Mystic Theater, Petaluma
April 26, 2019
Photos by Paul Piazza
It was a Friday night to remember at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma when Chicano Batman came into the sleepy Peninsula town on the eve of one of the biggest local traditions of the year – the annual Butter and Egg Festival.
The Los Angeles based-band had sold out the show over a week in advance and everyone in the house was prepared to be immersed in the band’s contagious psychedelic soul and fiery rock-out energy. But nobody expected the epic show that the band brought to us on this night would take things to an entirely new level with a set so hot you could place a skillet on the stage and fry up some butter and eggs with chorizo.
The four-piece (they have a fifth touring member on keyboards/vocals) came out and proceeded to rock the faces off the crowd in a set that exceeded 90 minutes with some slightly new interpretations of some of their best-known songs. The energy in the room, which was already threatening to shake off the roof, took to explosive new heights when Chicano Batman opened with bandleader Bardo Martinez’ seductive organ licks on “Cycles of Existential Rhymes,” a brilliant, poetic tune that melds into shifting rhythms that peak with a maximum rock out and then segues back into contemplative soulful psychedelia. And that was just the beginning of the night.
Things never let up from there. Over 90 minutes later, when the band finished the set and then came back and completed the night with a molten encore with the song “Magma,” they left once again leaving the audience wrung out, rocked out, and completely satisfied. The genre blurring band gives the ear sounds that owes as much to Brazilian tropicalia music and other Central and South American influences as they do to
Curtis Mayfield and the Delfonics. Throw in some heavy rockin’, some badass, passionate players, and the result is a powerful, deeply soulful, and moving show.
Martinez led the charge on this night with a physical performance that had him leaping around, reaching out to connect with fans and smoothly transitioning between playing guitar and the organ, often in the same song. His falsetto rang out in the room and was accompanied by many in the crowd who were familiar with the band’s lyrics. Bassist Eduardo Arenas another spark plug in the group, was on fire, bouncing nonstop throughout the show while holding down the groove. He traded his bass for Martinez’ guitar to do the song “La Jura,” which is a heavy tune about police brutality.
Lead guitarist Carlos Arellano was magical on the fretboard, taking the solo on the band’s epic tune “Black Lipstick” to new heights as well as tweaking the tone on the solo for “Freedom is Free.” Meanwhile the band’s skillful drummer Gabriel Villa, who can be a heavy hitter when need be, managed an infinite number of precisely executed syncopated tempo changes with other flavorful percussion accents throughout the show.
Openers Brainstory got the place warmed up with an uproarious set that got the place going with tunes that fused jazz, rock, psychedelia, and awkward humor. The band, brothers Kevin and Tony Martin, began in Rialto, California as a pair of skateboarders who also played guitar and bass. Eventually, they added drummer Eric Hagstrom and moved to Northern California where the brain story took wings. They are, perhaps, one of a new wave of bands who are inspired in part by Chicano Batman. One of those inspirations may be in the vintage equipment they utilize onstage.
As for the headliners, it should continue to fascinate as their devoted fan base witness their ongoing evolution and more people figure out how great they are. And of course, as they continue to power forward, they will continue to fuse sounds and social issues with sincere performances into an ever-brightening experience in the musical universe.
Find out more about Chicano Batman on their website.
Check out Brainstory here.