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NIGHT LIFE THE CLUB SCENE

Dancing Deal : It'll be one big party when Los Lobos and Raging Arb & The Redheads play at the Ventura Theatre.

January 31, 1991|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"It was a swell party--I was blind three days." --Fred Sanford

Everyone wants a deal. That's why enterprising realtors sell beachfront property in Barstow so you can be there when the Big One arrives. Such a deal, huh? Allowing for inflation, bad math and all that, here's a better deal, as well as a swell party: Saturday night, the Ventura Theatre is selling instant exhaustion for only $19.50, in the form of a dance-a-thon, featuring Grammy award-winning Los Lobos, plus those local raucous rockers, Raging Arb & The Redheads.

There won't be a lot of slow ones, and this show should finish off those tough enough to have survived the Special Beat concert a few months ago. There should be enough sweat generated to douse the fires in the Persian Gulf, or at least make the bouncers open the door for a little fresh air.

Anyway, Los Lobos of East L.A. have long been a popular draw in Santa Barbara but the quintet has never played Ventura. The band has recently completed a tour in a thinly veiled effort to make people buy a copy of their latest album, "The Neighborhood." It made a lot of critics' Top Ten lists--but the pen is not mightier than a bunch of deaf radio programmers and a nation of cheap record buyers.

"Well, the record has almost run its course," said sax player Steve Berlin in a recent telephone interview. "The record has been sort of a disappointment to us because it was a bit less than enthusiastically received. It's tough these days for music on the radio without a lot of hair and Spandex. But we're sort of keeping our fingers crossed that the record is not dead. Maybe it'll take another video. We've already done 'Down On The River Bed' and 'I Can't Understand.' I think 'Angel Dance' will be our third video."

Berlin said everyone in the group is realistic about the business of making music; they all know groups need the aforementioned radio airplay, and they also need to tour constantly.

"It's just hard for us to stay on the road for three months at a time, which is what we just did. We went everywhere and played with people like the Dirty Dozen Brass band, Treat Her Right and Steve Earle and The Dukes. The Ventura show is sort of a one-shot deal for us. We'll probably just play, then drive back to L.A."

Besides being realists, Los Lobos are veterans. They've been around as Los Lobos since the mid-'70s when they released a couple of now out-of-print folkish albums. The band has played with everybody, including the Grateful Dead. Their combination of traditional Mexican music and American roots music is hard to describe other than to say that it will grab your feet by the throat and won't let go until you're dancing. David Hidalgo's sweet vocals don't hurt either.

"We have a lot of supportive fans," said Berlin, "Except for the time that Cesar Rosas told off the entire Oakland Coliseum when we were opening for Huey Lewis. But the life of a musician is fun too. We pretty much do what we do wherever we want to do it. We just plug in and do whatever our creative muse tells us to do."

The big break for Los Lobos came in the early '80s after a few gigs with their musical pals, the Blasters, and they signed with Slash Records. Los Lobos went on to win a Grammy in 1984 for "Anselma," while the Blasters faded away.

"It's funny how this business works," said Berlin, who played with both bands. "No one can really say what happened to the Blasters, but they were going through a lot of changes. They were falling apart as Los Lobos was coming together. We had a lot of good luck--we won a Grammy and got a lot of attention. They were their own worst enemies. They were always fighting about insignificant details for hours and hours, and they just lost sight of what they were doing."

Berlin has played with a lot of bands since he arrived from Philadelphia in the mid-'70s. He was a guest artist on Los Lobos' 1983 Slash debut, which he produced with T-Bone Burnett.

"I used to play with the Blasters and Los Lobos and also the Plugz and Top Jimmy and The Rhythm Pigs, R.E.M., the Go-Go's and the Plimsouls. I started off as a harmonica player because I was never much of a guitar player, before I took up the saxophone. When I moved to L.A. in 1975, I just sort of fell into what was going on."

Openers and local legends, Raging Arb & The Redheads, themselves influenced by the music of Los Lobos, will be making their third appearance at the venerable Ventura Theatre.

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