Several weeks ago, Mark Hazlewood, the 46-year-old son of country singer Lee Hazlewood, warned the citizens of the Republic of Texas, who were assembled in a drab conference room at a local Best Western motel, that Planet X, the ghostly 10th planet in our solar system, will approach Earth on its precise, 3,660-year orbit schedule and destroy two-thirds of this planet's population sometime next year. Now this revelation is not good news, particularly for those who had plans for 2003, but the doom that is zooming through light-years of space to darken our doorstep and obliterate us should compel those who have never experienced the Blazers to see them now.
The Blazers hail from East L.A., but perform in the Alamo City so often that they are considered honorary San Antonians. They feel at home here, and we feel at home with them: Before a show at Casbeers a Sunday ago, guitarist Manuel Gonzalez mingled with the crowd as if they were sitting in his living room, shaking everyone's hand and chatting. "This area has gotta a lot of soul," he said, extending a firm hand that within the hour would be throwing down dirty electric licks on a black Fender and then plucking pristine arpeggios on a bajo sexto. "Thanks for coming out."
The Blazers share a kinship with Los Lobos — Cesar Rosas produced their first two records for Rounder Records, Short Fuse and East Side Soul. (The band recently left Rounder for Little Dog, a label owned by their recent producer Pete Anderson. Their next record is due out by the end of the year, which means it will beat the apocalypse by a few months.) Consequently, perhaps, the Blazers have inherited an unfair comparison. "They're like Los Lobos," is shorthand for the quartet's alchemy of Norteño, soul, rock 'n' roll, cumbia, and groove, but their sound is rougher than their lupine counterparts. Even at their most gentle — when the accordion cries, drumsticks caress the snarehead, nylon strings purr across the F-hole, and pure, three-part harmonies sing of amor, noches azules or vida — the Blazers deliver a grittiness in their music. It's simple, really: They are real.
Real during a time when pop culture has become so banal as to make Fabian seem as astute as Bob Dylan, David Cassidy as poetic as Neil Young. Yet, with the Blazers there is no lip gloss nor lip synching, no fake rage nor false bravado. Their last two records, Just for You, released in 1997, and Puro Blazers, which came out in 2000, add to their raucous body of work — part fiesta, part triste — and always endowed with integrity. So it is unlikely that the Blazers will get rich, but unlike their shallow counterparts in pop culture, they will endure — well, at least until Planet X appears, and then maybe they will be among the one-third of the world that makes it.
The place was packed so tight at Casbeers the other night, the air conditioning could not defeat the heat, everyone was slippery, people were laughing, drinking, embracing, it was someone's birthday and a balloon burst, flashbulbs splashed the room, a man held his cell phone in the air so the caller could hear "Te gusta mucho baile," the tip jar brimmed with dollar bills — and the Blazers were the reason for the revelry.
Some dance to remember, but some dance to forget, at least for a little while, about a sucky job, the humidity, the PGA Village, George W. Bush, Enron, the Middle East, Planet X. When that shadowy planet arrives — and if it doesn't, Mr. Hazlewood, I'm holding you directly responsible — I hope it's summertime, the Blazers are playing "Cumbia Del Sol," everyone is dancing, and our minds are a million miles away.
THE BLAZERS WITH SISTERS MORALES, ARMANDO & JUAN TEJEDA
Friday, July 19
1913 South Flores