One of the topics most often discussed in conjunto music is the future of the genre. That topic is almost an obsession with us, similar to how MMA or boxing fans constantly ask themselves if something is "good or bad" for the sport.
When it comes to local exposure, people like Pepe Maldonado (La Lomita Park), Roy Rodriguez (Hub City Conjunto & Tejano Museum), and Lupe Saenz (South Texas Conjunto Association) have done their part in keeping the spotlight on conjunto music. Older musicians are still the big draws but the genre is going to need new blood to fill those dancing halls.
One young group that has developed a strong following is Lazaro Perez y su conjunto (also referred to as LPYSC). Led by accordionist Lazaro Perez III, the conjunto includes Ramiro Adame (bass), Jerry Flores (bajo-sexto), Rey Longoria (drums) and Josh Avila. Perez informs me that while LPYSC have been around since his senior year at Bishop High School (2007), this current incarnation has only been around for a year-in-a-half.
At this point, the 23-year-old Perez has already performed at the major annual festivals like the Tejano Conjunto Festival and the Narciso Martinez Conjunto Festival. He's also proven to be quite prolific when it comes to recording albums, having released five albums and a sixth one on the way in May.
Perez's big breakthrough came from a single on his "Capitulo III" (2010) album. The song composed was Mayo Davila, a close friend of his family.
"'Mi Obsesion', that was actually our first hit that opened the door for us in Monterrey," said Lazaro Perez. "That song opened up a lot of doors for us. We got to go play in Monterrey for the first time back in 2010, It's just amazing that that one song did it all."
I ask Lazaro, "How would you describe your style and what makes you different?"
"I would describe it probably as progressive conjunto," Perez said. "We still play some of our old roots but I think our music has evolved into a more romantic swing of conjunto."
Perez would go on to be very complimentary of his peers. He says that he's not the only one bringing something new and fresh to conjunto bailes.
"(Salomon Ramos) from Retoño is an awesome accordion player," Perez said. "Juanito Castillo is another one that is a young guy that is a tremendous accordionist."
Perez will be returning to the Valley's mecca of conjunto bailes this Sunday night— La Lomita Park.
"La Lomita is an awesome place to be at," proclaimed Perez about the intimate venue in McAllen. "Just the atmosphere of the crowd , the fans that are always dancing and singing away. It feels great."
That venue has become one of the few places where you can still find pure conjunto music at. A significant percentage of that audience is older but Perez has had success at attracting a younger demographic
"We've modernized our music and made it hit the ears of the younger fans," Perez said.
I'm a bit optimistic about the future of conjunto music. I feel that Lazaro Perez, Juanito Castillo, Susan Torres, AJ Castillo, Piñata Protest and Dwayne Verheyden are just a few of the many acts out there that can be headlining future editions of major conjunto festivals. A brief way to describe those aforementioned acts— Bishop's progressive/romantic accordionist, the "Psycho Trip" protege of Esteban Jordan, a charming Latina that can play the bass-side of an accordion, a slick marketable star, a conjunto/punk hybrid and the Dutch re-incarnation of Flaco Jimenez! We also have Juan Longoria Jr. teaching conjunto at Los Fresnos High School, following what the great, late Benny Layton did at Edcouch-Elsa. Even if it remains a niche genre and it goes through various experimental forms, I don't ever see the tradition dying out.
LPYSC and Los Leones De Laredo are scheduled to perform at La Lomita Park in McAllen on Sunday night. Event starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Entrance fee is $10.00. For more information, please call Pepe Maldonado at 956-867-8783.