but jump into action at a moment’s notice. Gabriel Villa’s drumbeats are at the center of it all, the furnace that fuels the fire.
The band’s show in Pomona was nothing short of spectacular. Along with opening bands Brainstory and Slipping Into Darkness, Chicano Batman felt at home in front of an eclectic audience. They swam between albums and moved fans of all ages, pulling them into a soul-soothing consciousness.
Throughout the night, the band never lost momentum, but they did make room for a few important moments. Before the band played “La Jura” Martinez solemnly addressed the crowd. April 29, he noted, marked the 25th memorial of the L.A. Riots, an event spurned from fear, misunderstanding and a lack of trust between communities and the police force. Martinez acknowledged the sad event, and hoped to press forward from it.
Other moments were just as powerful including a rousing chant from the audience as the band played “Freedom is Free,” the title track off their new album.
‘Freedom is Free’ is beautiful and poignant collection of songs the band started writing in 2015. Drummer Gabriel Villa said the album’s conception was cemented before there was any real tension in the 2016 presidential election, and was focused more on people, not politics.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” Villa said. “We just saw some real issues we wanted to address, you know? Bardo is a real great lyricist. He writes the music and has a message he wants to deliver.”
Villa said current events such as the riots in Ferguson fueled the band’s album with ideas.
“At the time when we started writing a lot of the songs there was a lot of tension going on, you had [movements] like Black Lives Matter which is why we wrote songs like ‘La Jura’ and ‘Freedom is Free,'” Villa said. “There are so many people trying to tell you what freedom is … trying to make you believe you’re not free. But you are.”
‘Freedom is Free’ pulls mostly from soul influences, and Villa said the band really focused on writing a cohesive album, one with lyrics as strong as the melody.
“We started tapping into soul a long time ago … we all grew up listening to oldies and we all listened to [radio DJ] Art Laboe and he influenced not only us but many people in California,” Villa said.
The band’s interest in soul and Latino music creates a melting pot of sounds that is reflective in the band’s performances. Each show, including their stop at the Glass House, is a beautiful expression of the band’s commitment to staying fluid and open-minded as musicians and as people.
“Soul I think is one of the music styles that really taps into your heart. We explore different rhythms,” Villa said. “We all come from like different places with different influences. We like to celebrate that.”
For more information about Chicano Batman and their music, visit their website. The band will continue to play more festivals and shows this year including the FYF festival in Los Angeles.