Go Tejano Day
March 8, 2020
Many artists have their signature instruments: Stevie Wonder makes magic on the piano/keyboard, Carlos Santana wails with his electric guitar, and Willie Nelson serenades us with notes from Trigger.
In the same respect, the stories of love, heartbreak, and nightlife sung by Ramon Ayala are accompanied and defined by his trusty accordion, earning him the regal nickname "El Rey del Accordion" (the king of the accordion).
Ayala and his band Los Bravos Del Norte took center stage on Sunday night at the annual Go Tejano Day at RodeoHouston. The crowd roared in appreciation as the first notes of "Tristes Recuerdos" rang out, signaling the start of the show.
Go Tejano Day has traditionally been one of the highest attended shows at RodeoHouston, holding many of the attendance records in the event's history. This year's paid attendance was 74,320... nearly 4,000 more than the crowd that turned out to see Willie four nights ago.
At 74 years young, Ramon's voice and finger dexterity were as lively as ever, and wasted no time in providing his most popular hit "Tragos Amargos" to his devoted fanbase. Hearing more than 70 thousand people sing that song in unison made Ayala smile from ear to ear as he looked up from the stage, marveling in the enormity of the stadium full of his fans.
He rounded out the first act of his set list with "Puño De Tierra," "Baraja De Oro" and "Finca De Adobe."
Ayala's family was also included in this evening's entertainment, as he invited two of his grandchildren to perform with him onstage. His grandson Christopher Ayala played accordion alongside his grandfather on "Piquito De Oro" and "El Corrido de Gerardo Gonzales." Later, his granddaughter Linda Ayala joined her grandpa to sing a lovely interpretation of the classic love ballad "Mi Tesoro."
I've been attending Go Tejano Day with my family almost every year since the 1990s, and was lucky enough to see Selena perform at the Astrodome during those years. Earlier in the day, she was inducted into the HLSR Star Trail of Fame. Located on the second floor of the NRG Center, this monument row pays tribute to stars that have made an impact on the HLSR and the community. Video highlights of the ceremony were shown prior to the beginning of the headliner's set.
The finals of the annual Mariachi Invitational presented by the Go Tejano Committee also took place just prior to Ramon's performance. On Saturday night and earlier Sunday afternoon, a total of five mariachi bands from all around the State of Texas entered in competition, with the top two finalists invited to perform in front of the full NRG Stadium on Sunday evening.
The winning group was revealed to be Mariachi Diamante de Rio Grande City, Texas. They opened with the smooth "Porque Me Haces Llorar" by the late Juan Gabriel, and ended with flair by performing "La Chona" by Los Tucanes de Tijuana. It was that last song that won over the crowd, enlisting a large applause that secured their first place victory.
The night ended with more hits including "La Rama Del Mesquite" and "Que Me Entierren Cantando," as well as a tribute to his Relampagos Del Norte partner Cornelio Reyna.
Both the crowd and myself were a bit confused by the abrupt ending to the show. Ayala began his set just before 6 p.m. and ended right at 7 p.m. It certainly seemed that other acts were provided with more time, especially in previous years when Go Tejano Day featured two groups per night, each performing full sets.
Ayala's printed set list included 18 tracks, including a round of songs that were noted as "with Mariachi." By my count, Ramon only performed 13 songs. I can only speculate that changes were made at the last minute due to time constraints.
Nevertheless, it was a wonderful performance which received praise from the crowd, and continued the Go Tejano Day tradition for myself, my family, and the Tejano community.
"Te vas, angel mio, ya vas a partir!
Dejando mi alma herida, y un corazon a sufrir!"
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