Mariachi Mania is alive and well, and a pair of sold-out performances by Mariachi Garibaldi reminded enthusiastic audiences why Southwestern College’s globe-trotting band is considered the world’s best collegiate mariachi.
“Mariachi and Friends” fit director Dr. Jeff Nevin’s hermanos y hermanas philosophy that all of the region’s mariachi are family that need support and encouragement — not to mention great role models.
Nevin and Co. honored the late Juan “El Divo de Juarez” Gabriel, the great Mexican singer/songwriter. “Amor Eterno,” a Gabriel classic, received a blazing performance, as did the passionate “Te Vas a Quedar Con Las Ganas.”
When Mariachi Garibaldi visits other countries to perform, Nevin said, audiences often associate mariachi with classics like “Cucurrucucú Paloma,” written by influential Mexican singer-songwriter Thomas Mendez, a piece the SWC crew owns. Throughout the night the lively audience reminisced with familiar classics and sang along to favorites such as “Cielito Lindo,” “Son de la Negra” and “El Mariachi Loco.” It was the borderlands version of joining in with Paul McCartney to sing “Hey Jude.”
A great mariachi, like any terrific band, does not rest on past achievements. Musicians in Mariachi Garibaldi and Nevin’s training groups learn a new set of songs each semester. Mariachi Garibaldi had four weeks to prepare for this show and it was its first time performing many songs in front of an audience.
Los mariachis rose to the occasion. Rather than play it safe, they performed the challenging “Las Bodas de Luis Alonso” at an appropriately blistering tempo, leaving the crowd wide-eyed in awe.
Mariachi Garibaldi ended the evening Popurrí style with “Huapangos,” as eight members sang short, impactful solos like the American folk singers of yore who passed the mic around like a bottle of whisky on the trail. Nevin, like a jazz bandleader, would throw a spontaneous solo at unsuspecting but always-ready singers and instrumentalists. Duke Ellington would have smiled.
Montgomery High Schools’ Mariachi Azteca was an opening act and gave its first performance of the year. The youthful group has much to learn, but charismatic Mariachi Azteca director Guadalupe Gonzalez seems to have his mariachistas moving in the right direction. Several of the high schoolers expressed their hope of playing someday for Mariachi Garibaldi. Understandable.
Nevin announced that Mariachi Garibaldi was recently invited to perform in Belgium next year and the SWC crew travels well. Trumpet cases and guitar gig bags are already festooned with stickers from Russia, China, France, Mexico and all parts of the U.S.A.
Mariachi Garibaldi retains its place as Southwestern College’s best-known global brand and is a defiant multicultural comeback to the alt-right nonsense ushered to the national stage by the Trumpistas. For at least one marvelous evening, trumpets trumped Trump.