Of the myriad of reasons why a hopelessly awkward teen in the 1990s would love The X-Files – the escapist plot lines full of devilish conspiracies, cool monsters and clever humor helping him forget he was still a virgin, at least for an hour – one was that a secondary character was an Ozomatli fan. Richard “Ringo” Langly, one of The Lone Gunmen, Fox Mulder’s go-to trio of hackers and conspiracy nuts, frequently wore the L.A. salsa/hip hop/funk band’s t-shirts on the show. As a result, the show spoke to alien obsessives, will-they-or-won’t-they morons, and Ozo-loving nerds like myself.
And the band’s sizzling set at Thursday at the Square showed that they’re still a party band of the highest order, and as eclectic and energetic as ever – a nifty thing to witness, now that this Ozo-loving nerd is in his 30s. Now a septet, without a DJ in tow, Ozomatli still boasts a hugely syncopated sound, with two percussionists and a drummer throwing rhythmic flourishes all over the solid bass playing of original member Wil-Dog Abers. Justin Poree is their MC these days, and he seemed like a talented guy with a steady flow on Thursday – unfortunately, P.A. troubles meant that pretty much all the vocals were low in the mix, so it was tough to hear any of the lyrics.
As expected, tunes from the 2010 disc “Fire Away” were the order of the day, which was fine. The record is certainly the most easily digestible of all of Ozo’s works, boasting some lovingly polished R&B hooks and some never-before-seen, tender balladry. But to be honest, I would have preferred to see the late-’90s version of the group, with Chali 2na busting out verses over the impeccably arranged funk and salsa grooves of its 1998 self-titled debut. Not a complaint exactly, just a feeling.
Still, this was a fiery, incredibly enjoyable set that touched on all that makes Ozomatli great. Fusing such a wide variety of styles into its hyperactive live show, the band is a sonic melting pot filled with an irresistible, bubbling brew.
If you’re looking for some mind-bendingly great musicians who know how to rock a party without ever resorting to clichés, then thanks to Ozomatli, the truth is out there.
You can check my review here.