Yesterday’s Accordion Kings and Queens Festival had a consistent theme–Blow the roof off of the Miller Outdoor Theatre. Whether it was the start of the show with a recital by Sheila Lee’s class, The Big Squeeze Competition showcasing four young and talented squeezebox artists, or performances by Lady D and the Zydeco Tornadoes, Mark Halata and Texavia, Cedryl Ballou and the Zydeco Trendsetters, or Tex-Mex artists Santiago Jimenez and Sunny Sauceda y Todo Eso, one this was certain: The accordion brought different cultures, sounds, music, and most of all, people, together. And all the performers had the crowd on its feet and on the dance floor all night.
The Big Squeeze competition featured four young guns. Gloria Jean Cantu, Jorge Vasquez, Heriberto Rodriguez, and Anthony Ortiz showed off their accordion prowess, each with their own special talent. It didn’t make it easy for the judges, but ultimately, it was Heriberto Rodriguez who was chosen as the winner of the Big Squeeze. In my opinion. Heri is a natural, and played his selections well and with a good technique. He was also very personable on stage–he had a good presence and played well with the crowd.
After some really good shows from Lady D, and Mark Halata (Zydeco and Czech, respectively), it was time for the legendary Santiago Jimenez, Jr. His set of a little less than an hour featured songs written by his equally legendary father. The one song most loved was “Viva Seguin,” which was written by SJ, Sr. back in the 30s. Jimenez, Jr. also played favorites, such as, “Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio” and “Margarita.” One particular crowd-pleaser was a German polka mixed with Conjunto, which brought out the most diverse crowd to the dance floor.
Relying on a two-row Hohner acordeon, Jimenez, Jr. provided flawless playing, and a stage presence that made it easy for the crowd to communicates its love and respect for the legend.
The honor of the night was all mine, when I got to meet, talk, and take a pic with the Legend.
Two-Time Grammy Award winner Sunny Sauceda and his group Todo Eso provided an hour of powerful squeezebox playing, masterful bajo sexto playing, and a very tight band. Singing hits like “El Pipiripau” and “Sin Sangres En Las Venas”, Sauceda brought the crowd to its feet and to the dance floor.
Showing that Tex-Mex musicians can be very American, Sauceda and the band also ripped through rock classics, such as The Who’s “Squeeze Box” and ZZ Top’s “Tush”. It was indeed one of those unforgettable performances.
Lady D’s short show got the crowd dancing, and Mark Halata kept things going. The Zydeco Trendsetters from Waco, TX. were another story. Putting on an electrifying show, the Zydeco went non-stop. Featuring 10-year ol Camron Ballou on drums, the beat was good for dancers and toe-tappers alike.
Over 6,000 were in attendance at the M.O.T. showing that Musica de Acordeon, and especially Tejano and Tex-Mex music is alive and well.