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There’s a place you can go, in San Antonio, in 2009, where you can hear Spanglish rap spat over congas and saxophones. Where every song still concludes with a big-rock ending and every instrument gets a solo, with the musician’s name, naturally, announced mid-noodle to an applauding crowd. Where a straight-faced singer can still instruct the band to “Bring it home right here,” and acknowledge a particularly effective instrumental break by uttering, 100-percent sans-irony, the word “Boomchakalaka.” And the audience gathered at the foot of the stage dances — as in actually dances — like with steps and shit.

That place is a Bombasta show.

For a band inspiring so much drunken dancing, Bombasta moves surprisingly little once they’ve set up. Opener “Cumbia Loca” sets the tone for the rest of the set. Some of the audience just hops, but several couples must’ve taken dace lessons. Singer-guitarist-accordionist Roberto Livar, wearing a fedora and dark sunglasses, just points at nothing in particular to emphasize his shouts over drummer Rudy Diaz’s almost-motorik 4/4. It’s the steady beat, embellished by Lauro Torres’s thumping conga, that keeps hips swiveling through Bombasta’s lengthy songs (the band plays six in about an hour) and provides danceable structure to the innumerable solos. The traditional warbling provided by trumpeter Tony Romero (standing in for Bombasta regular Jacinto LeFebre) might not need much help, but as the music moves toward reggae and dub, the couples continue twirling without skipping a beat, even through Livar’s distorted guitar-noise interludes (more Dinosaur Jr. than Grupo Fantasma).

A guest appearance by Ernesto Tinajero, frontman for Radio La Chusma (the band alternating sets and sitting in with Bombasta all night), brings some of that energy back onstage. Tinajero, shaking his lengthy dreadlocks, motor-mouths Jamaican-flavored backup vocals on “Mr. Crack,” and runs around behind the stationary band, waving a bandana like a battle flag during Livar’s psychedelic guitar solo. Seated in a booth facing away from the band, a lady in a prom-style formal dances the cabbage patch between shots. It’s that kind of place — as long as Bombasta’s onstage, anyway.

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October 21, 2020

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