A Soulful Start to Fall Quarter: ArtPower Brings Chicano Batman to Campus

Photo courtesy of ArtPower UC San Diego.

Los Angeles-based quartet Chicano Batman spread their Latin love to an intimate crowd of UCSD students at Art Power’s Celebrate the Arts Day last Friday, September 22nd. Taking the rhythmic music of their past and mixing it with soft rock and psychedelic soul, Chicano Batman reinvents Spanish music in a way that appeals to a wide variety of listeners.

As the stage was being set up, a small crowd gathered around for the show to begin while others roamed Sun God Lawn to learn about different art programs on campus, eat food, and/or get free ice cream. Molly Clark, Associate Director of Artistic Planning and Education for UCSD’s ArtPower, describes Celebrate the Arts Day as “a collaboration between the different art departments on campus, intended to showcase all the different artistic services provided here.”

This event also highlighted music as a form of art through Chicano Batman’s highly anticipated performance. A quartet composed of lead singer, guitarist, and keyboardist Bardo Martinez, bassist and vocalist Eduardo Arenas, guitarist Carlos Arevalo, and drummer Gabriel Villa, Chicano Batman made a name for themselves with their first self entitled album in 2010. Touring alongside Alabama Shakes a few years after this release and performing at the 2015 Coachella Music Festival, Chicano Batman’s musical career is off to a great start. Along with their undeniable talent, Clark states that Chicano Batman’s racial background also played a role in choosing them for Celebrate the Arts Day. She explains, “Chicano Batman also reflects Latinos in general, a student population that is traditionally underrepresented here at UCSD.”

The crowd cheered as Chicano Batman made their way onto the stage with their statement suits and ruffled shirts. Chicano Batman opened with an instrumental piece full of intense guitar riffs, fast-paced drumming, simple keyboard chords, and a soothing bass. It was an introduction to their musical style and an opportunity to showcase each of their individual talents.

Chicano Batman followed up with one of their new singles, “Black Lipstick”, which has less of a Spanish influence than their older discography, but is just as catchy. Initiated by a simple keyboard melody, the tune builds into a smooth, sensual beat accompanied by a story of a girl who is a “gangster with her emotion / a capitalist with her affection / as she swindles away to your heart.”

As the sun finally set and the crowd grew, Chicano Batman played hit tunes from both of their albums, Chicano Batman and Cycles of Existential Rhyme. Lead singer, guitarist, and keyboardist Bardo Martinez introduced the song “Para Agradecer” as a song written for a new addition to his family. A celebration of life, this performance got the whole crowd swaying and singing together, “Gracias a la vida,” meaning “thank you, life.” With simple yet beautiful lyrics and a catchy melody, this song filled the air with love and encouraged the crowd to inch a bit closer to each other and the stage.

When the easily recognizable intro of “Itotiani” began, people quickly pulled out their phones, sang along, and danced. Its catchy chorus, soothing keyboard bridge, and sporadic background noises that sound like laser tag all make this song a crowd-pleaser. “Itotiani” is a perfect representation of what Chicano Batman stands for: lyrics as a form of storytelling and music as a project of diversity across genres.

Not only did Chicano Batman put on a memorable show, but they put on a memorable show on the first day of Fall quarter – a day of melancholy and denial. There’s something to be said about music as a whole that brings people together regardless of a changing landscape, and Chicano Batman did just that. So in the midst of a new quarter and all the chaos it may bring, this performance served as a friendly reminder to stop and “mira, oye, siente” – look, hear, feel.