Record Fable

By Carlos Gomez / Photos by Sara Norris

At City Heights’ Tower Bar, the usual lineup of hipsters convenes around the stage. Some are here for a show; others just want to be a part of the scene and appear to be indifferent to the live music.

Mark Rivera, Lisa Phelps, Keaton Matz and Salvador Manuel Esqueda Mireles - collectively known as “Shiva Trash” aren’t about to tolerate the apathy.

“Dancing is allowed,” Rivera says. Only a minute into the band’s frenzied performance, the crowd succumbs to his gentle nod. It’s hard not to lose control when hearing them play.

The raucous crew on stage are the flagship band of fledgling local record label Cholo Punks, a San Diego-born outfit whose moniker not only stands out, but also tends to confuse.

Can one be a “cholo” and a “punk” at the same time? The term “cholo” (which is often considered derogatory) refers to the Mexican-American street-gang subculture, while “punk” refers to anybody - typically white - who’s heavily into the abrasive mid-1970s genre of punk rock or the anti- establishment/counterculture views the stripped-down music embodies.

Cholo Punks founder Aldo Bustos is a Clairemont native who grew up trying to reconcile punk rock and skateboard culture with his suburban, Mexican- American upbringing.

“School is a bitch. Everyone forms cliques,” Bustos says, admitting he was no different. While the popular crowd was playing team sports and wearing Abercrombie, his clique was landing kick-flips and rocking flannels with only the top button buttoned.

Middle school introduced Bustos to rock music, but it wasn’t until high school that he discovered a hankering for punk. This musical maturation eventually led to his formation of Northern Tigers, a band inspired by the legendary Norten?o group Los Tigres Del Norte and L.A. trash punk band, Suicidal Tendencies. It was while playing guitar with Northern Tigers that Bustos forged the beginnings of what would become Cholo Punks.

“It’s more than just a record label,” Bustos says. What started out as a group of Chula Vista-based bands gigging turned into a company with plans to sign local artists and skateboarders for promo videos and to start an apparel line.

For now, three bands are on the Cholo Punks label: The Natives, Electric Healing Sound and Shiva Trash. With shows every other week in TJ and local venues like The Void (formerly Bar Eleven) and Til-Two Club in City Heights, as well as Soda Bar down the road in Normal Heights, Bustos and company are making big noise in a typically monotonous scene.