Go Tejano Day 2015 Is Another Rodeo Record-Breaker

photos by Marco Torres
La Arrolladora Banda El Limón @ RodeoHouston, March 15th 2015.
Go Tejano Day
Feat. La Maquinaria Norteña, La Arrolladora Banda El Limón
NRG Stadium
March 15th, 2015

Go Tejano Day at RodeoHouston will always hold a special place in my heart. Growing up, my mom would always save just enough money to buy us tickets to the rodeo every year for this day. I was present at those famous performances by Selena in the early '90 and have seen the shift happen from Tejano to Norteño to Banda, and have had countless discussions about the life and death of Tejano music.

The important thing to realize is that Go Tejano Day is not specific to Tejano music; the real purpose is the celebration of vaqueros and the Texan way of life for those of Mexican-American descent. As long as we can all come together and celebrate as a family and a culture, the music itself should remain secondary.

Which is why I make it a point to keep an open mind and support Go Tejano Day. And every year, the rewards I see and feel from attending is far greater than the regret of not hearing Tejano music at RodeoHouston.

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Rodeo Goes Worldwide With Pitbull in Charge

photos by Marco Torres
Rapper/pop star Pitbull knows how to get a crowd to make some noise.
NRG Stadium
March 13, 2015

"All my white people make some noise!" -- scattered applause)
"All my black folks make some noise!" -- somewhat louder)
"LA-TI-NOS!!!" -- earth-shaking eruption of cheers that could surely be heard all the way to Miami)

If there's one thing Pitbull knows, it is how to warm up a crowd. With his sly grin and gyrating hips, the Latino megastar has come a long way from the rough and raunchy rapper from Miami that he used to be. Now, with his long list of chart-toppers, endorsements and features, he has truly evolved to become Mr. Worldwide.

Just like every Latino kid, the story of an underdog with a dream is deep at the heart of his development. Sure, the poetry of José Martí may have played a part, as well as the music of fellow Cubanos Celia Cruz and Willie Chirino, but his mentor of choice will always be a certain (fictional) character named Antonio Raimundo "Tony" Montana.

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Santa Muerte Puts Houston Flavor Into Latino EDM

Photo by Marco Torres
DJ Panchitron of Santa Muerte
In the short time that DJs Panchitron (Pancho Briones) and Sines (Leroy Bella) have joined forces as the duo called Santa Muerte (stylized as SVNTV MVERTE), their music has already been heard across the country at popular dance parties in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Portland, as well as here in Houston.

With a dark and wild mix of Reggaeton, UK Grime, hip-hop beats, and Dirty South rap, the group is at the forefront of the new sound of Latino-based electronic dance music. Rocks Off spoke to them in anticipation of their guest appearance at Bombón Houston this Saturday night at Fox Hollow.

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Renowned Mariachi Gabriel Solis Croons at Numbers Tonight

Don't look now, but local singer and promoter Eddie de las Casas has pulled off a major coup in bringing internationally famous Mexican mariachi singer Gabriel Solis to town tonight.

Usually an artist of Solis's fame and drawing power would probably play one of the larger Latino clubs in town like Escapade, but De las Casas has Solis as the headliner on his "Mariachi Cabaret" series at Numbers, the historic club on lower Westheimer long known for its rock shows.

"For so long, Hispanics just didn't come to Westheimer or to Montrose," he explains. "Now they are coming, and this is one of the things I'm proud of about the Mariachi Cabaret."

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Republic of Texas Rappers Vow "Come and Take It"

Photos by Marco Torres
The lights shone brightly for Doeman and the rest of the Republic of Texas Tour's roster Sunday at Fitzgerald's.
Republic of Texas Tour
Feat. GT Garza, Doeman, Dustin Cavazos & Dro FÉ
February 8, 2015

There was a moment last night where I felt a cold rush through my spine, a feeling of equal parts amazement and fear. Onstage stood Doeman, a young Mexicano from Southeast Houston with a boxer's swagger and a vicious vocal arsenal. He was in the middle of performing "How Can I Lose" with Propain, and both the crowd onstage and offstage were jumping and rapping and pretty much causing an earthquake, when I swear I felt the ground below me buckle.

We all survived the show and will live to tell the tale of one of the craziest nights in Fitzgerald's history, which featured four young Latino artists on the rise. From moody to merciless, studio to street, the Republic of Texas Tour told the realities of life through the lyrics of Doeman, Dro Fe, Dustin Cavazos and GT Garza. Choosing beats and stories as their weapon, they provided a powerful assault.

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¡Viva Monterrey! Exploring Mexico's Pa'l Norte Music Fest

The 2014 Pa'l Norte Music Festival took place in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico over Halloween weekend, with headliners such as Los Tigres Del Norte, Snoop Dogg, Juanes, Foster the People, Molotov and more. Rocks Off's Marco Torres was on hand to capture the highlights.

Photos by Marco Torres
¡Vamos Pa'l Norte!

Natasha and Omar of Vinil Magazine take a selfie with me in the Pa'l Norte media area.

One of the joys of working as a music journalist is befriending people from all over the globe while working music festivals. A few years ago, I met Omar "Mexico" Pasillas (above, center) in Austin during PachangaFest. He is the editor of Vinil Magazine and host of VinilTV, a public access television show in Monterrey.

During ACL 2014, he suggested that I visit his hometown to cover the Pa'l Norte Music Festival, which in its third year of existence is quickly becoming one of the best music festivals in Latin America. Their success can be attributed to the Apodaca Music Group, a booking and management firm whose more than 30 years of history in the Mexican and international music scene serves as a firm base for the festival.

So I packed my camera bag and traveled south for the weekend. This is what I saw:

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Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias at Toyota Center, 10/19/2014

Photos by Marco Torres
Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias
Toyota Center
October 19, 2014

At the beginning of his set last night at Toyota Center, Pitbull retold his life story on the immense video wall that towered over the stage. The words on the screen talked about his mother and her revolutionary tendencies, his crunk and reggaeton start in the music biz, and his current standing as "a walking television network." In short, he bills his life as the embodiment of the American Dream, one that he makes sure to celebrate at every opportunity.

With the combination of dazzling lights, exotic dancers and a wide smile, Pitbull hit the stage already cranked all the way up to the roof. With his black suit and oversized shades, he charmed the bra and panties off the ladies in the crowd, shouting "dalé" and gyrating his hips up and down and all over the somewhat phallic-shaped stage.

"Houston has always showed me love and support throughout my entire career" he thanked the crowd. "Or as y'all say around here...Awwwready!"

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Santana at Bayou Music Center, 10/1/2014

photos by Marco Torres
¡Con el corazon, se hace todos los milagros! (With heart, one can make miracles)
-- Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana
"Corazón" tour
Bayou Music Center
October 1, 2014

As I was watching the documentary B.B. King: The Life of Riley last week, I saw a familiar face on screen. It was rock legend and guitar hero Carlos Santana, speaking about the attributes that fueled B.B. King's music.

"You need to be sincere, honest, true, for real, and genuine. If you've got those five things, then you can play the blues" he declared. Those characteristics are definitely true about Mr. King, but they can certainly also be said about Mr. Santana.

The imprint that Santana has left on American music is undeniable. This man was part of the psychedelic-rock era in 1960s San Francisco, famously played at Woodstock, is the winner of ten Grammy awards, and was a 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree. He is without a doubt one of music's most recognizable and respected talents.

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Marc Anthony at Toyota Center, 9/27/2014

photos by Marco Torres
Marc Anthony
Cambio De Piel Tour
Toyota Center
September 27, 2014

Triumphant. That was the adjective that came to mind while roaming the photo pit Saturday night, trying my best to keep up with international Latin-pop/salsa superstar Marc Anthony as he danced, sang and smiled in front of his adoring fans at the Toyota Center. To triumph is to achieve a great victory, to be successful, to win, and if anyone has done just that in the entertainment business, it is this man.

His career has spanned more than 25 years. And on Saturday night, he offered songs from each of those years, from early salsa hits "Y Hubo Alguien" and "Hasta Ayer" to tracks from his latest release, 3.0, like "Vivir Mi Vida" and "Cambio De Piel," from which this tour takes its name. Living life as a new man, yet keeping the passion and emotion that he delivers so beautifully onstage, is what his fans have come to adore.

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Pachanga Tour w/ Los Rakas & Bomba Estereo at Warehouse Live, 9/12/2014

Photos by Marco Torres
Pachanga Tour
Feat. Bomba Estéreo, Los Rakas, Bombón Houston
Warehouse Live
September 12, 2014

"Maaannn.... We've got a million stories!" proclaimed Raka Rich as we chilled in the Los Rakas green room at Warehouse Live last Friday night. Stories about meeting fellow Panameño musician El General at the "white people gym" back in Panama, how Scarface and Devin the Dude are their favorite Houston-based rappers, and how a bird mysteriously fell from the sky during the video shoot for their just released remix of Wiz Khalifa's "We Dem Boyz."

Within the last few years, Rich and his cousin Raka Dun have elevated themselves to the top of the Latin charts with their energetic and light-hearted mix of hip-hop, reggaeton and other Latino-Caribbean sounds. Their name is derived from the Panamanian slang "Rakataka," which means "hood rat" or "ghetto." By reclaiming the term and wearing it proudly, they provide hope to everyone who hears their hip-shaking and motivational tracks.

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