by Francisco H. Ciriza
Temecula On all fronts, the consensus was, this is a great place. On a mild fall evening, with a crisp breeze cutting along the burnt orange sunset, the desert oasis known as Pechanga Resort & Casino provided a shining yet cozy backdrop for a memorable concert from one of rock music’s finest. A near sellout crowd of loyal Jaguares fans from throughout the region descended upon Pechanga’s 1,200 seat showroom theater for the latest Latino act to grace the stage at the state-of-the-art venue.
Having previously offered performances by such top-tier acts such as Julio Iglesias, B.B. King, and Lupillo Rivera, the venue’s staff and security team skillfully hosted the boisterous yet ultimately tame crowd. The audience, a legion of followers of Mexico’s most famous rock and roll export, was rather orderly while still being wildly receptive and supportive of Saul Hernandez and company. It was perhaps a warm up for things to come as the venue’s talent buyer, Mike Dixon, expects Pech-anga to continue its ventures in the Latino market.
“We’re well aware of the needs and tastes of our customers. We do our best to cater to everyone young and old. We’ve had everyone from [mainstream acts like] Rob Thomas, Train, the Wallflowers, Styx, Journey, and Keith Sweat. In addition to Jaguares, we’ve had Alejandro Fern-andez, George Lopez, Paul Rodriguez and Los Lobos,” said Dixon from his office at the resort.
The music industry veteran-Dixon has owned Harmony Artists, a highly respected and successful talent agency for the past seven years-also has two more big names coming up on the casino’s theater calendar. “We have Juan Gabriel set for two shows in October and then Juanes in February,” said Dixon.
Dixon’s words rang true as the hundreds of often black t-shirt clad supporters of the veteran rockers trickled from the gaming areas and resort’s assortment of restaurants into the waiting area in front of the theater and eventually into their seats.
For their part, Jaguares, officially the first Rock en Espanol act to play Pechanga, christened the casino’s latest expansion effort in commanding fashion. Although the band played two shows in San Diego last July and two more shows in Los Angeles just over a week previous to its Pechanga appearance, official word was that management was pleasantly surprised by the number of tickets sold in advance for the weekend event.
“We’re very happy to have sold well over a thousand tickets for our first Rock En Espanol show,” said Pech-anga director of Marketing, Ciara Coyle.
Deftly playing its way through a 90 plus minute set, Hernandez and the rest of Jaguares played songs spanning from its most recent BMG release, “Cronicas De Un Laberinto,” to it’s first release as Caifanes, Jagaures’ legendary predecessor. From the onset of the group’s performance, it had the crowd, as it always does, eating out of its proverbial hand. Cheering loudly, and especially loud for old favorites, the audience was equally as quiet and courteous as Hernandez spoke his mind between songs.
He used his words to recognize and thank the many loyal fans he recognized from previous shows, to making a call to “raza” to make efforts to help stop the injustice to women everywhere but especially in Juarez. Most impressive and moving was his advice to those who felt they were not up to praying in support of those in need. He simply but gracefully told them to “envision and concentrate on a bright light, the brightest light imaginable…that should be sufficient,” Hernandez urged in earnest and the crowd erupted.
The group has used its vast popularity to more than its own advantage. It has turned itself into a substantially potent political force teaming up with Amnesty International to draw attention to the series of abductions and murders of young women in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The group and its management have participated and helped coordinated signature drives, benefit concerts, and have gone so far as to have hosted Amnesty at each of their shows on the current tour. Jaguares provides physical space and vocal support for recruiting members and distribution of the organization’s literature. For their efforts, Amnesty volunteers at each stop also get the chance to meet with the band at special meet and greet sessions after their concerts.