The Expanders – Tickets – The Roxy Theatre – West Hollywood, CA – May 5th, 2017

There are currently no videos. Check back soon.
The Expanders

The Expanders

Boogaloo Assassins

Friday May 5

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

$15.00 - $18.00

This event is all ages

The Expanders
The Expanders
For more than a decade, U.S. reggae artists have been building a foundation from the Hawaiian islands to the east coast. This new generation of reggae artists continues to reach new heights of success with album and ticket sales, as well as winning over fans worldwide. While most modern American reggae bands are rooted in the rock reggae style, there are a few U.S. artists championing the lineage of classic roots reggae traditions, and Los Angeles-based vintage reggae revivalists The Expanders are leading that charge, building their sound around classic 70’s and early 80’s style reggae, with three-part vocal harmonies, conscious songwriting, and an indie-DIY spirit.

The five-piece band comprised of John Asher (Drums, Vocals), John Butcher (Guitar, Vocals), Roy Fishell (Organs), Chiquis Lozoya (Bass, Vocals), and Devin Morrison (Guitar, Vocals) have been making reggae fans and critics take note with their refreshing sound that references the “golden era” of reggae. Morrison and Butcher grew up listening to the record collection of famed reggae archivist Roger Steffens, and credit much of their love and knowledge to the accessibility and education of those experiences. Becoming friends with Steffens’ son, they developed an obsession with exploring the deepest reaches of the genre.
The Expanders’ new album Hustling Culture was released June 16, 2015, on indie tastemaker label Easy Star Records. Hustling Culture is the band’s third studio album, but for the band members feels like their first proper album as a cohesive unit. Asher explains, “Our first album was a collection of music from good friends making a record together. Our second album was a great covers album, but Hustling Culture is the band coming into its own with our songwriting and musicianship.” Morrison adds, “For this album we spent more time prepping and rehearsing, giving us more confidence in the recording studio. The result made the process more fun and enjoyable as we approached the song-writing in a more organized way and explored a wider range of topics than on the first album. Our combined efforts really shine through and all the musicians really stepped up and gave an inspired effort on the whole record.” In addition to the core members, their extended family includes keyboardist Roger Rivas of The Aggrolites and Rivas Recordings. Rivas has been an integral part of The Expanders’ recordings and helped maintain and produce the authentic sounds, which shine through on all the band’s releases.

Hustling Culture was recorded entirely on analogue tape at Killion Sound in North Hollywood, CA, from 2012-2014. The studio is a favorite recording place for the band because it’s run by Sergio Rios (Orgone), a friend who understands their unique aesthetic and has the gear to capture it, giving the album a warm and colorful palette.

The album title, Hustling Culture, comes from the album’s opening line: “One dollar gone but the next soon come, we never stop from hustling culture.” Morrison explains, “Everyone has a hustle, and ours is roots & culture music. It’s a way of reminding ourselves that outside of just entertaining and financial gain, there is a bigger picture and larger purpose for writing about the topics and playing the style of roots reggae that we do.” The Expanders’ music is a reminder that reggae music wasn’t born in a tropical beach paradise, but in the impoverished and underprivileged areas of Jamaica, resulting in a passionate expression for human rights, social justice and freedom from oppression.

There is a subtle, yet powerful conscious thread woven throughout Hustling Culture. “Uptown Set,” for example, is about the hidden effects of our country’s party lifestyle, which brings suffering and misery to innocent poor people caught along the routes where party drugs come across the border. “Thanks For Life” is a dedication to women, the struggle they face every day, and the debt of life that we all owe to them. “Top Shelf” is a tribute to the ganja farmers and the reflection of the changing cultural views on marijuana.

The band is part of a burgeoning Los Angeles reggae scene that sprang in large part from The Blue Beat Lounge (the longest running weekly ska night that happened at the Knitting Factory) and LA’s longtime premier weekly reggae night Dub Club held at the Echoplex. A song that was inspired by a key member of that scene is “Reggae Pops,” an infectious instrumental tune laid over a “steppers riddim” featuring John Butcher on lead guitar and Dan Hastie from Orgone on clavinet. The title was chosen as a tribute to the late-great Reggae Pops (born Nemencio Jose Andujar) who was a pillar of the Southern California reggae community for decades. Morrison states, “It’s impossible to accurately describe what he meant to reggae music in Los Angeles, but those who remember him from shows will never forget him. He was a dancer, a fan, and a presence that was always felt. He was the man!”

The Expanders are on tour now supporting the release. Morrison concludes, “Our goal is to bring that vintage reggae feel and sound that we love to places where people might not get to hear it on a regular basis.”
Boogaloo Assassins
Boogaloo Assassins
The Boogaloo Assassins' name might hint at homicide, but their efforts are strictly life-saving. Dedicated to re-creating and re-interpreting the boogaloo craze that swept East Harlem, the Latin Caribbean and South America from 1965 to 1969, the Los Angeles nine-piece band attempts to do to R&B, doo-wop, Afro-Caribbean jazz and salsa fusion what the Dap Kings do to classic Stax soul.

The last few years have seen a crucial and communal rehabilitation for the genre that was once derided by Salsa legend Eddie Palmieri as "Latin Bubblegum." Originating from a short-lived dance phenomenon known for its frenetic freestyle of flailing limbs, boogaloo soon gained a Latin flavor in heavily Nuyorican Spanish Harlem. One of the most significant and seamless connections between Afro-Caribbean polyrhythms, Frankie Lymon-style doo-wop and Midwestern and Southern soul, it almost immediately attracted a diverse and widespread following behind such stars as Joe Cuba, Joe Bataan and Ray Barretto.

Yet by the turn of the decade, the genre had fallen out of favor because of the rising tide of salsa and a blackballing initiated by radio DJ's, promoters, labels and a resentful older generation of musicians. However, in recent years, albums once out of print have been reissued, earning bands new fans among crate diggers and the beard-and-flannel set-- to say nothing of the modest but passionate fan base who passed their record collections on to their children.

Although Los Angeles is notoriously replete with quality Latin-themed bands, only the Boogaloo Assassins vivify the sound that soared out of El Barrio more than 40 summers ago. In advance of the group's performance at the Rootdown tonight and Sunset Junction on Saturday, piano player and co-founder Bill Purdy spoke to Pop & Hiss.

Was it difficult to find talented players well-versed in the boogaloo sound or did the group form relatively organically via friends knowing friends, etc.?

It started when [Boogaloo Assassins singer and co-founder] Chuck Farrar heard me playing montuno Cuban style piano and he and I soon discovered how much we loved that type of music. Pretty soon he started inviting people over to his house for informal jam sessions. After a few months, it solidified into an actual group. We all love salsa and Cuban jazz, but we decided to focus on boogaloo because it was something that we loved that very few people still played.

What do you think it was about boogaloo music that initially earned it scorn from some critics?

It had to do with politics of the period. Boogaloo was primarily being played by younger bands who were not like their parents' generation. There was that sense of a threat to the old guard as younger boogaloo groups began getting better billings and gigs.

Boogaloo music is essentially party music and it might not be as sophisticated harmonically as some of the Latin jazz from the period. Eddie Palmieri was a notoriously outspoken critic but he was going in a completely different direction from boogaloo. I think some critics may have found it too simple and perhaps too much of a pander to the audiences. Also, who knows exactly how deep the politics and payola were with the radio stations? Essentially, it died a quick death and New York salsa took over.

Why do you think Los Angeles has proved to be a haven for a style of music that first took hold 43 years ago and 3,000 miles away?

Los Angeles is a perfect place for it. In L.A., you have a reggae scene that Chuck [Farrar] and our horn players came out of. They really hold the Jamaican rocksteady and ska style in high regard and we were well-versed in trying to re-create a style of music authentically. It was about doing the music justice, but still having fun and putting our own spin on it. Los Angeles also has a vibrant rockabilly scene that operates in a similar vein to what we do.

What do you think it is about the sound that has allowed it to endure?

There's no scientific formula; we play the stuff because we love it. But soon enough, we saw that we were on to something because we were playing big rooms filled with young people absolutely loving it. They hadn't heard any of the songs before but they felt it instantaneously. There's something about its Latin groove that's so quintessentially a part of the fabric of the Americas. We play the rootsy stuff before it got cheesy. We're a party dance band; you don't have to be a Latin music aficionado to get it.

Who would you say are the top boogaloo icons?

Ray Barretto, Joe Cuba, Joe Bataan, Willie Colon, the Lebron Brothers, early Bobby Matos, Monguito Santamaria. We also play stuff with a salsa influence done by the Fania All-Stars, Cheo Feliciano, and the Alegre All Stars. There's a lot of DJs and serious record collectors in the group, so you basically have crate diggers with deep collections of Latin vinyl.

The band has also been writing original material. Has it been challenging to shift away from doing exclusively covers?

Well, we've all written songs before but writing Latin songs was a challenge at first. But we've been writing and putting our own take on the Latin boogaloo. We haven't tracked anything yet, but have definitely been writing new songs for an album.

-- Jeff Weiss