An accordion is barely heard as you walk down a sidewalk in Echo Park, California. The curiosity draws you in and you follow it into a dingy bar. Everywhere around you people are wildly having a good time. The sound has Vallenato grooves that compel you to dance and a punk rock ferociousness that compels you to drink. People of all ethnicities are dancing and smiling wide. Very Be Careful has now overtaken you. There is no choice now but to go to the bar, grab a drink and start dancing.
The group got their start in Downtown LA back in 1998 by accordionist Ricardo Guzman and his brother on bass, Arturo Guzman. Dante Ruiz on cowbell, Craig Martin on guacharaca, and Richard Panta on percussion fill out the rest of the band that set about playing traditional Colombian music called Vallenato, but adding with Cumbia and salsa influences.
After joining forces the group moved to New York for two years, performing in subways and eventually making it into some clubs. Eventually they moved back west and fell in love with Los Angeles all over again. Very Be Careful has toured Europe and Japan several times, with their popularity growing after playing Bestival, Glastonbury, Fugi Rock and Asagiri festivals.
Though their music is rooted in South American traditional sounds, their attitude is more punk than anything else.
“You can never expect what’s going to happen at a Very Be Careful show. We all may end up stage diving or hanging from chandeliers”, Arturo Guzman states.
Guzman has said that Very Be Careful has little to do with pop-cultural fusions. They aren’t revivalists and aren’t afraid to remind you of it.
“Ours is a purist style that strives to pay tribute to the classics, and we aim to compose in the same vein. This is a greater achievement for us than dropping in some obscure unrelated beat to the music.”
Very Be Careful shows are becoming legendary. This past summer at a show in Echo Park, two members of the band ended up crowd surfing while the rest of the band continued to play. On a separate occasion a rip-roaring girl fight broke out, complete with hair pulling and shirt tearing. There were so many girls present they started fighting over a spot on the dance floor.
“At a Very Be Careful show, everyone’s drunk, everyone’s hitting on each other. Yea, that’s exactly what we’re doing”, Guzman says proudly, owning up to their infamous reputation.
The band has been together for well over ten years now. On April 13th they release their sixth studio album titled “Escape Room” on Barbes Records. The album is a follow up to 2007’s “Salad Buey”, which featured all original material.
In their new album, Very Be Careful captures the classic Cumbia low-fi sound of their predecessors without ever sounding nostalgic. Their raw sound mixed with live intensity gives the foreboding feeling that danger is right around the corner. Very Be Careful is uncompromising in their efforts to play traditional music in an untraditional manner.
You can catch a sneak peek of their new material as they play with DJ Coleman and The Bohunks at Monte Cristo Downtown (3100 Wilshire Blvd) Friday, April 9thfor their CD release party. For a ten dollar entry fee at the door and five more bucks you go home with their new CD, but as Very Be Careful shows are known to go, you probably won’t be going home with just a CD.