“This is a blues festival, isn’t it,” Los Lobos guitarists Cesar Rosas asked the Zoofest crowd Friday night. “We’ve got all kinds of blues.”
That was largely what one of the biggest crowds in the history of the Zoo Bar’s annual street festival got -- about 80 minutes of the bluesy side of Los Lobos.
The blues move, however, wasn’t triggered by the Zoo Bar’s reputation as a blues club or that the crowd responded with an affirmative yell when Rosas asked his question.
It came because the East L.A. band was down a member Friday.
Bassist Conrad Lozano along with the band’s front of house engineer had to return home Friday because of a family emergency. Patrick Recob, a Kansas City bassist, got a call at 3 p.m. to come to Lincoln to play with Los Lobos, with whom he’d never before performed -- “thank God I am a Los Lobos fan,” he said after the show.
To make the show work, the set was heavy on blues -- including a driving rendition of the Allman Brothers “No Way Out” -- but short on traditional Mexican songs (Lozano plays the guittaron, the “big guitar” that provides the low end for those songs) and more experimental numbers from albums like “Kiko” and “Colossal Head" that would have been difficult to play without rehearsal.
The band - guitarist/vocalists Rosas and David Hidalgo, guitarist Louie Perez, saxophonist/keyboardist Steve Berlin and drummer Enrique Gonzalez - was also joined for much of the set by Taylor Scott, a Denver-based singer/songwriter and guitarist who met Los Lobos through Berlin, who produced his new record. The Taylor Scott Band was, coincidentally, playing Bodega’s Alley Friday.
There were some Los Lobos gems scattered through the set, starting with a call-and-response singalong, led by Hidalgo, on “The Neighborhood” and including “Will the Wolf Survive,” and a raucous “Last Night,” with more crowd vocals and “Don’t Worry Baby,” that closed the set.
The encore, of course, was a joyous version of “La Bamba,” Los Lobos’ biggest hit, this time mashed up with the Rascal’s “Good Lovin’.”
Recob, who could be seen consulting with Rosas, Perez and Gonzalez during the set, did an admirable job playing a short notice show with a band he’d never previously played with.
And, Los Lobos, the great American band that can play anything, is a solid blues outfit with Hidalgo standing out on guitar.
The crowd that filled 14th street between P and O streets, by and large, loved the show, perhaps because it was so bluesy.
Zoofest continues Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. Nikki Hill will headline at 11 p.m.