Richard Guzman of Very Be Careful at Highland Park show/Nathan Solis
Story and Photos By Nathan Solis
The crowd came prepared to dance at Friday night’s Very Be Careful show at Mr. T’s Bowl, the atmosphere at the Highland Park club thick with cumbia rhythms. Very Be Careful has championed the Colombian folk vallenato brand of music for years in Los Angeles, whether it be at a backyard party or a swanky club downtown, their style of ’60s Latin music contagious wherever they land.
“We like to scour the city,” said bass player Arturo Guzman, who founded the band some 13 years ago with his brother Richard on accordion. And it’s true that Very Be Careful try not to grow into a rut in any particular neighborhood.
“We try not to play too many places too often, we don’t do residencies at clubs, we try to avoid becoming stale,” said Guzman, which is why the fans took advantage of the band’s Friday night presence in Highland Park.
The band dived onto the stage around midnight, the crowd growing restless. As soon as the first note of the accordion exhaled over the microphone, the crowd dashed for the dance floor. There was a mix of people who came dressed with a cumbia flare, trilby hats for men, long skirts for women, while others shuffled on the floor in t-shirts and hoodies. No one was exempt from Very Be Careful’s sound.
One woman danced so passionately that her face gradually changed from joy to pain thanks to her shoes. She hobbled to a bench, kicked her feet up and began to laugh, because she did it to herself, and it was OK.
“Dance is powerful and infectious,” said Guzman as a matter of fact.
There was a time before Very Be Careful when the Guzman brothers were into different music scenes. Bands that formed in Los Angeles around the ’90s began to search for their roots. Groups like Ozomatli, The Blues Experiment, Ollin, and Very Be Careful were part of the same scene. The Guzman brothers found their Colombian roots and haven’t looked back since.
“People started reaching for Latin roots, and we were just one of those bands that formed from that, who saw that people were going to react to dance music,” said Arturo. “Everyone influenced each other back then.”
After 13 years of playing ,the people are still coming to their shows to dance, so Arturo isn’t complaining.
“It would be a lie to say it wasn’t a challenge and difficult to play all these years, but once we’re up there with the crowd, well it justifies it all.”
Dressed to dance/Nathan Solis
Mr. T’s Bowl is named after Joseph Teresa, who began booking big bands after buying the bowling alley in the mid 1960s.
Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.