It’s a quarter till 10 p.m. and roughly a half-hour after they were supposed to perform, as eight of the nine members of the evening’s opening act continue to mill about the venue. The capacity crowd has made the dark, dungeon-like backroom of Riverside’s revelrous live music venue, Rain Dogs., more sauna-like than usual.
Although no one seems to be growing restless, it’s still a relief when Josué Cruz, LPT bassist (and Folio Weekly Magazine contributor), finally walks through the venue’s front door. One of his bandmates helps clear a path as Cruz strains to keep his heavy bass amp from giving unlucky concert attendees a concussion.
Despite his band’s acronym, which stands for Latin People Time – a tongue-in-cheek embrace of a stereotype that refers to an indifference to punctuality among people with Hispanic heritage – Cruz intended to be on time for this gig. He got held up, however, performing with the other musical group he’s part of, the blues-folk duo Calahoney. Cruz isn’t the only one in the band with other gigs. LPT has filled its ranks with some of the most accomplished (and busiest) young musicians in the area. Angel Garcia, formerly of Antique Animals, plays the piano and guitar. On congas, J.P. Salvat has toured with local singer-songwriter Whetherman (Nicholas Williams), while Jonah Pierre (bongos and cowbell) plays percussion with the jazz trio Tala. Milan Algood (timbales), Juan Rollan (saxophone), Sergio Valdes (trumpet), and Bryant Patterson (trombone) sit in with various local and touring acts. Meanwhile, vocalist Jorge Estevez has a fulltime day job in finance.
After plugging in, Cruz and the rest of the nonet rip through a raucous and lively set of Afro-Cuban and salsa numbers, Spanish guitar, all manner of Latin percussion, and the hypnotic rapping of the clave urging many in the crowd to make use of the little available space with some retrenched, though uninhibited, salsa dancing.
It turns out to be a seminal evening, laying the groundwork for three more dates at the same venue. The once-monthly engagement, which LPT has dubbed “El Fonquéte con LPT” is fast-becoming the go-to evening event in Jacksonville’s musical epicenter.
“A Fonquéte [fon-Khé-teh] is a jam, a party. It’s people getting together and sweating to [salsa],” says Cruz. “Anytime we are throwing the party, it’s going to be a straight-up Fonquéte – as in, if you didn’t come to dance, take yo’ dead-ass home [laughs].”
With roots in New York City’s fertile 1970s music scene – a place and time that also spawned both punk rock and hip hop – the salsa music played by LPT seems to naturally fit in the heart of Riverside’s Five Points neighborhood, within the confines of Rain Dogs.’ dank, punk-rock-ish backroom. While subsequent generations of Gen-Xers and Millennials have romanticized Gotham, the members of LPT reserve a special reverence for Jacksonville’s artistic hub.
“Most of us live and work in Riverside,” Cruz says. “It’s a place where a bunch of young cats like us, from different backgrounds, can play Afro-Cuban and salsa music and people dig it without judgment or preconceptions.”
The group recently recorded a tribute to their favorite Jacksonville district. The song, Ribersai Lindo, is the band’s interpretation of legendary bassist Israel “Cachao” López Valdés’s song Descarga Mexicana. Cruz says LPT “just flipped it to celebrate Riverside.”
“Nothing against Mexico, we just live here and love it here. [The original song has] such a nasty groove that it has become one of our favorite songs to play,” Cruz says.
The lyrics to LPT’s version, translated, are “Pretty Riverside, we salute you.”
“Of course, we say ‘Ribersai,’ which is our take on one of our grandparents saying ‘Riverside’ with a Spanish accent,” Cruz laughs.
With nine members, all who have busy calendars, Cruz says the only real issue with the band is scheduling. “Everyone in this band has a fulltime hustle, whether it’s music or a day gig,” he says.
As it stands, LPT has one more Fonquéte lined up at Rain Dogs. this Thursday, June 23. But with the first two Fonquétes being so well-received, it’s hard to imagine June’s will be the last. Cruz is optimistic.
“We’ll be back, for sure,” he says. “If you’ve seen us play, you know how much fun we’re having up there. LPT is just about celebrating the music we grew up with and keeping it alive and healthy. The Bold City needs this flavor on its palate.”