--Texas Folklife's 7th Annual Big Squeeze Semi-Finals took place this past Saturday afternoon, April 20, at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. Of the four Valley natives that competed, only one walked away as a finalist. 18-year-old Juan Antonio "Tony" Garcia from Mission performed "Picame Tarantula" (Huapango) and "Ciudad Victoria" (Polka) to advance to the finals. The young talented accordionist tells me that he's the first member of his family to pick up a musical instrument. The other three finalists that advanced were Luis Gonzalez (Grand Prairie), Yesenia Garcia (Houston), and Michael Ramos (Dallas). The next big step for these four finalists will be the Accordion Kings & Queens 2013 finale in Houston on June 1. The grand prize winner will be crowned on that evening.
"It means the world to me, because it was a dream before and now it is reality," said Tony Garcia. "It is not so much the grand prize, it means that I am going to show off my talent to the people that really appreciate this type of music. It means that I am going to express myself to hundreds if not thousands of people."
--On April 1, The Horseman's Bar & Grill in Weslaco announced that they will be promoting the 1st annual RGV Conjuntofest. The festival is scheduled to take place on May 19, from 3:30 PM to 10:00 PM. Some of the bands performing on that event include Tejano Boys, Ruben Vela Jr, and Los Badd Boyz del Valle. On April 9, they announced that Los Dos Gilbertos - Valley legends in conjunto - would be the headliners. A week later, The Horseman's Bar & Grill retracted that statement, clarifying that Los Dos Gilbertos were no longer going to be there due to a scheduling conflict. On April 16, they announced that Boni Mauricio was the new headliner for the event. The promoters are hoping that this will be the first of many future conjunto festivals at The Horseman's Bar & Grill.
--Speaking about Los Dos Gilbertos, they are set to be one of the three headliners of San Antonio's Tejano Conjunto Festival on May 18. This legendary conjunto has been getting a lot more attention as of late. In February, the original Los Dos Gilbertos (Gilberto Garcia and Gilberto Lopez) were featured on KMBH's "Acordeones de Tejas" and were interviewed by Dr. Margaret Dorsey at the Border Studies Archive at the UTPA. To find out more about their interview and view their recent television appearance, please visit www.facebook.com/BorderStudies.
--South Texas Conjunto Association (STCA) is looking for nominations for their 15th Annual Conjunto of the Year awards ceremony. The ceremony honors the past year in conjunto music with awards such as best album, best accordionist, best vocalist and more. Last year, Los Badd Boyz Del Valle took the top award — Conjunto of the Year. Deadline for nomination ballots are on June 1. To make your nominations, please visit www.conjunto.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Last but not least, I wanted to talk about the passing of documentary filmmaker Les Blank on April 7. While Blank is most known for his pair of films with the enigmatic Werner Herzog, the bulk of his best work was about the beauty and wonder found in regional music. A cinematic poet, Blank would capture American life that you would never see anywhere else. "A Les Blank Film" was it's own genre. Documenting gap toothed women, the chicken farming industry and garlic in all its forms proved to us that Blank was as eccentric as he was affectionate. Watching his films, you could feel the fondness he had for salt of the Earth people. Whether in Eunice, LA or McAllen, TX, Blank was at home everywhere he went. Never pretentious, he blended in to whatever community and culture he found himself in. Chulas Fronteras - which features plenty of footage of the Rio Grande Valley - is a treasure in documentary filmmaking. If you're a fan of conjunto, norteño, blues, Tejano, jazz, polka, Cajun, zydeco and various other regional flavors, you owe it to yourself to visit Blank's work. To say his work was an influence on me would be an understatement. He will be missed.