During the late '70s and early '80s Gang's Back was an icon in the Fresno music scene.
The band made a name for itself, playing the kind of West Coast Latin-tinged funk, soul and R&B that was popular at the time. Think Tower of Power and War. Think Kool and The Gang, whose 1969 debut included the song "The Gang's Back Again."
Here were a bunch of Fresno boys — some still in high school at the time — who managed to land a legit record deal, working with guys who had also worked with the Supremes, Temptations and Quincy Jones. The band had two songs on the Billboard charts in 1982 ("Hot Fun" and "Got My Eye on You") and still get radio play.
You can hear them on Mega 97.9 and Radio Bilingue.
All of which makes Gang's Back the perfect fit for Saturday's FresYes Fest at Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co. The band headlines the event, which works as a showcase for the past, present and future of the area's music scene.
Gang's Back is not a band easy to forget. Its six members packed out venues like Los Arcos and the Rainbow Ballroom with live performances that were heavy on musical prowess and showmanship. The sets were choreographed from start to finish. There were on-stage outfits and props and intricate intros and exits for the band.
They were known to roll up to gigs in a limousine.
For one show, they even sent in a set of stand-ins, dressed in capes and masks.
When the actual band showed, the crowd went wild.
"A lot of people remember those things," says Fresno Cruz, the band's sax player/vocalist who has served as de facto leader (with his brother Richard Cruz) since the 1990s. Over the years, the gang scattered and Gang's Back took on new members. You could create four or five separate bands with the number of musicians that have been part of Gang's Back since its inception, Cruz says.
While the band doesn't tour the way it used to (it did Singapore in '85 and Europe in '86), Gang's Back has come out of hiatus for special occasions. This time last year they played Marlo's Club in Fresno.
The FreYes performance is extra special in that it is as close to a full-on reunion of the original members as the band has ever done. All three Cruz brothers will be on stage, plus Rick Gonzales and Eddie Lopez. They will be joined by Gonzales' son, Rick Jr., plus Eddie Guzman, Arvin Nealy and Mateo Morales.
And they've come up with a show that is exactly what you would have seen back in the day, Cruz says, recreating their performance for those who didn't get the chance to see them at the time (and those who want to reminisce). That's everything from the chosen set list to the on-stage theatrics, he says.
"The Gang’s Back is back."
- 1 p.m., Saturday
- Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co., 745 Fulton St.
- Free, all ages
- (559) 486-2337, tiogasequoia.com
Six other noteworthy events happening this week:
- Dio Disciples 8 p.m. Saturday. Fulton 55, 875 E. Divisadero Ave. $20-$25. 559-412-7400, www.fulton55.com
- Act of Defiance 5 p.m. Saturday. Full Circle Brewing Co, 620 F St. $12. All ages. 559-264-6323, www.tickettailor.com
- Fresno Football Club vs. LA Galaxy II 7 p.m. Saturday. Chukchansi Park, 1800 Tulare St. $17.50-$92.50. 559-320-2525, www.fresnofc.com
- "The Big Lebowski," plus Q&A with Jeff Dowd 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Historic Hanford Fox Theater, 326 N. Irwin St. Hanford. $7-$9, $20 VIP. 559-584-7423, www.foxhanford.com
- Mother Hips 8 p.m. March 27. Fulton 55, 875 E. Divisadero Ave. $15-$18. 559-412-7400, www.fulton55.com
- The Avett Brothers 7:30 p.m. March 29. Saroyan Theatre, 700 M St. $55-$75. 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com