Go Tejano Day feat. Julion Alvarez, Los Invasores De Nuevo Leon, Mariachi Invitational Finalists Reliant Stadium March 10, 2013
I've said it once or twice, but I will say it again, and continue to do so until I am proven wrong. Tejano music is dead, at least at RodeoHouston. In its place is banda music and norteño/conjunto.
But as much as I miss my beloved Tejano, the Mexicano in me won't let me disregard the accordion-laced, tuba-filled sounds that overtake Reliant Stadium every year. As long as these bands attract a record number of paid attendees (75,305 this year), and as long as Tejano remains in its dormant coma, the formula will most likely remain for many rodeos to come.
Sunday's opening act was Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon, a band that formed in 1978 in northern Mexico's lovely city of Monterrey, which is like Houston's sister city due to the commerce, culture and population that flow between the two. Los Invasores are one of the many traditional groups that define the norteño sound, which utilizes the accordion and bajo sexto (a 12-string guitar) to formulate songs of love, heartbreak and adventure.
Many of the songs are corridos, a popular form of musical expression that consists of a narrative in poetic and storytelling form. They are also masters of cumbias and rancheras.
The crowd cheered as the first few familiar notes of "Playa Sola" rang out from the revolving stage. The song of loneliness and nature is not your typical love song, as the singer serenades the stars while alone in a canoe, but the feelings that it induces in the listener are one of the reasons Los Invasores is such a popular band. Pop in an Invasores CD, fire up the carnitas and sip on cerveza in the backyard, and all is good in the world.
Just as many norteño bands do, this one also has a hype man who keeps the mood lively between songs and introduces the set list. "Se la saben?!" he yelled, asking the audience if they knew the next song, "Mi Casa Nueva." Of course everyone knew it, and they let the band hear it. I will never tire of hearing more than 75,000 voices sing in unision. Other classics the Invasores performed were "Eslabon Por Eslabon" and "A Mi Que Me Quedo," and "Aguanta Corazon."
After the opening act finished, the finals for Saturday Night's 22nd Annual Mariachi Invitational were held on a side stage, with finalists Group No. 5 and Group No. 1 (in that order).
The first group dialed in "La Puerta Negra," a personal favorite of mine. The bad news was that due to technical difficulties, the sound was very poor for the opening competitors. They followed with the songs "Volver, Volver" and "Mexico Lindo" and the crowd finally warmed up to them, but it was too little too late.
Group No. 1 followed, and although they also fought a few microphone issues, they started strong with "Aca Entre Nos," a heartfelt love ballad by Vicente Fernandez, following with "De Que Manera Te Olvido" and "Como Mexico No Hay Dos." The lead singer's voice was booming and confident, and was accompanied by crisp, well-tuned instrumental backing. When the crowd was asked to choose a winner, there was no doubt.
The Best Mariachi in Texas once again proved to be McAllen's Mariachi Aztlan, who celebrated by elevating the gold trophy and doing a brief encore.
After the mariachis, it was banda time! If you have never experienced banda music, imagine a marching band playing its fastest and most ferocious march, and then speed that up a few notches. The music is anchored by a sousaphone and accompanied by a large brass section and a pounding bass drum with cymbals.
"El Sinaloense" was the vivid opening number, setting a fun atmosphere for the perfect ending of a long day. The band played with ferocious vigor, and once Julion Alvarez stepped onto the stage, the crowd was on its feet.
He began with his hit "Olvidame," both ode and request to an old, two-timing love. His voice was strong yet smooth, with moments of extreme emotion and mischievousness. He was open and interactive with the audience, thanking everyone for attending and singing along. He lamented that they were too far away for his tastes, but continued to sing with his whole essence.
In the end, as long as a performer cares about his audience enough to deliver an outstanding performance, regardless if they are Tejano or otherwise, I will always provide my undivided admiration and attention.
Personal Bias: Mexico lindo y querido!
The Crowd: A new record! Again! 75,305 paid attendance!
Random Notebook Dump:I would have liked to shoot more Rodeo this year, but hey...there's always next year!
Mutton Bustin' Report: Lots of good riders today, mostly the girls. But they saved the best for last. Treston Brazile, son of "The Winningest Cowboy of All Time," received a score of 85 to win Sunday. He says he wants to be a saddle-bronc rider. Like father, like son!
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Pointy Boot Report: Only one pair, but I was too busy eating a turkey leg to catch up. Mmmmmmm...turkey leg!