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Bombasta Celebrates 10 Album-less Years

Photo: Veronica Luna, License: N/A

Veronica Luna

Barrio Big Band—Roberto Livar (center) with the current Bombasta lineup, keeping the party going


It’s hard to keep a band together, especially if it’s a nine-piece combo. Without an album, the task is next to impossible. Unless, of course, the name of your band is Bombasta.

“Yeah, I probably misunderstood something,” the “barrio big band” leader Roberto Livar confessed, in reference to the Spanish-sounding, but actually meaningless, name of the group. But Bombasta stuck, and so did the band, at least in the last three years, after “two or three” lineup changes in the last decade. On Saturday, Bombasta will celebrate 10 years and the Southwest Workers Union its first quarter century with an impressive night of music at Hi-Tones (Conjunto Aztlan, Mexico City’s Los Guadaloops and Master Blaster Sound System’s El Dusty will be part of the desmadre).

“We share [with SWU] the same vision of the world, but there’s also a more personal connection with them,” said Livar. “We did our first gig on December 20, 2003, at Café Revolución with [El Paso’s] Fuga, at a SWU event.”

Since then, and in spite of not having a full-length album (Bombasta has only released a handful of singles and EPs), the band has been active and popular enough to win awards at the Current’s annual music poll, most recently Best Video, Best Latin Alternative Band and Best Keyboardist (Jaime Ramírez, who left the band in November “to pursue other projects,” according to Livar). Livar claimed that the band’s too numerous, grassroots, independent and poor to record a full-length. I didn’t buy it, so I pressed him on the issue, emphasizing the fact that recordings are a key element of any band’s legacy.

“I know, an album would help, but there’s no feria [money]…” he said. Then he finally added an understandable—and believable—reason that makes me give him the benefit of the doubt. “I agree we owe ourselves and our fans an album, but I also think we owe our fans that whatever it is we put out there is first class. We don’t want to put something out just to put something out. If we don’t have the money to do it right, we won’t just put out something that’s half-assed. Plus: we’re all músicos who grew up playing in bars. I’m a musician first and foremost. The drive is always having that personal experience, to connect with a live audience. A recording artist is a totally different thing.”

The band—Livar on guitar and vocals, Travis Vela on guitar, Dillon Buhl on trombone, Carlos Álvarez on trumpet, Rolando Salazar on tenor saxophone/clarinet, J.P. Leal on bass, Ali Friedrich on baritone sax, Lauro Torres on percussion and Rudy Díaz on drums—is an explosive blend of cumbia, hip-hop, reggae, salsa and rock that never bothered with orthodoxy.

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