Show Review: Ozomatli at the Alameda County Fair, 7/16/09

by Gordon Elgart on July 17, 2009

Ozomatli always gives it their all.

Ozomatli always gives it their all.

I’ve never been to a county fair before, and people are always making fun of the bands that play there for being on “the fair circuit.”  I always thought that was a bad rap because the bands that are on this circuit are getting paid well and gigging regularly at fairs all across this great land of ours.  When I heard that Ozomatli were playing at the Alameda County Fair, I knew I’d be popping my county fair cherry because I love Ozomatli, especially outdoors.  So I made my way out to the fairgrounds to eat a fried Twinkie, look at barnyard animals, shop for bootleg merchandise, and see Ozomatli.

Seeing Ozomatli at a County Fair was a bit weird.  First off, they were playing in the amphitheater, which is all seated.  No one was standing up against the stage, ready for dancing.  I decided we should get some seats toward the back so that when we started dancing, we wouldn’t be bothering too many people.  Ozo came on stage, and the energy in the beginning was a little weak.  There were pockets of people throwing down (as you should at an Ozo show), but for the most part, it was just a lot of standing around.

But when they played “Cumbia,” this all changed.  One couple started dancing, then another, and then more people ran down front.  Then we ran down front.  Next thing we knew, an actual Ozo show had broken out!  The band’s energy went up a level at this point, and the rest of the night was a lot more lively.  When the second set started, the energy was high from the very beginning, and you could feel the difference in the air.  The night show was a party.

Ozomatli played two sets, one at 6PM and one at 8PM, each for an hour.  I had no idea if they were going to play the same set, completely different sets, or something in between.  I was overjoyed to find that they were completely different!  We’ve even got the setlists in the photo gallery below so you can check it out for yourself.  What this meant was that this was like seeing a full-length Ozomatli show but with a food and water break in the middle.  And this was absolutely perfect!

The highlight for Dakin was “When I Close My Eyes,” a song he had never seen them play.  (He’s seen them at least a dozen times.)  The highlight for me was the same as usual: the songs that make me bounce.  “Como Ves,” “Dejame en Paz,” “Chango,” and a fun if differently worded cover of Sublime’s “April 29th, 1992.”  (That’s the “let it burn” song, in case you don’t know.)

All in all, it was another terrific Ozomatli experience.  No one else combines latin, hip hop, punk, funk and reggae in such a pleasing way.  (Does anyone else even try?)  Everyone should really see this band as many times as possible.  You’ll smile a lot doing it.

As for the county fair, I did eat my very first fried Twinkie.  It was delicious.  I do think that just one will cover me for the next few years, though, at least until Ozomatli plays another county fair.


Picture 1 of 7

Jiro and Ulises jam

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dakin July 17, 2009 at 5:44 pm

In total agreement. I actually think it will be more difficult to enjoy them at the Fillmore, when they seem the most genuine in this setting. And the sublime cover is about the rodney king riots…


Dean July 19, 2009 at 10:35 pm

That was my first Ozomatli show, and it was a blast. I think the Alameda County Fair is one of the best concert venues around, if a good band is playing there. I like the two set structure, and it’s nice to get a break in between sets to just hang out, cool off and get a drink.


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