When the house lights go out on Friday night downstairs at White Oak Music Hall, you’ll hear a dramatic, sweeping introduction to Tejano music icon Selena’s “Como la Flor” as tribute band Siempre Selena takes the stage. It’s only a taste of the journey of hits they plan on delivering the crowd. While some audience members are dancing the night away and others are being flooded with emotions hearing their favorite songs, you might even feel the late singer’s presence in the room throughout the night.
“I know she’s watching. I know she likes it. I know she’s agreeing with the whole thing,” says frontwoman Monica Treviño in a phone interview leading up to Friday’s performance.
Treviño says she grew up listening to Tejano music like Elida and Shelly Lares, but she fell in love with Selena.
“She was just a little ahead of her time. She was just really bold and, you know, didn’t care and just was out there. It didn’t really pertain to Tejano. You know, she was trying to do the whole pop star image around Tejano music. It was just unique. Nobody else did that.”
Like Selena, Treviño grew up in a musical family and began performing in bands when she was 12. She even saw Selena perform live in concert at AstroWorld and twice at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Despite Selena’s omnipresent influence, Treviño and Siempre Selena are far from a carbon copy act.
She says that Siempre Selena began as an experiment conceptualized as a full band focused on a live set rather than a karaoke-leaning group that impersonates the singer’s dance moves.
“That was the whole point. I wasn’t trying to imitate her. I’m a huge fan and I just wanted to do the whole project justice.”
The experiment seems to be paying off. In April 2018, Siempre Selena performed at House of Blues Houston to coincide with the late singer’s birthday. Treviño says the band wasn’t scheduled to take the stage until 9:30 that night, but the show was sold out by 8 o’clock with a line of people outside the door still hoping to get inside the building.
“People really, really show out in Houston,” says Treviño, noting that San Antonio audiences come in at a close second.
Treviño says that audience favorites include “La Carcacha,” “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” “El Chico Del Apartamento 512,” and, of course, “Como La Flor.”
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“People just respond to those so well. Everybody knows those, so you really feed off of the energy.”
It seems as if Siempre Selena leaves no stone unturned from Selena’s celebrated discography; they incorporate ballads, English-language offerings, and even the Disco Medley from the singer’s famed final concert at the Houston Astrodome.
When asked about Friday night’s set list, Treviño adds: “We have to keep it classic too and remember where she came from, so we make sure and do all the Tejano songs, the Rancheras, the early stuff. Even if we do just little pieces of them, we do little pieces and put them together in a little medley.”
Siempre Selena storms through Downstairs at White Oak Music Hall Friday January 11 with support from Red Iris. Doors at 7:30 p.m. $12 in advance, $15 day of show. All ages.