ACL Review: Last Bandoleros
San Antonians mash up Doug Sahm and the Beatles
By Michael Toland,
9:35AM, Sun. Oct. 4, 2015
Austinites get so hung up on possession of Doug Sahm they forget to look south to the Texas icon’s native San Antonio to find where his spirit really lives. Alamo City quartet the Last Bandoleros channels that vibrant mix of Tex-Mex feel and rock & roll fire as well as anyone around.
Like Sahm’s Sir Douglas Quintet, the band strains its native noise through a Sixties British beat filter, marrying pop melody and two-step/conjunto rhythms, no shotgun required. Guitarists Jerry Fuentes and Derek James, bassist Diego Navaira (son of Tejano star Emilio Navaira Sr.), and a muscle-beat drummer all frosted four-part harmonies. Indeed, the singing – often shared by the three frontmen within the same song – stands as the Last Bandoleros’ signature.
No matter if it was the Southwestern folk of “I Don’t Want to Know,” snappy country of “Adios,” or the crackling garage of “Let’s Run Away,” that vocal cream defined the group’s approach to roaring roots rock. The Bandoleros were at their best when going straight for the jugular: “Get Down,” “Where Do You Go?,” and blazing closer “Take Me to It.” All taken from the band’s debut EP, the songs stood as perfect distillations of the quartet’s vision, like a young, hungry Beatles if they’d grown up in San Antonio.
They even covered the Fab Four’s “Get Back.” To say the crowd went bananas is to sell its enthusiasm short. If the Last Bandoleros had played a bigger stage to a larger crowd, stars would have been born.