From the get-go, the crowd was all-ages, meaning just about every last age. Kids already hung onto the stage barrier or clung to their moms and dads when Chicha dust took the stage in spicy Latino garb and began leading the crowd in their trademark chicha side-stepping. The six-man crew made the stage feel full with a sound that has continued to flesh out and gain complexity since the band emerged about two years ago as a chicha cover band, a side project of Brian Lopez and Gabriel Sullivan.
Chicha Dust engaged the audience and kept them moving so well that there might have been concern about the act that followed them, with the venerable Los Lobos yet to come. As it turned out, the "middle act" nearly stole the show. It was the John E. White Elementary School Mariachi Band, and it was huge. What seemed like at least 100 kids played music on violins and various sorts of guitars. Many also performed traditional dances. Several sang solos to what may be the largest crowd they've ever seen, or maybe ever will.
They also stole the hearts of Los Lobos. David Hidalgo beamed throughout the songs he played on accordion as the kids performed with his band. The pride and encouragement of all the Lobos was palpable. Meanwhile the color and motion was captured on film by Daniel Buckley, and no doubt will be a highlight of his forthcoming film on the history of mariachi in Tucson.
There are few bands as consistent as Los Lobos, and they gave the fans what they came for—not counting the one or two who were disappointed that the band omitted their traditional acoustic sub-set. No matter. Seeing the joy of those children, all their hard work and rehearsals abundantly rewarded, was worth the price of admission.