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Legendary Mexican band headlines San Francisco Halloween garage-psych party

SAN FRANCISCO -- Active for the better part of the past half century plus, Mexican psychedelic garage rockers Los Dug Dug's return to San Francisco to headline this special Halloween show Monday night.

Though they wouldn't release their first album until 1971, the group's roots date back to the early '60s when a teenage group known as Xippos Rock from Durango invited multi-instrumentalist Armando Nava to play guitar with the band when he was 17 years old. Initially playing acoustic guitars outfitted with home-made pick-ups and a metal chair that stood in for a actual drum kit, the band gradually acquired proper instruments and built a local following.

Nava's traveling-salesman father would take the band with him as he did business in Tijuana. It was while touring the northern part of Mexico that the group decided to change its name to Los Dug Dug's, a nod to their hometown. After Nava acquired several Beatles singles while in Texas, the band became one of the first Mexican bands to not only cover the Fab Four, but the first to sing songs in English.

chicotito si, chicotito no- dug dug's by catramone on YouTube

After an extended stint as the house band at a Tijuana strip club, Los Dug Dug's relocated to Mexico City and started enjoying their first commercial success on a national level. The group, whose members now featured only Nava and singer Jorge de la Torre from the earlier line-up, became hugely popular with its regular performances packing Mexico City clubs. The band started getting invited to play television shows, recording the children's show theme song "Chicotito Si, Chicotito No" and signing to RCA Mexico.

Los Dug Dugs - Sueños de California by Jos 👽 on YouTube

The band tracked a number of singles including Spanish-language versions of "Hanky Panky," "California Dreamin'" and "Nighttime." An American who saw the band in Mexico bankrolled an abortive 1968 trip to New York that found the group playing several shows and recording a few songs, but the journey came to an end when the financier refused to pay the $5,000 in musicians' union dues that would have allowed Los Dug Dug's to perform larger venues. The band returned to Mexico and began work on it's debut album for RCA. While it wouldn't be released until 1971 after the acrimonious departure of singer de la Torre and the eventual disintegration of the band, the self-titled debut of Los Dug Dug's would become a hit in Latin America thanks to the bracing psychedelic anthems "Lost In My World" and "Eclipse."

Lost In My World (Perdido en Mi Mundo) by Los Dug Dug's - Topic on YouTube

The success of the album led Nava to put together a new version of the band to capitalized on the hit tunes, recording the 1972 follow-up effort Smog that returned the band to singing in Spanish and leaned more towards progressive and hard rock (especially with Nava's heavily showcased flute playing bringing Jethro Tull to mind). Subsequent releases Cambia, Cambia in 1974 and the more glam-rock oriented El Loco the following year saw the band embracing more of a straight-ahead pop style with occasional flashes of its earlier psychedelic style, but diminishing returns led Nava to eventually scrap the band altogether.

Dug Dugs -La Gente by labananafilms on YouTube

Los Dug Dug's would gradually become recognized as one of Mexico's pioneering rock bands, exerting an influence on Rock en Español disciples like El Tri and more modern outfits who developed an interest in global psychedelia like Bay Area band Thee Oh Sees, Swedish group Dungen and a myriad of current Australian crews like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Nava would periodically put together new versions of Los Dug Dug's to tour Mexico, but the bandleader has only made a few rare appearances in the U.S., including a performance at the Northwest Psych Fest in Seattle in 2017. The group played a stunning set at the Rickshaw Stop two years ago to a packed house that marked Nava's first Bay Area concert. 

DUG DUGS en SAN FRANCISCO, CA by Arnulfo Martinez Torres on YouTube

For this return to San Francisco, Nava and Los Dug Dug's will headline the fourth and final night of Psyched! Fest, topping a Latin garage/psych bill Halloween night at the Great American Music Hall Monday. The current line-up of the group will be joined by several notable acts, including Papi Saicos, aka Peruvian garage-punk pioneer César "Papi" Castrillón. Though his band Los Saicos only put out a handful of singles in Lima during the mid-1960s, his screaming vocal delivery and the group's unhinged garage-surf sound would prove highly influential to the South American rock bands who followed in their wake after they split up in 1966. The band's savage songs like "Demolición," "Straightjacket" and "Fugitive from Alcatraz" would later be hailed as precursors to punk. 

Los Saicos - Demolicion 1964 by KikeBoni on YouTube

Spurred by the revival of interest in the band thanks to reissues and wider acknowledgement -- they were the subject of a Vice mini-documentary and got covered in the Netflix series on Latin American rock history "Rompan Todo" -- Los Saicos reunited four decades after their original demise to perform live. Papi Saicos leads a group of backing musicians through the group's classic hits Monday night. Also appearing will be Seattle-based garage-psych reprobates Acid Tongue and fuzzed-out Mexican outfit Margaritas Podridas.  Psychedelic visuals will be provided by Zachary Rodell and Caja Magica spins DJ selections before and between bands.

Psyched! Fest with Los Dug Dug's
Monday, Oct. 31, 8 p.m. $27-$29
Great American Music Hall

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