Lee Fields and Chicano Batman at The Music Box

The room was electric, even half-full, thirty minutes before the show began. You could sense excitement and anticipation in the air as conversations were had, drinks were ordered and shared among friends, and delicious smells from the kitchen only made everyone hungrier for the music that would eventually feed their souls.

The Chulita Vinyl Club SD and AIR Nandez DJed perfectly, harnessing the energy in the room, taking it up, and down, and ensuring its preservation until Chicano Batman hit the stage. Screams, hoots, and hollers erupted when well-known horns would play, or when the original sample used in the creation of Ice Cube's, "It Was a Good Day," began playing. Both DJs shared the tables and kept the party jumpin' over the course of their joint set.

You would have sworn that Chicano Batman was the headliner. The audience went berserk when they hit the stage. The septet stole the energy and attention of everyone in the Music Box; the charismatic enigma that is Bardo Martinez quickly became the focal point in the room, channeling the voice and essence of 60's soul, the struggle, and so much more. The Music Box, in the Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego, became a humid, tropical summer party that swayed to the rhythms of East Los (Angeles), Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and beyond. The set flowed seamlessly from song to song as Bardo transitioned from the keys, to guitar, to belting out with one hand on the mic and the other outstretched as if an antennae broadcasting the emotion in his voice to the back of the room and three stories up. "Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)" from Chicano Batman's recently released, Freedom is Free, was perhaps the highlight of the diverse set, and was fitting as, even if for only those thirty or so minutes, the room was filled with friends with one thing in common - their unanimous delight - who all swayed atop the ocean of sound that poured forth from the stage. I heavily suggest you take a moment, if you are not already a fan, to acquaint your self with Chicano Batman; start HERE.

It had already been an amazing night. But an amazing night became a Special Night when our generation's musical love child of James Brown and Brenton Wood (partial credit goes to my new friend Hugo @bigjuice64 Munoz for the Brenton Wood reference), Lee Fields, set foot on stage and took the crowd from an already ten to an eleven. It is no surprise that Fields also carries the 60's soul sound forward into contemporary culture since he recorded his first single in 1969, even spending a short season as part of Kool & the Gang. As the set began, the already packed floor pressed forward, as if those couple of feet would make all the difference, and the beautifully raspy crooning of Lee Fields continued to call eager fans forward throughout the night - so much so that the venue ended up moving the ropes that contain the crowd out about a foot or two, allowing more fans to be nearer Fields. Lee Fields puts on a show, not with anything fancy, but with a few sweet moves, variety provided by The Expressions, and good, soulful songs. And that was more than enough. The highlight of the night was, without doubt or hesitation, "Honey Dove", creating a nostalgic ambiance as singles dreamt of young love, and couples pressed together and swayed with all of the intensity and passion in Fields' singing, adding an exclamation point to the end of the encore set.

Peace, Love, & Music,

– Nate Whitsell


Nate Whitsell, creator of sdloveshiphop.com, curator at ThBlog for ThChrch.com, and promoter of all things hip hop at The Music Box in San Diego, writes as a champion for SD's hip hop culture, seeking to see unity and progression in our city's scene, as well as exposure for our artists locally, nationally, and globally.

Nate is a husband, father, middle school English teacher and an aficionado of quality music. Hip Hop has been instrumental throughout his life, playing a huge role in his choice of English as a major at SDSU, how and what he teaches, and continues to push him as a listener, creator and writer. As a journalist, he hopes to cover Hip Hop the way it ought to be written about, both critically and skillfully, with reverence for its past, acceptance of its present and hope for its future.

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