Texas Tornados Discovery Green September 23, 2010
Aftermath's favorite shows are the ones where we just have to write down the set list and not much else. The Texas Tornados are one of the bands that allow us to do that.
We didn't know all the songs the reconstituted Tex-Mex titans played Thursday at Discovery Green - in front of the biggest crowd we've seen yet at the Capitol One free concert series - but there were only a couple we didn't recognize. Even those we really did, because they were cut from the same cloth as "She's About a Mover," "Who Were You Thinkin' Of" and "Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone," which constitute a pretty hefty branch of our musical family tree.
God, it's great to live in Texas.
Even calling the Tornados "reconstituted" isn't quite right. Yes, the group is now missing late Texas icons Doug Sahm and Freddy Fender, but only in the physical sense. Their music, and their grooves, are very much alive.
So are the nuts and bolts of the Tornados. The group floored it around 7:30 p.m. with "Nuevo Laredo" and never looked back, only stopping for Shawn Sahm to either mention yet again how happy the group was to be in Houston or pay tribute to Fender and his dad, remain the same. Besides co-founders Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez, guitarist Louie Ortega, bassist and Houston native Speedy Sparks and drummer Ernie Durawa were all around at the beginning.
They're all getting up in years. None of them has lost a step. Not Meyers, who carried the boisterous mid-'60s spirit of the Sir Douglas Quintet into "Dinero," "Velma From Selma," "Hey Baby Que Paso" and Sam the Sham's "Wooly Bully" - arguably the song that started it all - his Vox organ steaming along like the Sugarland Express. And not Jimenez, whose nimble accordion work on "Adios Mexico" and "Nuevo Laredo" was as mischievous as the half-smile he had all night.
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And not Ortega, either. Besides sizzling fretwork all night long, the guitarist crooned a broken-hearted "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" that would have made Fender proud.
And things look pretty bright for the next generation of Tornados. Shawn Sahm is as genial and open-hearted as his dad, born to work a crowd. He's about a mover, and then some. Nuni Rubio, a stowaway from Jimenez's band, sang "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and "Volver" with the voice of an angel. Maybe one from Corpus Christi with a big pompadour and bushy moustache.
Even if they don't always realize it, Texans are damn lucky to live in a place with such a polyglot musical culture. The Tornados sang the traditional polka "In Heaven There Is No Beer" in Spanish, German and English Thursday just to get that point across. From all the dancing, it looks like they succeeded. (And in Houston, if not in heaven, there's plenty of beer.)
Is anybody goin' to San Antone? Everybody was. Some of us never left.
Personal Bias: One more time - God, it's great to live in Texas.
The Crowd: Silver-haired elderly white folks, Hispanic toddlers at rapt attention, Mike Stinson, members of Los Skarnales and Robert Ellis & the Boys and everyone in between. H-town, baby.
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Overheard In the Crowd: After one of the Tornados said they planned to play until 7 a.m. (which they easily could have) and then get some menudo, someone said, "Isn't that a band?"
Random Notebook Dump: Louie Ortega is a god. Ditto Ernie Durawa.
Adios Mexico Sorry Boy Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone Dinero Volver Who Were You Thinkin' Of Wasted Days and Wasted Nights Before the Last Teardrop Falls Velma From Selma Nuevo Laredo In Heaven There Is No Beer Wooly Bully Hey Baby Que Paso She's About a Mover