Los #3 Dinners isn’t just a band — it’s a San Antonio icon, like the Alamo or the Spurs. The band is beyond good and evil. Too often, perhaps, they’re taken for granted: they’ve been rocking for 30 years and, barring some unforeseen cataclysm, they’re here to stay.
But is the band still musically relevant or have they devolved into crowd-pleasers made to order for restaurants and weddings? The night of Sat, Feb 26 at Boneshakers answered that question easily: the Dinners are very much alive and kicking ass.
“Old guys play first,” said charismatic vocalist/guitarist Lenny Friedland, “so we can go home early and hook up the morphine and watch The Weather Channel.” The other bands on the bill included Piñata Protest, Heavy Feathers, and LA’s La Santa Cecilia, performing their second local show in three days, after an unforgettable party two days earlier at The Mix. But Los #3 Dinners warmed everyone up with a double-guitar assault for the ages.
Taking turns on lead and rhythm guitar, Friedland and Frank Karpienski helped explain why these old farts still rock like teenagers. Their “L.A. Woman”-like “Down in SA” was a symbol of what’s great about the band: they don’t just rock hard, they allow their instrumental sections to grow into hypnotizing grooves that still know when it’s time to stop and breathe.
After the psychedelia of “Water Running Through My Hands” (which turned the band into a huge sitar), the group moved into a mid-tempo folk-rocker, with Karpienski showing the subtlety of Robby Krieger and the edge of Mark Knopfler. Throughout the set, bassist Bart Nichols (always smiling) was the personification of precision, acoustic guitarist/vocalist “Surfer” Joe Shortt almost matched Friedland’s energy, and drummer Jake Perales played a mean snare despite an awkward style (he flails his arms like a teenager just discovering the instrument, but when you hear him you know he’s been around).
Even when they strayed from rock to do what I consider the needless, uninteresting reggae bit, they did it with style: Peter Tosh’s “Downpressor Man” became “South Presa Man.” The tune was tied with “Two joints,” with Shortt on güiro and selected female fans on maracas.
The groove went on for nine songs, the last of which could not have been more appropriate: “Can’t Stop … Gotta Rock.”
Don’t stop, guys. Perhaps you’ll never be remembered as innovators, but it’s always nice to hear a good old rock ’n’ roll band.