San Antonio punks Pinata Protest return to Houston this weekend after an extended absence for the Texas Taco Music Festival. The explosive ensemble headlines the festival that also includes performances by Ruben Moreno & Zydeco Re-Evolution, local blues shouter Annika Chambers, Latin rockers La Sien, all-female cumbia band La Conquista from Monterrey, Grupo Mixxto, and Baraja de Oro. The band has lots of original material, but it is also known for putting a punk jolt into standards like "La Cucaracha" or the Vicente Fernandez classic "Volver, Volver.""
Their last Houston appearance was at Fitzgerald's with Los Skarnales, but Pinata front man Alvaro del Norte says the band hasn't been playing much due to working in a new guitar player.
"It's always something with a band," laughs del Norte, explaining that the original guitarist quit after his first child was born. "It's a tough way to support yourself or a family, being a band like ours."
Del Norte quit his day job as a parole officer when the band began to tour heavily, and now he augments his band income substitute teaching and working in a side project.
"It's taken us some time to retool with the new guitarist, that's definitely slowed us down," he says. "But we're all getting used to the new lineup and by summer we'll be going back to the West Coast. We plan to tour hard the rest of the year. And we're working some new stuff into our shows now that we hope we'll record late this year, although we still need to write some more new material for an album."
Del Norte, who fronts the blast-furnace band with his accordion, has been working his way backward from punk and rock to more traditional Mexican music.
"It's just an upright bass, bajo sexto, and me with my accordion," he says. "We're playing a mixture of old traditional songs as well as taking punk and rock songs and doing them in a traditional way.
"So far, people seem to really like what we're doing," he says. "I don't want to play in clubs, so we play in the street or on the patio in front of bars, much like traditional mariachis do. Then when the bars close and everyone is hungry, we drift down to the taco trucks and play in the parking lot. People dance or join in on the singing, everybody has a good time and we usually make some good money on tips.
"I don't want to lose the guerrilla aspect of it, that's the main thing."
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"It's funny, but now when I go on YouTube to look for new music, what I'm attracted to is the old music that I'm finding for the first time, not the latest and greatest, you know?"
Del Norte took this detour to "work on my craft, to learn to really sing rather than mostly shout like I do with Pinata Protest."
"I didn't think so much about it when I was younger, but now I want to do my part to keep that tradition alive and well," he says.
Meanwhile, the band has had a bit of luck with some of their tunes set to be in a Latin film.
"I can't give out any details, that's part of our agreement, but this could be pretty significant for our band if the film does well," he says. "Sunday we are going in the studio to record some new stuff for the film also."
Meanwhile, it's business as usual.
"We've got a real manager and booking agent now," he says, "so it's back on the road to see what we can scare up."
Pinata Protest performs Saturday, April 18 at Texas Taco Music Fest, 2400 Navigation Blvd @ Esplanade Plaza. Gates open at 11 a.m.; $8.
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