Grammy winners La Santa Cecilia close out the Marina del Rey Summer Concert Series

La Santa Cecilia infuses their music with joy and activism
Photo by Humberto Howard

Fronting Grammy Award-winning L.A. quartet La Santa Cecilia, Marisol Hernández sashays across the stage in vibrantly colored, flouncy skirts, heeled Mary Janes, fishnet stockings, petticoats, ribbons, bows, polka dots and other uber-feminine frills. Despite her girly-girl accessories, there is nothing coy or demure about her deep, creamytones. When she opens her mouth, Hernández wields that voice, her instrument, with as much brio and finesse as her bass- and percussion-playing bandmates, and graces their bicultural music with vulnerable soul.

As a band, La Santa Cecilia innately understands that listeners’ minds open more easily to conscientious messages when they’re channeled through the heart and dancing feet. Their robustly entertaining sets of bolero, conjunto, ranchera, R&B and son jarocho tunes may range from the swoony “Nuestra Juramento” to Hernández’s matter-of-fact but impassioned reading of Smokey Robinson’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me,” to a corkscrewed take on Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.” They’ve replaced the frenetic bounce of Café Tacuba’s “Ingrata” with seductive melody, and brought grounded humanity to the snarling immigration debate with their own “El Hielo (ICE).”

Accordionist/requintero player Jose “Pepe” Carlos gave undocumented immigrants a very public face when he declared his status as a Dreamer brought to the United States at age 6 by his parents; he has since applied for U.S. citizenship. Hernández, when accepting La Santa Cecilia’s Best Latin Rock Album Grammy in 2014 for “Treinta Días,” exclaimed, “Viva la musica, migration is beautiful!” More recently, they’ve dedicated Gato Barbieri’s “Nunca Más” to audience members fighting border deportations, and used social media to denounce the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies while intensifying their efforts to motivate and uplift listeners through music.

They’re closer to home for now, having recently concluded their Summer Lovin’ tour. Saturday’s performance is their only L.A. appearance until an October date at Walt Disney Concert Hall; given their usual tour patterns, it will likely be a while before we see them play this close to home again.

— Bliss Bowen

La Santa Cecilia close out the Marina del Rey Summer Concert Series with a 7 p.m. show on Saturday (Sept. 1) at Burton Chace Park, 13650 Mindanao Way, Marina del Rey. Free. Visit marinadelrey.lacounty.gov for more information.

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