For more than a decade I have been lead singer with a local band called Crosstown 5. We play a variety of music to suit nearly anyone’s taste. We also play music from any era because the 1950s hit “Johnny B. Goode” will get people on their feet moving and dancing as much as Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.”
Some of our songs never get old through repetition. I’ve played “Don’t Stop Believing” over 700 times during the past decade and never grow tired of the beautiful melody and lyrics. Any song that I’ve performed hundreds of times remains fresh when I realize that people in the audience might be hearing it for the first time. I even have fun performing numbers from our playlist that I don’t particularly like myself. We might never perform “Mustang Sally” again except that we can’t stop smiling at the inevitable laughter and cheers of the crowd whenever we perform it. “Sweet Home Alabama” would get old except that it is another song that always gets people on their feet and moving around on the dance floor.
We have been performing as many as 80 gigs every year, so we’re often playing two times on a weekend and sometimes three. We will play 45 songs in a 4-hour “long night” stand, which means we will normally play each song from our 100-piece repertoire several times a week, so we only need to practice when we get a special request. For example, if the bride in an upcoming nuptial gig requests Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” or Tim McGraw’s “My Little Girl,” we’ll get the music and work it out. However, if she requests Lonestar’s “Amazed,” or Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” we’ve got it covered.
Our audiences often entertain us as much as we entertain them. We’ve seen people on the dance floor lose wigs, pants, skirts, and sometimes their balance. Sometimes there’s a domino effect when one stumbling person will take down several others. If nobody is injured, then all of us, including the people getting up off the floor, are having a great laugh.
A dancing couple will sometimes reach a level of passion that makes them oblivious to their surroundings but highly entertaining for the rest of us. At other times passions move in the opposite direction resulting in the threat of a physical confrontation. Security is good enough so that a real fight has never broken out at one of our gigs; we’re glad to let them “take it outside.”
I’ve been moved to tears by some things I’ve witnessed from the stage. During a performance of “Unchained Melody” I saw a man who was so feeble and shaky that he had to lean against a column while holding his elderly wife in his arms. However, they were dancing together, eyes closed, and obviously caught up in the moment as I sang, “Time goes by so slowly.” And, “I need your love.” As I watched, it became difficult to sing through the lump in my throat and to see through the tears that were stinging my eyes.
Weddings, of course, are the happiest times as we get to witness the love of the couple for each other, the parents for the kids, the members of the court for one another, and the loving feelings many of the guests obviously share for each other. I’ve left a number of weddings knowing that, even though we had merely played a gig, we had become part of a memory that the couple would keep for a lifetime.
Crosstown 5 has stayed on track for so long because the four guys on stage with me are experienced and gifted musicians. They include Chris Henry the drummer, Kenny Linker on lead guitar. Sam Tucker the bass, and David Bridgham our outstanding keyboardist, rhythm guitarist, saxophonist, and lead vocalist.
Kenny and I manage scheduling and paperwork but we have no bandleader; we just come together and have a great time performing. It is fun to be with the guys in the band because of the comradery we share. They are always saying things and doing things to make me laugh! What’s especially great is that they are family men who love their wives. We are all parents with kids ranging from 11 to 36. I have three amazing children. Our drummer, Chris, the youngest band member, has a grandchild. He looks younger than his 49 years and has actually been carded at the door.
Best of all, perhaps, none of us smoke, use drugs, or misuse alcohol. Some wineries where we play serve free drinks to band members, so it’s nice that they can stop after a drink or two, remain in control of their faculties during the entire evening, and not have to be carried out to the van after the show.
Band member wives are some of our greatest fans! They show up at gigs, visit and laugh with each other, dance to their favorite numbers, and of course applaud enthusiastically at the conclusion of each piece.
Trying to keep our Crosstown 5 calendar full isn’t a problem because over the years we have developed relationships with a number of live music venues including bars, lounges, wineries, and yacht clubs. They naturally call us when they need a band. A number of event organizers have our phone number at the top of their contact list because of our reputation for bringing a good time to parties, weddings, celebrations, and corporate events. Last October we performed at Suisun City’s Sesquicentennial event, before a large audience at United Airlines’ annual family gathering, and at the Fourth of July celebration at Benicia City Park.
We perform regularly at several local venues including Brentwood’s Coco County Wine Co. and the Discovery Bay Yacht Club. We have played at the Lone Tree Golf Course’s Holiday Extravaganza for a number of years and at the Harley Davidson’s Owners Group’s (HOG) annual Christmas party. We are scheduled for a New Years Eve gig at the Benicia Yacht Club.
I am a single-again woman in a committed relationship happily moving on following the end of a 25-year marriage. Through good times and bad, music has always provided a refuge when things were tough. Music brings peace and tranquility to my own spirit, but becomes especially powerful when I witness our Crosstown 5 band making other people happy. No matter what has been happening in my life, my heart begins to sing when I see audience members respond to our music. My spirit dances with them as they move around on the dance floor.
My parents are Puerto Ricans who were students at Harvard Law School in Boston in 1966 when they gave birth to me. They were both lawyers, working on their postgraduate degrees. Mom was one of only two women admitted to the program and became the first Hispanic woman to be awarded the Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School.
A month following my birth, my folks graduated and moved us back to their Puerto Rico home where I lived until graduating from high school. My parents were active members of the middle class and I followed their example — playing sports, joining the drama club, and singing in the choir. I was heavily involved in school government and was class president for three different years.
I began singing before my earliest memories. I can remember as a child kneeling before the speakers in front of my father’s stereo and listening to the Carpenters and Elton John. When I was older, I would go to the mall every Friday and spend my $1.25 lunch money to purchase a 45-RPM record. I eventually amassed a large collection that was roughly divided into two categories — Beatles and Paul McCartney in one category and everybody else in the other. I was a member of the elementary school choir and later the high school choir. I signed up for music lessons in every available genre — voice, guitar, and piano.
The game of volleyball was my other passion. Beginning in seventh grade I practiced diligently, was on the school team, and played in every pick-up game that came along. When I was 18 I enrolled in Haverford College in Pennsylvania. The Haverford athletic director, coach, and captain actually sent me a personal letter to woo me to their school. It was an easy sell, because the school was just what I had been hoping for — large enough to offer a complete education but small enough to provide individual attention. I was a member of the varsity women’s volleyball team from the first practice. By my second year I had become one of the best players.
My four years at Haverford were transformative. I was blown away by the society and culture at the school and in the surrounding Philadelphia area. I encountered lifestyles, social environments, and religious philosophies that contrasted with my strict Roman Catholic upbringing. The weather also was so different from Puerto Rico’s, with brilliant fall colors segueing into the winter snowfalls that were incredibly beautiful to look at from a distance but miserable to experience first hand. My college years were especially marked by the comradery I shared with other members of the volleyball team. It was a challenge to balance my difficult schedule with volleyball, choir, and my studies. However, I somehow managed to succeed in all three areas.
“Music in all its forms appealed to me, but I always wanted to be in a band.”
Music in all its forms appealed to me, but I always wanted to be in a band. After graduating from Haverford in 1988, I moved to Monterey and joined a band in Aptos. There was one guy and six of us girls who became “South Street.” We sang original songs and were making a record. However, just before it was released one of the girls quit and the band folded.
I moved to San Jose, enrolled in Santa Clara University, and earned a degree in Counseling and Psychology. I wasn’t performing but continued to take private voice lessons and learned to sing music in all styles from classical to Broadway to pop. I got married during this time and graduated two months before the birth of my first child.
In 1998 we moved into Brentwood’s Apple Hill gated community. I put a classified note in the community newsletter to see if anyone was interested in singing. Seven people responded. We formed an a capella group and began performing at local events and Christmas parties. We became a trio. Then an acoustic guitarist and his friend joined us. At that point we had become two women, two guys, a guitarist, and his guitar. That added up to six, so we formed a band called Sixstring. We went electric, added a drummer, bass player, and eventually a keyboardist. We performed together for a couple years, playing at whatever events, fairs, and parties would let us come.
Sixstrings didn’t work out, so in 2006 I responded to four appeals on Craig’s List for lead singers. One of them, a group called Cross Towne Band, was four guys looking for lead female singer. It was a great connection because they were outstanding musicians and they liked me. We were scheduled to do an important New Year’s Eve Gig at Lodi’s Wine and Roses, but in November the male singer and bass started to fight with each other. They couldn’t resolve their difficulties so we replaced them with two other musicians. There was an argument about the name, so we played the gig under the name Crosstown 5.
That was a dozen years ago. It’s all good! We’re planning to continue making music together for a long time and hopefully someday play at Brentwoods’ Starry Nights.