Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thursday Night on the Lower East Side: Our Latin Thing's Tribute to The Fania All-Stars with DJ Lucho at East River Park

For us, tonight was the party of the summer, at East River Park, as dozens danced and hundreds swayed to the salsa rhythms of the past in the SummerStage show featuring Our Latin Thing's tribute to our salsa fanatic father's 70s favorite, the legendary Fania All-Stars, along with DJ Lucho, whom we've loved forever too.

It was like being taken back to the past, to another steamy Thursday in August, back 29 years - to August 26, 1971 - at The Cheetah,

the legendary club on East 53rd Street, the night salsa exploded onto the New York scene when the Fania All-Stars took the stage.

Our dad, and our brother, Jonathan, ten years younger than us, were totally devoted to salsa.

Our parents had been always been great Latin dancers. Fifty years ago, when we were only nine, we watched them one night in a San Juan nightclub, and Mom and Dad, then only 29 and 33, looked so glamorous and suave.

So pre-salsa, we always heard Latin sounds coming from our basement in the evenings and we'd watch our parents and their friends dance. When we were in our teens, they got their friend Joe Vega (of Joe Vega and the Cha Cha Aces) to give us lessons, and even though we always were pretty clumsy, we could handle the slower rumba really well and liked to dance with our mom.

Salsa, that unique New York thing, a mongrel like a lot of the city's cultural touchstones, was too fast for our two left feet. But we liked to listen, and we heard it all the time. Whenever we borrowed our dad's Cadillac, we'd turn on the ignition and hear salsa on Spanish radio stations (when that little girl wasn't going, "En mi casa, toman Bustelo / En mi casa, toman Bustelo").

Jonathan blared it night and day and during a teenage phase, adopted a salsa style. Anyway, the Fania All-Stars, separately as superstars and together, were the soundtrack of much of the 1970s for us - so much so that we weren't aware of it.

In the early 1980s, living in South Florida, we'd drive with Dad and hear the evolving sounds of salsa - Celia Cruz did the ID spot for WQBA, "La Cubanisima" - so while this wasn't the music we ourselves deliberately listened to, it was always there, so much so that we only noticed when its sound wasn't there anymore.

So we could identify when someone said that they were doing the music we all grew up on: "when we'd get up, when we'd go to sleep, when we'd take a shower, and doing the...other thing too."

It may not have been for us, as someone said, "the sound that gave us our swagger," but we loved tonight's show, seeing other people dancing and just enjoying.

We bought a Puerto Rican flag for a dollar (did they need to write "PUERTO RICO" on the bottom stripe?) and waved it when the call came, "Boricua, make some noise!"

"Nobody parties harder than Latinos," someone else said tonight. We enjoyed watching the party.

This concert drew the biggest crowd of the summer of any of the events in the East River Park Amphitheater.

Salsa's part of the Lower East Side's history, and tonight seemed both a tribute to that history and a little bit of it itself.

We had so much fun.

Thanks to Our Latin Thing, who were great.

Thanks to the Fania All-Stars for being an inspiration.

No comments: