David Lee Garza and Sunny Ozuna at Festival Chicano, 10/3/2013
The 34th Annual Festival Chicano kicked off Thursday night, smack dab in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month (which is actually stretched over two months; you know how we do it). Icons of Tejano, conjunto and mariachi music will take Miller Outdoor Theatre's stage the next couple of nights to the delight of throngs of la raza.
Photo by Catherine Darshad Sunny Ozuna
Opening night started strong with Shelly Lares, Sunny Ozuna & the Sunliner Band and David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, and Houston fans of these acts didn't disappoint. They gobbled up the free tickets for covered seating (up to four per person and available on show day, as always) and crowded the hill with lawn chairs, blankets and coolers. By the time I arrived, I was parking nearly at the Houston Zoo's front gates.
Because I thought the show started at 7 p.m. CST (Chicano Stroll Time), I arrived late and missed Lares' entire performance. I did speak with several "Shellians," avid fans of the San Antonian with the powerhouse voice, and learned she was excellent.
I was especially excited to see Sunny Ozuna take the stage and did manage to take in a good chunk of his set. He was in fine form, dressed to kill and sounding as strong and soulful as ever. To see him at all was a comfort to his fans -- some who have listened to his music since the late 1950s when his band, the Sunliners, were the Sunglows -- because late last year he suffered a mild heart attack.
Sunny is held in high regard in our household. The rumor is he performed at my parents' wedding way back in the day, at Galveston's old Moody Center (not the new, fancypants spread with the pyramids). By that time, he's already scored a major crossover hit, his biggest, 1963's "Talk to Me." I remember plenty of Tear Drop Label 45s in our record collection, as well as the Smile Now, Cry Later album. Its cover features the same comedy and tragedy masks that once adorned the Miller Outdoor Theatre façade.
Review continues on the next page.