Thursday night is the first night of the 40th Festival Chicano at Miller Outdoor Theater. Beginning at 7PM, thousands of folks seated and on the hill will enjoy the music of Grupo Fuerte, Los Desperadoz, and Jaime De Anda (JDA).
Festival Chicano is a weekend filled with music, culture, and community enjoyed by thousands every fall. Earlier this week, Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council approved a resolution honoring the festival.
It’s safe to say that creating Festival Chicano wasn’t an easy feat, according to festival founder and director Daniel Bustamante. In an interview with Tony Diaz at KPFTs Nuestra Palabra show, Bustamante tells us that he had to fight his way into Miller Outdoor Theater.
Festival Chicano first started with a concert held at Moody Park in the northside of Houston on Easter, 1977. After attracting over 10,000 spectators, the City of Houston was a bit upset because of crowd issues. The fact that there were limited facilities, parking and other issues didn’t sit well with the City. Bustamante offered the idea to use Miller Outdoor Theater.
The City and the MOT folks weren’t too keen on the idea. Maybe it was the thought of 10,000 Chicanos converging on a major facility, but the excuse to first deny the Festival was that the facility was for “fine arts.” Of course, it wasn’t like Bustamante lacked an infrastructure. With the support of Little Joe y La Familia and with the intent to empower a community through culture, there was little doubt that the event would be a success.
It took a few more years to finally get to the MOT. After the HPD murder of Joe Campos Torres and the pushback at Moody Park, the City may have become more receptive. With Little Joe’s support, the first official show at Miller was held on April 1980. 40 years later, the festival continues with capacity crowds and the very best music in Texas. Little Joe has played every year, except for one, and will get to celebrate his 79th birthday on Friday.
Friday features Little Joe, La .45, and Los Monarcas. The festival closes on Saturday with Elida Reyna y Avante, Los Garcia Brothers, and Tejano Highway 281.
Los Garcia Brothers, Los Monarcas, and Grupo Fuerte are considered hard-core conjunto bands, led by the acordeon and the bajo sexto. Fuerte and Monarcas are local favorites, while Los Garcia Brothers, dressed in zoot suits, travel from Eagle Pass.
Los Desperadoz are also a conjunto but with a more progressive slant to their music. They recently released a new album, so, I expect they will put on a good show. And speaking of good shows, Jaime De Anda, a showman and killer acordeonista in his own right, will showcase his new band, JDA. De Anda recently went solo after separating from the group he founded in Houston, Los Chamacos.
Of course, Little Joe (y La Familia) is a living legend who continues a heavy touring schedule showcasing an amazing horn and rhythm section. La .45 is led by a couple of former members of La Familia and also offer up a 5 piece horn section that plays original and old school favorites. Elida Reyna y Avante are also touring behind a new album. The powerful-voiced Reyna is sure to wow the crowd with her cumbias and rancheras, and a big sing-along is expected for Luna Llena. Finally, Tejano Highway 281 is an up-and-coming band from the Rio Grande Valley with a style that brings together conjunto, Tejano, and country. Expect to be impressed.
I expect to be there for at least two of the nights. I’ve got a DJ gig on Saturday, but I’ll probably play some of the music from the bands I’m missing. Check out Festival Chicano, wear your favorite candidate/political t-shirt, and take in nuestra cultura.
¡QUE VIVA DANIEL BUSTAMANTE!
¡Y QUE VIVA EL FESTIVAL CHICANO!