Piñata Protest’s El Valiente began in epic fashion: an ominous futuristic synthesizer underscored a deep, mysterious voice broadcasting, Presentando los mas chingones en la música norteño punk tocando la musica que tu abuela no quiere que oigas.
Translating roughly to “Presenting the coolest in norteño punk music, playing the music your grandmother doesn’t want you to hear,” the opening served as a warning: you’re about to listen to some badasses from San Antonio play their own blend of norteño music melded with punk. It’s a sound the group’s lead singer and accordion player, Alvaro Del Norte, envisioned when the band first came together — taking the traditional music enjoyed by grandfathers and injecting it with the punk movement also deeply rooted in the River City.
El Valiente’s era- and genre-bending went so far as to cover the 1976 Fernando Maldonado ranchera “Volver, Volver.” The band appropriately rocked on out to the plaintive waltz, ultimately building it into a double-timed, mosh-inducing frenzy. The album contained one other cover, the traditional folk corrido “La Cucaracha,” in which the band took some poetic license with the meaning of “roach.” As with “Volver,” “La Cucaracha” was shot full of electricity, adrenaline and a dash of mescaline for good measure.
The six original songs on the album helped define Piñata Protest for years to come. The group’s first two records (2010’s Plethora and 2012’s Plethora Reloaded) spread the band’s sound regionally and helped garner opening slots on tours with Reverend Horton Heat and Girl in a Coma. But El Valiente took the band nationwide. NPR heaped praise upon the album, and the New York Times threw Piñata Protest some major props during 2013’s SXSW.
Blending Latino culture with punk rock wasn’t unprecedented, so the fact that Piñata Protest fused an accordion and snatches of traditional Mexican-American music with punk wasn’t exactly groundbreaking. The fact they did it better than anyone else, however, made them worthy of attention.
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