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My Main Squeeze-#1-Introductions!

Welcome to My Main Squeeze, a new blog by Alamo Music instructor and local musician, Nicolás Valdez. Dedicated to all things accordion, this blog will provide information on instrument tuning and maintenance, product reviews, make and model comparisons, and articles featuring artist profiles and interviews with an emphasis on the regional sounds of South Texas and the greater Gulf Coast. Known worldwide for its rich cultural legacy, The Third Coast has been home to some of the most significant and enduring contributions to the pantheon of American Music. From Blues and R&B, Conjunto and Zydeco, Swamp Pop to Country Outlaw, the accordion has made its rounds and become a staple instrument in a developing musical landscape that is uniquely our own.

On this inauguratory edition of My Main Squeeze, we begin in the Conjunto Music capital of the world, San Antonio. It is early April and the recent rains have left the city a leafy green. With Fiesta in full force, folks are geared up for the biggest party of the year. A multitude of events are in the works, and unless you are superhuman, it’ll be hard to catch them all. This past weekend featured three accordion driven bands at the aptly named Taco Fest. The line-up included the homegrown post-punk vatos of Piñata Protest, Grammy Award winning La Santa Cecilia, and the 2015 National Medal of Arts winner, Santiago Jimenez Jr. There will also be, you guessed it, plenty of tasty tacos to try.

Having recently returned from the Grammy Awards, I ran into one of the founding members of La Santa Cecilia last november at the downtown LA hotspot, Las Perlas. Oso is Santa’s arranger and percussionist and is as endearing as his name suggests. Although they were not able to secure a second win that year, their nomination proves their hard work over that past several years is paying off. We’d had a chance to reconnect at a show at the Kessler Theater in Dallas earlier that same year when Los Nahuatlatos were invited to open for them. He was happily engaging folks at the bar when we spotted each other from across the crowded room. After a brief hug and congratulations, he said that he was taking a needed break from the studio where he and Pepe, Santa’s amazing accordionist and composer (and a fan of the Hohner Anacleto collection), had spent the day working on new material. We had both ventured into Las Perlas to catch local act La Victoria, lead by our mutual friend and fellow musician, Vaneza Calderón. The three all-female mariachi had the crowd in high spirits and during the course of our conversation several people came to hand Oso a congratulatory drink enjoying the success of their local champions. With humble origins as busking musicians on Olivares Street, La Santa has risen to be one of the premier contemporary Latin Fusion band in the nation as they usher-in a new generation of young Latino musicians into the popular mainstream. They hold the torch high and have bolstered the way for artists like myself and countless others who’ve struggled to gain a foothold in the music business.

Artists like Santiago Jimenez Jr., who after decades of recording, gigging and touring, living in the shadow of his older brother Flaco, was finally given the recognition he deserves for continuing the legacy of their father, Santiago Sr., with his 2015 National Medal of Arts award. A Conjunto music pioneer and legend, their father influenced a whole regional sound with his little two-row button accordion, recording Conjunto standards like Viva Seguin, La Piedrera and Atotonilco. Flaco and Santiago are two of the more lauded artists from the generation that followed. Most of the legendary contributors to Conjunto music, however, found themselves both broke and exhausted by the end of their careers. It’s rare, even now, to see the kind of success bestowed upon Flaco, with three Grammys under his belt and appearances with Bob Dylan, Los Lobos, The Rolling Stones, Ry Cooder, not to mention co-founding the much adored Texas Tornadoes. Bands like Piñata Protest should be thankful. Their off-the-wall antics and bludgeoning accordion-driven, Tex-Mex punk rock has captured the imagination of crowds all across the country, and more-notably, the attention of “the business.” Frontman Alvaro Del Norte (who favors his black Hohner Panther) has even managed to secure a coveted Hohner sponsorship, having destroyed one in an infamous moment at the end of a set on the river stage of the Pearl Amphitheater. Cheers to you homeboy! 

Be sure to catch the next installment of My Main Squeeze where we’ll focus on a side by side comparison of three intermediate to beginner Hohner accordion models, the RayoPanther, and Compadre series. The accompanying video, available in English and Spanish, is already up on YouTube. Subscribe to the Alamo Music YouTube channel, check us out on Facebook, and check the store website for the latest deals on all your music needs. Hasta la próxima y adelante siempre!

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