Piñata Protest, Rhythm Room, 8/14/12

Piñata Protest @ Rhythm Room | 8/14/12

See also: Los Tigres del Norte, Wild Horse Pass Casino, 8/3/12

Much as in the United States, Mexican music is very regional.

Our border brothers in the northern Mexican states for example, have a predisposition for accordion-filled norteños, while rural areas are known to indulge in the more traditional folk music of rancheras. If you're Mexican-American or Chicano, chances are you got a steady dose of both growing up. Isn't that right, you pinché pochos? (It's okay for me to say that; I'm one of them.)

With that being said, you might think it a little odd when you hear a band like Piñata Protest, a self-described accordion-powered punk rock band that plays . . . mojado rock?

When you think about the dichotomy of growing up Chicano, the fusion actually makes perfect sense. The San Antonio natives say that their music is not your abuelo's norteño, but it also ain't your pappy's punk rock, either. The quartet, made up of accordionist Alvaro del Norte, guitarist Matt Cazares, bassist Marcus Cazares, and drummer J.J. Martinez, combine driving guitar rhythms, bellowing accordion blasts, and a blistering punk pace, for a unique sound that's surprisingly palatable and pleasantly danceable.

As Nashville Pussy did on Monday night before hitting the road to open for ZZ Top, Piñata Protest headlined the Rhythm Room Tuesday night before going on tour with Reverend Horton Heat.

As the group took the stage, Del Norte invited eager punk rock and rockabilly-looking concertgoers to the front of the stage. "I want everybody to come on up," Del Norte says. "Everybody has been upgraded to front-row seats for this show." Then the room went quiet until a recorded public service-like introduction finally kicked in:

"Presentando, los mas chingones de la musica norteña punk, tocando la music que tu abuela no quiere que oigas, los mas chingones de San Antonio, Piñata Protest."

And with that they launched into "Vato Perron," "Campesino," "Jackeee," and "Scene Unseen." True to punk form, the songs lasted barely two minutes, and started with a 1-2-3-4 drumstick clack. Before jumping into "Maquilapolis," Del Norte announced that this was the third show the group had played in Phoenix. And the "fourth or fifth if you count Scottsdale." Regardless, it proved to be the best turnout yet.

The guys look like you what might expect a norteño punk outfit to look like, too. Del Norte was rocking a black cowboy hat and matching boots, a short-sleeved flannel, and patch and button-adorned vest. And of course a half-bleached hairdo. But he was more than just about looking the part. That much was clear when he explained the meaning behind "Life on the Border."

"It's about always feeling alienated in life, because you don't really belong to either side of the border," Del Norte says while squeezing out what sounded like a sad clown tune. "Borders are irrational. And maybe I wouldn't feel so alienated if borders didn't exist."

During songs he gyrated his hips and flicked his tongue out while holding up his rickety squeezebox like it was some kind of fancy guitar.

The crowd danced excitedly throughout most of the night, but got especially excited for a cover of "Volver, Volver," a classic made popular by ranchera king Vicente Fernandez. Beyond that, they also covered the Ramones, "Blitzkrieg Bop," replacing the chorus with, "Hey ho, vamonos."

It was a damn good show.

Set List: "Vato Perron" "Campesino" "Jackeee" "Scene Unseen" "Maquilapolis" "No Que Si" "Life on the Border" "Suckcess" "Que Pedo" "Tomorrow, Today" "El Valiente" "Volver, Volver" "Rocket" "Cucaracha" "Matador" "Guadalupe" "Love Taco" "Cold Fries" "Denied Rights" "Campesina"

Encore: "Blitzkrieg Bop" "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Piñata Protest at the Rhythm Room.

The Crowd: I'd say ... people that still use Tres Flores hair pomade.

Overheard in the crowd: Fuck Scottsdale!

Random Notebook Dump: It's strange to think about the accordion as a sex symbol.

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Anthony Sandoval
Contact: Anthony Sandoval