Rockabilly with a San Gabriel Valley beat

Alhambra’s June Art Walk rocked with the Western sounds of the 454’s, a rockabilly band based in the San Gabriel Valley. The foursome — which brings punk and Latin music to the 1950s sound — has toured the Southwest, including the California Speedway in Fontana, House of Blues, and the Arizona Rockabilly Festival. But the 454’s jumped at the prospect of playing in their own backyard.

“I grew up in the sleepy suburbs of Rosemead, and downtown Alhambra was the place to play and be seen when I was in high school,” guitarist Irving Romero said.

The rockabilly scene hadn’t yet hit the San Gabriel Valley in the mid-late 90s when Romero began performing in the underground punk rock scene. Playing backyard punk rock gigs was exciting: they could get shut down early for noise complaints, or they could play well into the night. Eventually, he graduated from backyards to clubs, and then big concert halls and outdoor festivals.

Romero got connected to the 454’s when he met singer and guitarist Ruben Torres. From there he was introduced to the rest of the band — bass player Robert “Bob-O” Martinez and drummer Ernesto Guiterrez.

The 454’s formed just in time for a revitalization of the 50s sound and vintage clothing, a subculture that, according to Romero, continues to spread. The band’s name even comes from a 50s Chevy, a hot rod, 454 big block engine. Rockabilly-influenced bands can be found throughout California, and several of Romero’s rockabilly musician friends have played shows as far as Japan and Europe.

But Alhambra was the place to be on a Friday night last month. For three hours the 454’s entertained the Art Walk crowd — encouraging them to sing along and dance to their wide range of musical genres. Although their style is decidedly 50s rockabilly, their extensive set included songs from 70s punk rock and 80s new wave to Mexican ranchera and cumbia. “We’re a rockabilly band, and we think that with rock ‘n’ roll you can explore different things,” said  Romero. “We haven’t been afraid to try new stuff.”

The Mosaic Art Walk is Alhambra’s free monthly event held on the first Friday of each month from 5-8 pm. The third event in the series will include paintings that range from portraits and landscapes to illustrated cartoon and anime characters. You can also find photography, hand-made jewelry, mixed media, and live art. Local musicians Bob’s Garage Band — a staple at Rick’s Drive In & Out — will be playing. Come check it out on the corner of Garfield Avenue and Main Street — Alhambra Renaissance Corner.

If you are an artist or vendor interested in participating, please contact the Downtown Alhambra Business Association at downtownalhambra@yahoo.com for more information.

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