2nd Place: Bobby Garcia (Grupo Texas Heat) | 3rd Place: Flaco Jiménez
Even within the vaulted San Antonio tradition of Flaco Jiménez and Esteban "Steve" Jordan, it's doubtful any accordionist has wielded the instrument with as much electric fury as Piñata Protest frontman Alvaro del Norte. Like most kids, del Norte rejected his parent's music as a teenager, finding a voice in Black Flag, the Germs and The Clash. Unlike most kids, del Norte found his way back to his parent's old conjunto and tejano records and hit on a method to fuse the two styles together in a bracing new approach. Though he lacks the flash of the squeezebox like the legends of yore, del Norte stakes his greatness on something more primal.
His furious fills give an added Norteño edge to Piñata Protest's aggro-punk sound, pushing the band's live sets to the verge of chaos one two-minute anthem at a time. Looking the part of a tejano band leader, if not for the Germs and Black Flag patches sewn into his button-down vest, del Norte exudes a menacing intensity onstage, best punctuated when he starts tossing around his instrument like Townshend with his Stratocaster (He's been known to smash it in classic Who fashion as well.) Alvaro may be far off the classic squeeze-box-man image. Either in spite of or because it, he's this year's best.