Voices at Large

The Great And Powerful Ozo

13 NOV 07 DAVID VIENNA

There are a few things you should see before you die: the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China, Ozomatli live. Sunday night's audience at the packed hall in San Luis Obispo, CA can check that last one off the list.

I'd seen Ozo before in Los Angeles, where they are hometown heroes and seem to drug each crowd with a frenetic compulsion to dance and jump. I happened to be in San Luis Obispo over the weekend and caught the band's tour stop there. From the first song, I realized the joyfully physical reaction is not specific to L.A. fans. The entire general admission audience was jumping, chanting and clapping in unison as Ozomatli whipped into one funk-laced cut after another.

Now, I could go on about what songs they played (I liked their instrumental homage to Lily Allen's "Smile"), but what really blows me away about Ozo and what makes their shows a hurricane of energy is the band members' insistence on not losing touch with their fans. For a band that has been rocking and touring for over 12 years, their shows still come off as intimate, club gigs... or even house parties.

Before the show, Wil-Dog and the guys were milling through the crowd, talking to folks, sharing stories. Then, after they delivered an explosive set, they jumped into the crowd and continued to rock. And there's a lot of Ozo at seven members. With the audience ready for more, the band kept the groove going with drums and horn blasts, turning the room into an ecstatic pulsating creature, crying for more.

Ozo is still on tour, so check them out when they come to your town. The Great Wall of China ain't going anywhere.

Valerie June - Pushin\' Against a Stone