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Pinata Protest: Suckcess, San Antonio Style


George Garza • Oct 10, 2009

As a second year media justice advocate, my qualm with commercial radio stirs within me a certain bias when it comes to identifying their underlying scheme in hosting public events. It’s easy to question whose interests are being served when business is involved.

My latest unsettling feeling came by way of the all too familiar ‘Battle of the Bands’ predicament. In San Antonio, the phrase alone incites uproarious hissing when mentioned to any musician no longer in high school.

The typical rundown of these GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES (promising anything from studio time to cold hard cash) is that promoters lure unassuming hopefuls into a competition in which the best band takes top prize. Usually the profiteers leave out the bit about how the contest is determined instead by the amount of revenue a band generates by way of ridiculously overpriced pre-sale tickets.

In a town where musicians are typically of the working middle and lower class, seeing a band that maybe doesn’t really need the help take the crown, is a harsh reminder to struggling artists that:

A) Success is predetermined by factors like class, often a symptom of birth. &

B) The music industry and its trials have nothing to do with authenticity, originality, culture, passion, or even the number of individual supporters you have.

Rather, what really matters is how many of your supporters will keep the business running smoothly.

One band that I am sure will go unaffected by this scenario is Pinata Protest, who was involved in a three-month commercial radio promotion that promised $2,500 to the victor - a prize the band intended to put towards a tour vehicle.

The lure was incredibly appealing and upon investigating the rules and regulations, it seemed that this event was going to be an amazing opportunity that for once would not be judged based on underlying shady business ploys. The showcases were free for the public to attend and were being held at one of the city’s most prestigious outdoor venues, Sunset Station; a major tourist attraction that has not hosted local bands much in years of late. What’s more is that the apparent judging would be left up to the voting public. These votes were to be submitted via a text-messaging system.

The quartet (whose sound, in my opinion, is the most definitive representation of our city’s cultural depth and notably rebellious essence of communal brotherhood) has been establishing itself as one of the scene’s top draws for the last 4 years. I, myself, have on several occasions witnessed small riots whenever and wherever these rambunctious young men have taken their raucous live act, including an all too memorable night in Austin, TX for an event at the Mohawk sponsored by Myspace Latino. The boys pulled a caravan of San Antonio natives to the show and represented their barrio to the fullest. Needless to say, lead vocalist/ accordionist Alvaro Salas and his gang are well known and in demand in these parts, partaking in multiple festivals throughout the region.

My point here is that these gents have an expansive following of loyal familia who promote their name with the type of enthusiastic conviction evangelicals strive for. Also, it must be noted that they are well on top of their social network game. Pinata Protest has been diligent in their efforts to make the most of social media outlets such as Twitter, and still send out mass text blasts for every gig.

This, to us dreamers, all but guaranteed that nuestro gente was going to take the whole enchilada. I am not embellishing when I say that to a certain sect of our music community, both player and fan alike, Pinata Protest carried on their shoulders the hope that this time we would win one for the raza.

What bigger triumph could there be than having a band of four young chicanos so obviously outside the mainstream American radio standard prevail as kings in a challenge setup by commercial media?

But of course, at least in this town, and I can promise that only for a short while more, our media outlets seem to be stuck in the nineties, and therefore, whether or not the vote tally was accurate, a band like Pinata Protest could not win.

The band that did win… I won’t mention their name because they don’t need my publicity. I will only say that their sound and image fit perfectly into the small box our radio stations live inside of.  That, and I had never heard of them or seen their name anywhere in our city prior to this contest.

In any case, and as I said before, our heroes will not falter. If anything, between all that transpired on both ends, from the fans to the suits, this city just made Pinata Protest that much more punk, and as sure as the sticky floor left in their wake is coated in a mixture of sweat, cerveza, sangre, y vavas, these hombres are going to get that van and be on your doorstep very soon.

AND they’re going to do it the old fashioned way.

D.I.Y. o muerte!

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