Tito & Tarantula
Alligator Lounge, Santa Monica,
Friday, March 1997
Time: 8:00 PM
I got home from work a bit after 7:00 on the night of March 27, 1997, then immediately, my Brother, his friend Todd and I hop into his car, and head for Pico Blvd. I’ve known of Tito Larriva for years, but never saw him live. But after seeing Desperado, and From Dusk till Dawn, I was reminded how good he was.
In case you are not familiar with Tito, here’s a little background: He began his music career by playing in some of the first Latino punk bands such as The Impalas, Flesheaters, and, most notably, The Plugz. Larriva released several records with the Plugz before the group disbanded in 1984. Following the break-up, Larriva teamed up with former Plugz bandmates Charlie Quintana (also in Social Distortion), and Tony Marsico to form the Cruzados. With the Cruzados, Larriva’s music began to move in a different direction, straying from punk to a bluesier rock sound. The band was critically acclaimed, and opened for INXS, and Fleetwood Mac. They released a self-titled album in 1985, followed by After Dark in 1987, then disbanded in 1988.
From there, Larriva continued writing film music (The Plugz had a track in the notorious New Wave Hookers), and also turned to acting. Starting in 1992, he, and guitarist Peter Atanasoff celebrated with various friends at live weekly jam sessions in cafes, and clubs throughout Los Angeles, and at parties. The band, at that time, were known as “Tito & Friends.” As Tito explained in an interview, their old friend Charlie Midnight stated that the band needed a name, and suggested Tito & Tarantula. The band agreed and it stuck.
I don’t know how to describe the sound of Tito & Tarantula it’s sometimes bluesy, sometimes folksy.
The stand-out musician was female band member, Lyn Bertles. She played everything. One song she was playing a fiddle, the next the flute. She was amazing to watch. Overall she played violin, mandolin, recorder, and harmonica.
The other female band member was Jennifer Condos who did a great job playing bass.
Larriva handled lead vocals, and rhythm guitar.
Peter Atanasoff was on lead guitar.
And last, but not least, Nick Vincent was on drums, and percussion.
Midway through the show an old High School classmate of mine walks in, Obi. I hadn’t talk to him in thirteen years. There was a bit of a buzz around him. I found out later he was managing Warrant, and, I believe, Great White. Sounds like he did well for himself. I meant to say “Hi,” but by the time Tito was done playing Obi was gone.
They mainly played the tracks off of their 1997 album, TARANTISM: After Dark, Smiling Karen, Slippin’ and Slidin’, Strange Face of Love, Angry Cockroaches, Back to the House, Jupiter, Sweet Cycle, Flying in My Sleep, and Killing Just for fun
My favorite track of the night was an old song called Going Back To Mexico. Great song. I’ve looked for it for years, but they have never released it.
Tito Larriva has a long history in music and film that goes back to the Los Angeles punk days. His seminal band, The Plugz scored the film Repo Man directed by Alex Cox.
The Plugz became The Cruzados, who produced two top ten hits for Arista Records. Morphing into Tito & Tarantula eventually lead to a collaboration with Robert Rodriguez which produced their record, Tarantism. Their musical contributions, and performances include the films Roadhouse, Desperado, From Dusk till Dawn, Once Upon A time In Mexico, and Planet Terror. All these films Larriva ends up having cameos in.
Back to the review . . .
Tarantula played for about an hour. And being this was a medium to small club, it had a great intimate feeling to the place. And the band was tight, that everything had a great relaxed vibe. Tito has been at this so long, his stories before and after his songs flowed, as if he was talking to group of old friends.
If you get a chance to see them, see them.
Rating: *** three out of three stars
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