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La/La Land: Chicano Batman in a legendary recording studio

A good sign and a good time

(Santa Monica, CA) The Village Studios in Santa Monica is one of the nation’s most legendary venue, so it was with great anticipation that I accepted an invitation to attend a private concert by soon-to-be legendary Chicano Batman in one of its world class recording rooms, produced by KCSN, a small listener-supported station based at California State University at Northridge.

Finding The Village Studios is not easy. The bland, two-story brick buildings with Romanesque columns on a tiny side street offers no hint of the history and technology inside except for a  singular bronze door. It was built in 1920 as a Masonic Temple, taken over by Center for Transcendental Meditation for a few years and then converted to a recording studio in the late 60’s. The rest is literally history – a that history lines the walls with gold and platinum records and photographs of superstars who have recorded and still record there. You are likely to run into Lady Gaga, Louie C.K., Elton John, Adam Sandler, Mary J-Blige, Vampire Weekend, Alicia Keyes or John Mayer in the halls. The night I was there for the Chicano Batman showcase, a recording session was going on in one of the other studios but the staff was tight-lipped about who it was.

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The room I was in was also pretty tight. KCSN Host Nic Harcourt greeted the 25 or so KCSM  lucky subscribers who won a lottery for tickets to one of America’s hottest and fastest rising Latino fusion bands, Chicano Batman. We were in one of the smaller recording studios – cozy, still large enough for the 4-piece band, two backup singers and multiple keyboards arrayed a few feet in front of us on Persian carpets. The small audience sat on folding chairs or stood in front of the control room window as the band let loose with its unique brand of Tropical-Psychedelic soul music. I have seen them from afar, but it was thrilling to stand a few feet from Eduardo Arenas as he rocked us with songs from their Freedom is Free album. Even better, the band and the team from KCSN and staff from The Village Studios hung out with us afterward; it was like being in the green room with the band

While hanging out – and wandering around a little and chatting up the studio staff – I recalled that recording studios are no longer struggling. The closure of hundreds of studios across the country in the late 90’s and early 2000’s under pressure from cheap recording software has abated after a massive shakeout. Recording budgets are up as the competition in the music market is making more bands realize that a studio-polished sound is needed for labels and radio airplay. It is a hopeful sign for the music business, I think, that a large studio like Village Studios can afford to give space and time for an event for a little non-profit like KCSN. To be able to see a band of that caliber in one of the most legendary studios in the nation is not only an LA story, but an unforgettable memory. And a great reason to become a subscriber.

 

Chicano Batman. http://chicanobatman.com/

Village Studios.    http://villagestudios.com/

KCSN  http://www.kcsn.org/

Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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