Piñata Protest played precisely 79 times during the week of South By Southwest 2013. Those shows included their official SXSW showcase, a night at Ballet Austin (right???), a day show for Hole In the Wall's bar staff, and a hometown show Sunday night in front of a shitload of people in San Antonio's Market Square (see photo below).
And each night that week, they'd drive back to San Antonio because, although their star is rising, their success hasn't quite yet afforded them a life of all-night revelry in their customized tour bus or suite at the Four Seasons.
So on Friday the 15th of March, right around quittin' time, Piñata Protest took the circus-tent covered stage in the parking lot of Austin's longtime watering hole, The Dog and Duck Pub. The stage was large, the sound system killer, and the crowd was growing from its lean afternoon numbers into a respectable smattering of music fans and fellow musicians.
Right away, Piñata Protest killed it: "it" being Marcus Cazares' bass rig. So after a slight delay with some awkward banter, the show began. Again.
The beauty of Piñata Protest is their broad appeal. Make no mistake, they are a punk rock band. They play loud, aggressive punk rock. A couple songs even border screaming speed metal. But then there's the accordion. That damned accordion! Who doesn't smile at the fact that grandpa's (or abuelo's, in their case) favorite old instrument is staring at you front-and-center from a band who's simultaneously kicking your ass?
Singer Alvaro Del Norte's accordion buys the band a lot of leeway amongst potential new fans through the instrument's long history in Mexican folk music, not to mention its sheer kitsche factor. And when he slings the accordion aside, it's to pull out a mini-trumpet for a punked-up version of "La Cucaracha." What's not to love?
But it's not kitsche or gimmicks that fuels a Piñata Protest show. Del Norte, Cazares (both Marcus on bass and his brother Matt on guitar), and drummer JJ Martinez are passionate about their craft. They cover the traditional "Volver, Volver" and "La Cucaracha" out of deep respect of their cultural roots—roots that also feed off of San Antonio's rich hard rock and punk music history.
But before we get into a lame musicological analysis, remember this is rock 'n' f'n roll. Del Norte introduced "Volver, Volver" as "a real panty-dropper." And by mid-song, at a midday show no less, he was proved right. A pair of black panties sailed onto the stage and he wore them on his head for the last few choruses.
The week of SXSW 2013 saw Piñata Protest play the Austin Ballet and receive a nice write-up in the New York Times. The band has performed seamlessly alongside the Reverend Horton Heat's psychobilly, Brujeria's extreme dark metal, La Santa Cecilia's cumbias, and their hometown sisters-in-rock Girl In A Coma. At Dog and Duck today, they prepped the crowd for show headliners The Beaumonts, a traditional country band out of Lubbock, Texas. And despite obvious chasms of difference in genre, Piñata Protest pulled it off brilliantly. They are Texas and Mexico. Punk and Conjunto. Young and Old.
I'm going to bring my Dad to a Piñata Protest show in the near future. With his youth spent in New Braunfels, soaking in Tejano bands and Doug Sahm's blend of country and rock, Piñata Protest is clearly what he needs now. In his 70s, a shot of Piñata Protest should power him through the next 20-30 years. And with the band's youth and promising start to their career, they're poised to be around for just as long.