Outside of ugly kings, cancer-causing foods, never-ending parades, and huge crowds, Fiesta San Antonio is all about music. But go ahead and try to find out, exactly, who plays where and when. It’s no easy task. After investigating each event, however, I’ve been able to excavate my top three musical picks for the revelry. There’s more good stuff to be had, and you’ll likely find your own magic moment in which to kick off the chanclas and dance in the pools of spilled beer. But, let’s face it. Fiesta San Antonio suffers from the same ailment as Miami’s Calle Ocho or Los Angeles’ Fiesta Broadway: a handful of top acts, and lots of average or below-average material. And when there is good music to be found (the several jazz events, for example), the information available is sketchy.
These following acts, however, we can vouch for.
2011 Fiesta Blues Heritage Series, presented by the San Antonio Blues Society
Legendary Cajun bluesman Tab Benoit headlines a dynamite bill that includes South Carolina’s Sol Driven Train (a reggae-influenced fusion band that rocks), and the straight-ahead blues of our own Granvil Poynter (a tasteful, subtle soloist), and Catherine Denise, inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame with a ceremony at Sam’s on April 3. Denise is a superb guitarist and a fierce, talented singer-songwriter who will be playing original songs from her Treat Me Like A Lady album (available at catherinedenise.com) and a few blues standards. I “discovered” her recently, and I’m completely hooked. And I repeat: Both she and Poynter are from San Antonio and deserve our open ears. The show is presented by the San Antonio Blues Society, which will also present an award of $1,000 and two awards of $500 in its annual Sam Baird Scholarship. This is an all-ages event. $10-$18, Noon Sun, April 17, Sunset Station, 1174 E Commerce, (888) 512-SHOW.
After performances at SXSW and New Braunfels’ Gruene Hall, the Texas Tornados finally come to San Antonio, an early tour stop they had to cancel while Augie Meyers awaited a kidney transplant. On the strength of their 2010 solid comeback album ¡Está bueno!, the surviving Tornados (Meyers and Flaco Jiménez) and Shawn Sahm (Doug’s son and producer of the album) are ssssmoking. The PACfest is a two-stage, all-day event and the lineup includes New Wave ’80s cover band the Spazmatics. Free until 4pm; $10 parking fee after 4pm for vehicles without Alamo Colleges parking permit. Texas Tornados show: 7:30pm at the Generations Federal Credit Union stage; event 11am-9pm Thu, April 14, Palo Alto College, 1400 W Villaret Blvd, thetexastornados.com
The easiest/dumbest way to describe Los Fabulocos is to say they’re the California Tornados — the kings of what they call “Cali-Mex” is a powerhouse of rock ’n’ roll, blues, and Mexican-American grooves. Their second album, Dos, came out in February, and if you didn’t see them in a 2010 San Antonio show at then-called Casbeers at the Church, this is your chance. Take special notice of Kid Ramos’ guitar work — this is a party band with balls. And remember: The Fiesta Arts Fair is a two-day event. Sunday’s line-up includes The Lavens, Buttercup, Will Taylor and Strings, George Gaytan, and Sergio & Christian. $5-$10 single day, $16 two-day pass, Fiesta Arts Fair, Southwest School Of Art, 300 Augusta, (210) 224-1848, fiestaartsfair.com. Los Fabulocos show: 2:30pm Sun, April 10; event 10am-6pm Sat, April 9, and 11am-5pm Sun, April 10.
Bonus pick: Ledaswan opening for UK Goth/indie legend Gene Loves Jezebel, as part of a bill that also includes Hearts Fail. Not an official Fiesta event, but if that’s not a fiesta, I don’t know what a fiesta is. $10, 10pm Wed, April 13, Backstage Live, 1305 E Houston, (210) 224-2747, backstagelivesa.com