Ordinarily, the prospect of hearing a thousand drunken yuppies chant in a foreign language would drive me away from any concert, but Los Lobos deserves far better than to get branded as this month’s flavor of ethnic party band. The chart-topping “La Bamba” cover deftly substitutes their historically informed majestic resonance for the original’s jittery adolescent fire–and if I hear either version again, I’m gonna strangle somebody. See them anyway. See them because the spicy-hot nortenas blow just as much smoke as the barn-burning rockers. See them because David Hidalgo’s achingly beautiful soul serenades can move you from tears to ecstasy in a single turn of phrase. See them because nobody had to tell them that accordions are cool. Finally, see them because Dave Alvin’s opening set might steal the show. In his years as the Blasters’ guitarist and storyteller, Dave often stood in the shadow of his brother Phil, the world’s greatest singing math professor. Although Dave’s impressive solo debut isn’t as daring as Phil’s recent Sun Ra collaboration, it kicks the stuffing out of the tastes-stale, less-filling drivel that usually passes as “roots” music. While most contemporary western swing is as original as a Joe Biden speech, Dave takes center mike with personality to spare. Tonight, 7:30 PM, Riviera Night Club, 4746 N. Racine; 769-6300.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Chis Couffaro.