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Night 2 of Festival Chicano One For The History Books

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Miller Outdoor Theater and the hill were filled to capacity for Night 2 of Festival Chicano. The crowd was energized for what was going to be a night filled with Chicano sounds and the bands did not disappoint.

Kicking off the night were Los Monarcas, a local conjunto that has been around for 45 years. Personally, it was when a record-store-owning buddy of mine (Turntable Records-Austin) asked me almost 30 years ago if I had ever heard of them. It was that first cassette that got me hooked with the sounds of acordeon, bajo, bass, and drums. Los Monarcas’ one-hour set was one huge medley of rancheras and polkas led by brothers Pete and Mario Diaz and complemented by a fat bass line and hard-hitting drumming. Hit after hit, they never stopped–even when one brother took on the acordeon duties to give us a rousing rendition of Ring of Fire. They fired up the crowd for sure.

This was also the first night that San Antonio’s La 45 would visit Houston, and boy, were they overdue. The outfit, which features a 5-piece horn section and 10 musicians led by Mike Torres, III and lead trumpeter John Ontiveros were introduced to the crowd by Henry “Pepsi” Peña, who offered a history lesson on Tejano music. Peña is a legendary SA radio personality who still promotes Chicano Soul concerts in the Alamo City. La 45 would offer up tune after tune, including Amor de Madrugada, some Latin Breed classics, R&B oldies giving them a flavor all their own. Showcasing the musicians, LA 45 gave opportunities to every member to give a taste of their chops with solos, with John Ontiveros earning the spotlight a few times. Joining them on accordion and keys was Herbie Lopez, an accomplished musician from the days of Conjunto Bernal. The crowd embraced La 45 after they gave so much of themselves.

After the presentation of the proclamation honoring 40 years of Festival Chicano by Houston Councilman Robert Gallegos, it was time for the headliner–Little Joe y La Familia.

No doubt, La Familia is one of the most precision-based bands in the business, and credit goes to Little Joe who demands it. Launching the show with an instrumental version of Las Nubes, the band switched gears to LJ classic, Prieta Linda, as Little Joe walked out on the stage wearing a zarape and mariachi pants. At almost 79, Little Joe showed no signs of slowing down–physically or vocally–taking us through memory lane with Por Una Mujer Casada, Ni El Dinero Ni Nadie, Recuerdas Querido Amigo and more. He would give his lead trumpet player, Carlos Salazar, the opportunity to belt out Jurame–one of my fave ballads. Later, Melinda Hernandez of Sister Sister came out for an impromptu tune, Baby Baby. After the show closers, Las Nubes and Borrachera, Little Joe came back for an encore with Por Un Amor. Needless to say, the crowd was satisfied and a bit overdosed with the best music.

Little Joe didn’t just perform, he also politicked a bit. Reminding us of the terror coming out of the White House. When he walked  out and saw the capacity crowd, he sarcastically stated, “You all are beautiful. Beautiful rapists, murderers, drug dealers…” to which we all laughed, but also felt reminded about how culture and politics really do mix. He gave mention to the violence in El Paso, Odessa (the postwoman who was killed was daughter of one of his compadres), and everything else that is going on. He urged folks to register and vote, and to vote locally and not just in federal elections as that is where most decisions that affect us are made. Finally, he also did a tribute to his dad, performing a song his dad wrote about himself, La Cotorra, about his days of selling weed and doing a little time in the pen. LJ’s response song was a tune he wrote about his dad, Always My Hero. A very poignant moment to remind us we aren’t perfect, sometimes we make bad decisions, but we are about family and we push forward.

Saturday is the final night, featuring Elida y Avante, Los Garcia Brothers, and Tejano Highway 281. I won’t be there, so, if someone wants to write something up, I’ll post it here.

Que viva FESTIVAL CHICANO!

y que viva DANIEL BUSTAMANTE!

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A Great Opening Night at Festival Chicano

It certainly felt good sitting amongst the masses at Miller Outdoor Theater, although, the rain may have scared off a few folks. The event goes on rain or shine, folks! Still, sitting with a few thousand of my closest friends, listening to some amazing musicians, and not worrying about the crap the world is giving us was just what this Chicano needed.

Grupo Fuerte kicked off the night with a set filled with rancheras and cumbias. Carlos Maldonado’s bajo sexto playing was impressive and the band was on point as they went through various covers, including tunes made popular by Roberto Pulido, Jesse Serrata and others. A poignant moment occurred when the band dedicated a medley of songs to the late Joe Ernest Puente, a local vocalist and bandleader who passed away this year. Another was when Maldonado brought out his locally legendary dad, Carlos, Sr. to play a few old school conjunto tunes

Los Desperadoz took the stage with their newest member and vocalist, Eric Lee Villarreal, belting out newest single, Anhelo. Afterwards, it was a string of hits by the band with brothers Mike and Lee on acordeon and bajo at the lead. El Amor Que Soñe, Que Mas Quieres De Mi, Dame Tu Amor, Mi Tesoro, the list goes on. Throw in a couple of cumbias, an energetic huapango, and some classy polka instrumentals and one easily remembers why they are such big fans of the group. It was about damn time they made it to Houston! Great show!

The band everyone was waiting for was Jaime De Anda (JDA). Many have caught some of their shows on grainy youtube vids, but it’s been awhile since this new act has been caught at a venue like MOT. De Anda is still an amazing acordeonista, but his new musicians (especially that bajo player) more than complement his style. They didn’t rewrite the formula, but it seems to be delivered with a lot more heft and power. JDA took us through memory lane with hits like El Complejo, Yolanda, El Preso, and others, and De Anda hit every note just right. It would have been impressive whether Jaime’s dance moves were part of the show or not.

So, that’s night #1. Kudos to Daniel Bustamante and his hard-working crew. Friday night, it’s Little Joe y La Familia, La .45, and Los Monarcas. DC will be there!

40th Annual Festival Chicano Set To Launch on Thursday

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.

THE MUSIC

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!

40th Annual Festival Chicano, OCT 3-4-5, 2019

Daniel Bustamante and the crew at Festival Chicano have released the line-up and dates for the 3-day music festival to be held at Miller Outdoor Theater. October 3-4-5, 2019 will be a special weekend as this will be the 40th annual festival featuring some of the top bands en la Onda Chicana. I’ll have more on the line-up in the near future. For now, check out the line-up below:

OCT 4-5-6, 2018: FESTIVAL CHICANO HOUSTON

The 39th Annual Festival Chicano is upon us again and will be held October 4 – 6, 2018 at Miller Outdoor Theater.

As always, Daniel Bustamante and his crew will feature the best in La Onda Tejana, including Latin Breed, Gary Hobbs, Ruben Ramos and The Mexican Revolution, David Marez, Avizo featuring Hugo Guerrero and Oscar G, and the King of the Brown Sound (and Beto O’Rourke supporter) Little Joe y La Familia. Also featured will be Impozzible, Negami, and Stevie D. A lot of talent in a few days.

The event attracts over 5,000 Chicanos and others each night. What a time for, say, Democratic candidates and their minions to walk around wearing their campaign tees and be seen. I always wear my campaign tees.

Anyway, it’s free, it’s great music, and it’s nuestra cultura. Enjoy it before some orange baboon outlaws it. And then take your cultura to the polls in November.

Festival Chicano Saturday: Shelly Lares, Ram Herrera, and David Lee Garza

culturaThe final night of Festival Chicano brought out a lot of people, as always, but I’d never seen the Hill at Miller Outdoor Theater as packed as it was. The crowd, the energy, and the talent on Saturday made for a pretty special night.

shellyTejano icon Shelly Lares, still looking as young as when she started, reminded us that she was about to celebrate 34 years of being in the biz. It reminded me that I’d been a fan pretty much from the beginning of her recording career, at about the same time that another young talent was about to take the business by storm–Selena. They were buds, by the way. Lares and her band started out strong with a medley of cumbias, and she peppered the set with medleys of ranchera hits along the way. Tunes from the 90s through today were strong on the set-list:  Soy Tu Amor, Ganas de Besarte, Es Que Estoy Enamorada, Mil Besos, Yo Quiero Saber and more. Volver Volver brought the house down, while her show-closing rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ was impressive. Lares showed much appreciation for the fans–and in this industry it’s the fans that keep the music alive.

ramherreraTejano crooner and David Lee Garza y Los Musicales alum Ram Herrera took the stage with The Outlaw Band and provided a powerful show of new and classic hits from his solo and Musicales career. Already on year 35 of a storied Tejano music career, Ram Herrera still has that magical voice. Amor Querido, La Mancha, Rosas Para Una Rosa, Ahora Dile, Entre Cantina y Cantina, Tragos Profundos, Tejanita, Yo Soy, The Chair, Amor y Besos…you know them all. He also offered up a couple of new tunes:  Eres Mi Todo and Donde Estara. With a solid band backing him, he kept the crowd excited and singing along.

davidleecezDavid Lee Garza is credited with launching the careers of Ram Herrera, Jay Perez, Marcos Orozco, and the late Emilio Navaira. Lately, he’s offered up a series of young vocalists who keep the band busy. Cezar Martinez has a unique voice that stays strong throughout a performance and last night was no different. From singing the early hits that were voiced by Herrera and Navaira to the 90s smashes of Perez and Orozco, Martinez delivered impressively. Los Musicales, in business for over 40 years, provided some amazing play that not many bands can equal live. New hits like El Privilegio (which included songwriter Juan Treviño on the bajo) and Niña Coquetera were positioned among classic tunes like Cuatro Caminos, De Que Te Quejas, Me Vuelvo Enamorar, Paloma Sin Nidal, Hasta Cuando, Dos Corazones, oh, the list goes on. We’ve come to love these guys because they’re humble, talented, and all about the music. And that’s exactly what they gave another packed house at Festival Chicano.

Congrats to Daniel Bustamante and the Festival Chicano crew on a 37th feat of musical awesomeness. No doubt, thousands of Chicanos were happy with the end-product, and we anxiously await the 38th. If anything, you may want to add a Sunday tardeada next year. (Kidding!) We just can’t get enough of our cultura.

Festival Chicano Friday: Little Joe, Latin Breed, and Isabel Marie

Friday was another big night for La Onda Chicana. Thanks to Festival Chicano organizer, Daniel Bustamante, this one was one for the history books.

The evening began with a reminder from Bustamante:  Tejano is not dead. As much as the gringos in the business or the gringos at the rodeo want to tell us, it’s just not true. Thousands attending a weekend series of concerts ought to tell everyone this. Is it a struggle? Of course! But one only has to watch the musicians on stage to show that they love what they do. And the crowd loves them for it.

The most poignant reminder of the struggle was when Bustamante brought out the producer/promoter for 13 year-old Isabel Marie–one of the newest additions to the Tejano music industry. Abraham Quintanilla came out and offered a few words and also reminded us of that awful day 21 years ago. But that through all that has affected his family he continues to seek out and offer new talent shows his determination. Tejano isn’t dead.

isabelmarieIsabel Marie took the stage first and offered up a set of cumbias, rancheras, and even wowed us with her rendition of Selena’s No Me Queda Mas. At 13, she has a pretty powerful voice. As a stage performer, she is poised, but at 13, she also shows off that awkward stage a teen goes through. (If a crowd applauded me, I’d be a little geek’d out, so it’s understandable.) Still, she showed range, emotion, and the ability to keep a crowd engaged for an entire show. Great job, Isabel Marie. Keep at it!

adalbertoThe Legendary Latin Breed was up next with Adalberto Gallegos at the helm. Hundreds of years of experience took the stage–even Adalberto was a member at age 19 in 1976. Kicking off with 1988’s Latin Breed Medley, they continued on to Yo Lo Comprendo, Todos Dicen, and even ventured one of Adalberto’s solo hits from 1990, Tristes Recuerdos and a hit that I once owned on a 45 rpm record (kids, look that up), El Cisne. Adalberto wowed us with If You Need Me, too. All of this backed up by a precision-based horn section and the bass action of Stanley Revillas and guitaristics of Steve Velasquez.

littlejoeThe crowd loved every performance, but there was no doubt that they were waiting for The King of the Brown Sound–Little Joe. Another band of highly experienced, highly disciplined musicians, La Familia took off in fine form with a medley of Little Joe’s best ballads–Rebelde, Recuerdas Querido Amigo, and Por Un Amor. Then came Redneck Mes’kin Boy and Mi Nena. Then came some blues music with Lonely, Lonely Nights, which Little Joe delivered impressively, backed up by amazing horn and guitar action. Bass master Mike Torres, III delivered on cumbia El Alacran and percussionist Sam Jones on My Girl. The night continued with hit after hit, including Cartas Marcadas, and the big finish with Las Nubes and Borrachera. Of course, the encore brought folks back to their seats and then to their feet with a sing-a-long of Jose Alfredo’s classic, Ella.

In between, Little Joe reminded the crowd of thousands to register to vote–Mi Familia Vota will be there all three nights. Of course, he also gave ol’ Trump a tongue lashing, including, “Vamos a darle en la madre a Trump!” which basically is the equivalent of, “Let’s knock him the f*** out!” Great crowd response to that. Finally, Little Joe’s white duds were in honor of El Leon de la Sierra, Alfonso Ramos, who passed away this last week.

chicharronesNo doubt, by the end of a La Familia gig, one is tired but oh so happy. And after three performances by everything from new talent to two bands that have been around for five decades, one can take a Saturday morning to re-energize with some chicharrones con huevos and then return to Miller Outdoor Theater in the evening for David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, Ram Herrera and The Outlaw Band, and Little Miss Dynamite Shelly Lares.

Festival Chicano Thursday: David Marez, Los Monarcas, Elida Reyna

Well, I’m going for a record. I’ll attend all three nights of Festival Chicano 2016 and write a review for each night. Festival producer Daniel Bustamante never fails and filling each night with the best Tejano talent, but 2016 seems to be pretty special, and Thursday truly was.

losmonarcasThe evening opened up with conjunto titans Los Monarcas de Pete y Mario Diaz. Spanning three generations and five decades of existence, the band took the stage and played a one-hour non-stop gig. Ranchera after Ranchera, Los Monarcas took us through various hits and conjunto standards. They threw in a couple of cumbias, but returned to their tried and true foot-stomping rancheras. It was a great start to the festival.

davidmarezNext up, the legendary Voz de Oro, David Marez and his band People. Marez took us from his new material off of his Tejano Music Award nominated album, Groovin’ (No Soy El Mismo and Le Meneas), to his 80s and 90s hits (No Se A Donde Ni Con Quien and Dile Tu), and all the way back to his younger days as a member of The Royal Jesters (Yo Soy Chicano).

Beyond that golden voice and awesome musicians, he showed much appreciation for the crowd, which gave that appreciation right back. Acknowledging 37 years of Festival Chicano, he gave us all a lesson:  Tejano is our music and where we’re from, but we are Chicanos. That hit me right in the feels.

elidaproud2b

Credit: Proud2BTejano (FB)

Tejano Diva Elida Reyna and Avante hit the stage while I was waiting on David Marez to get a photo and have a short conversation with him, but one could hear the music as Reyna also went through some of her hits–rancheras, cumbias, and ballads–earning a pretty loud response from the crowd. Unfortunately, no pics of her performance by this blogger, but I did borrow this one from Proud2BTejano–the kids love Elida’s power-packed performances. There are some pics out there on the internets, though.

Next review is for Friday’s line-up of Little Joe, Adalberto Gallegos and The Latin Breed, and new singing sensation Isabel Marie. Stay connected!

Event: 37th Festival Chicano ~ OCT 6, 7, 8, 2016

Time to lock-in Festival Chicano on your calendar! See you there! (Note:  Saturday line-up changed as Mazz is unable to make it. Ram Herrera added to the line-up with David Lee Garza headlining.)

festchicano16

Little Joe Wows MOT Crowd–Again!

Little Joe y La Familia headlined Friday night’s line-up at the 36th Annual Festival Chicano. Energized by another SRO-out crowd–including thousands seated on the hill–La Familia returned the favor with an energized show packed with hits and a couple of surprises.

Ljoe1Heading toward 75, Little Joe has not lost the voice and stage presence that made him an international superstar who has recorded and toured with greats, such as Willie Nelson and Tierra. Kicking off the gig with a medley of his early hits, such as  Cuidadito and La Bola Negra, the hits continued. Even Little Joe felt the energy of the crowd when the they joined him on Prieta Linda.

One surprise was LJ giving the main mic to bassist Mike Torres, III who belted out the salsa-tinged cumbia, El Alacran. Later, Little Joe would belt out Cartas Marcadas, Chicano national anthem Las Nubes, Borrachera, Cuando Salgo a Los Campos, and the tried and true Pa’ Todo El Año.

In between, Little Joe would bring out Neal Sharpe who would offer some R&B, as well as Houston Jazz pianist/keyboardist and La Familia alumnus Gilbert Sedeño for an instrumental version of Mañana de Carnaval–flawlessly and without having rehearsed prior to the concert.

LjoeDanielA poignant moment came when Little Joe brought out Festival organizer/founder Daniel Bustamante to recognize his most recent achievement:  Recognition by Mayor Annise Parker as an Hispanic Heritage honoree for Arts in the Community. Daniel will receive his award on Monday, October 5. A well-deserved recognition after 36 years of organizing an even which attracts thousands of Chicanos/Mexican Americans for a weekend of beautiful music and culture.

Earlier in the evening, we enjoyed the sounds of Cañonazo and Acordeon powerhouse AJ Castillo. So, it was a great night of dancing in your seats (since the union ushers didn’t allow any dancing in the aisles.) The best way to celebrate this event is with friends and family and I was lucky enough to enjoy it with both. Until the next Festival Chicano, ¡Que viva La Musica Tejana!

Kudos to Council Member Robert Gallegos for attending the event. It was a great opportunity for some hand-shaking, especially during the hour-and-a-half prior to the event while folks were picnicking. Too bad other candidates didn’t take this opportunity to do the same; although, I did hear of a few at the other festival down the street. Anyway…

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Me and 10,000 of my closest friends.