Álvaro Del Norte is as charismatic a frontman as you can expect from a band that plays “Tejano Punk y Roll.” But at the Piñata Protest acoustic show at G.I.G. on the Strip on Feb. 19, the accordionist/vocalist was quaking in his charro boots.
“This is our first acoustic gig; it may be our last,” he told the Current. Why? “Uh … to keep it special?”
The dude was nervous, as was the whole band, and not just because they were dialing down their raucous Saytown drinking music.
“`This is` our first sober show!” drummer J.J. Martínez told the packed house, to some nerve-settling laughter.
Piñata Protest struggled. When they’re plugged in, the electric guitar of Matt Cazares often drowns out Del Norte’s accordion. The inverse was true here. Del Norte revealed himself to be a fleet-fingered motherfucker on his instrument, but Cazares didn’t just get buried in the mix; he seemed out of his element trying to elucidate compelling sounds without the aid of boost. Martínez, like Del Norte, was suddenly free to be a showman in the subdued environment. He infused some swing hi-hat into “No que sí” and turned “Campesino” into a swooping dance number. Only bassist Marcus Cazares seemed to have unchanged duties and he grooved right along.
For all of the difficulties — the bandmembers exchanged many glances of unease, playing surprisingly polite and completely goofing the opening of a reggaefied version of “Suckcess” — Piñata played rough, but not bad. The new setup allowed them to try some dynamic nuance, as opposed to playing everything at 11. On their rendition of “Volver,” Del Norte stared at the ceiling, over-concentrating on the opening notes, before losing himself in the first verse. When he held a long-note solo, the band tripped up re-joining him, but everyone just laughed it off.
Del Norte battled lineup changes leading up to the band’s debut album last year; this was just one more career obstacle that he would slog through. Thought it probably wasn’t their best gig, it may have been one of their most important.
Before they closed with “Cold Fries,” Martínez asked the crowd, “Hey, would you guys ever want us to play another acoustic show?”
The cheers signified an unequivocal “Yes.”
Del Norte turned around to look at Martínez with a shit-eating grin. “I told you, güey,” he said.
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