One of America's all-time greatest rock bands played two of the country's most historic venues this past weekend — and it only took a couple hours on Interstate 35 to enjoy both of the varied shows.

Los Lobos, a group that can pivot from psychedelic garage rock to rhythmic cumbias to elegant norteño or folk ballads with incomparable ease, returned to the Upper Midwest to play two venues tied to its storied past.

That the rock legends from sunny East Los Angeles agreed to play these shows in the dead of winter tells you just how special the locations are to them.

On Friday, they revisited First Avenue, the punky and eclectic downtown Minneapolis rock club that hosted some of their first gigs in a below-freezing climate in the early '80s. They hadn't performed there since 1996, though.

Then on Saturday, the influential band — which landed its biggest hit in 1987 with the soundtrack to the Ritchie Valens biopic "La Bamba" — came back to the site of Valens' last gig, the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. Now a National Historical Landmark, the postwar dance hall brought Los Lobos in for its annual Winter Dance Party weekend, commemorating the tragic night in 1959 when Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash after their show there.

If you added up the number of years the Lobos, the Surf and First Ave have collectively provided music lovers with entertainment, it would be around 175. And yet all three institutions showed over the weekend just how they've defied the youthful laws of rock 'n' roll — though, in the band's case, there are murmurings of retirement and signs the road won't go on forever.

Los Lobos made the trek norte-por-noreste without one of the four members who've been in the group since 1973, bassist Conrad Lozano. Hip surgery was the reason.

Singer/guitarist David Hidalgo's son Vincent filled in on bass, adding a bit of déjà vu since he looks a whole lot like his dad did when Los Lobos first rolled into Minneapolis to play First Ave's smaller room.

"We played the 7th St. Entry with Soul Asylum, who left us in the dust," the senior Hidalgo recalled toward the end of Friday's set. "It was the first time I ever felt 5 degrees in my life."

With a new drummer also in tow — longtime Beastie Boys backer Alfredo Ortiz — the band played one of its fastest and feistiest sets of recent years at First Ave. This one wasn't meant for a seated theater like the Ordway, where they last played in town.

They tore through many tunes from their early-'80s setlists, including "Evangeline," "Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio," "Will the Wolf Survive?" and "Don't Worry Baby." Hidalgo's funkier counterpart Cesar Rosas also led them through several hard-driving highlights from their underrated late-'90s/2000s-era albums, including the opener "La Venganza de los Pelados," "Chuco's Cumbia" and "Cumbia Raza."

Adding even more volume and velocity were the cover songs plucked from their latest album, "Native Sons," a tribute to the Los Angeles music scene.

Really, the new record is a testament to how Los Lobos themselves are as richly varied as the city and borderland territory that birthed them. That was evident in concert as they alternated between Chicano rock pioneers Thee Midniters' "Love Special Delivery" to the Beach Boys' "Sail on, Sailor" to "Flat Top Joint" by punky roots rockers the Blasters (the band the Lobos opened for when they first played First Ave's main room).

Saturday's shorter Surf Ballroom set was more about paying tribute to the one music hero who had the biggest impact on the band. They opened with Valens' fireball rocker "Ohh, My Head," gracefully swayed through "Oh Donna" and ripped up "Come on, Let's Go" with help from Ritchie's sister, Connie Valens — who lovingly recalled how her mom used to cook for the Lobos members.

Hidalgo, in turn, reflected on the Valens movie before ending the show with "La Bamba," the Valens cover that took Los Lobos to the top of Billboard's Hot 100 and won them a record-of-the-year Grammy: "It helped us out and changed our lives," he said.

Farewell gigs or not, these weekend gigs reiterated the band's impact on many Midwest diehard fans, some of whom attended both shows — from Latino Americans whose pride was bolstered by Los Lobos' success, to music nerds whose definition of "American music" was immeasurably expanded, to the more casual fun-seekers who know a good party when it comes to town. Or to a nearby town, too.