Photo courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors

Hip Spanic Allstars Remember the San Francisco’s Mission District As It Was on ‘Old School Revolution’

Latin supergroup Hip Spanic Allstars pays brass-heavy tribute to San Francisco's Mission District on Old School Revolution.

Old School Revolution
Hip Spanic Allstars
Hip Spanic Records
26 October 2018

Ask a longtime San Franciscan – as in decades-long, born-and-raised or at least rent controlled – what part of the city they think has been hardest hit by gentrification, and there’s a good chance they’ll point to the Mission District for good reason. Known for decades as a largely Hispanic part of the city, it’s become hipster central in recent years thanks to a tech boom that keeps on booming and has led to unprecedented increases in housing and living costs, displacing longtime residents. Newer transplants to the Mission have no recollection of the district as a hub of low-riders and Latino culture – but the Hip Spanic Allstars remember.

Led by Happy Sanchez of Los Mocosos, the original seven core members of Hip Spanic Allstars have worked with musicians local to the San Francisco Bay Area, including names as legendary as Santana, Tower of Power, and Michael Franti. Though the crew has changed since their first performance together (brass musician Mic Gillette passed away in 2016, and the liner notes list a full 15-member ensemble), their vision has not. Members with musical backgrounds in funk, salsa, and R&B unite for a tropical sound grounded in nostalgia for a community that has changed by leaps and bounds in a relatively brief period of time.

Old School Revolution begins with “Salsero”, a red-hot track that tells the tale of a musician born in the Mission with no other purpose in life but to get people dancing. It’s a track with motion, and, when electric guitars kick halfway through, a track with serious vintage rock energy. It sets the stage for the titular old school sounds that will resonate throughout the album. Nonstop brass and positive party vibes cast the Mission in a rosy light as the album goes on. “There’s a party in the Mission / But there’s only one condition / That you groove tonight,” goes the cheerful English-language chorus to “Party in the Mission”, a song rich in vocal harmonies that sounds like the West Coast’s answer to the Pimps of Joytime.

In fact, there’s so much uncut glee on Old School Revolution that at times, it almost becomes a little cheesy. The Allstars crew spends little time engaging in grief and loss, no matter how far gone the Mission of yore is. Wistfulness cuts the brightness a little on “In My 64”, a soulful ballad about driving down the streets of youth and realizing how many people have moved on, but the group does not dwell on anger or injustice, moving right along to straightforward crowd-pleasers like “Shake It” and “Funky Cha Cha Cha”. “La Boa” entreats the entire body to move, while a cover of “Crystal Blue Persuasion” adds familiarity to an already comforting mix.

Often, there is a fine line between cheesy and feel-good, though, and the Hip Spanic Allstars do a good job of staying on the latter for the most part. By the time you hit the guitar fuzz of closing track “Conga Radio”, you’ll forget you ever thought Old School Revolution was anything other than a good time – and, as the jewel case notes, a loving celebration of “the spirit of the Mission District”.

RATING 7 / 10