Las bandas among us

Local Mexican music is too popular for Chico to ignore anymore

La Original Banda La Jalisciense squeezes all 14 members onto the Lost on Main stage during the 2011 CAMMIES.

La Original Banda La Jalisciense squeezes all 14 members onto the Lost on Main stage during the 2011 CAMMIES.

Photo By Jason Cassidy

“My mom came here to make soft-drink commercials in Spanish on radio and TV,” said longtime local music promoter Will Redcorn, explaining what brought his mother from Mexico to California in the 1950s, and where his musical roots come from. “My mom liked to sing ranchera music.”

Redcorn was also explaining how it was he went from promoting local punk-rock and metal shows to teaming up with Lost on Main general manager Sue Reed as La Güera Productions in 2008 to bring traditional Mexican ranchera music to downtown Chico.

Lost on Main’s Ranchero Nights have featured such popular Mexican-regional bands as Stockton’s Illusión Norteña and Hamilton City crew Banda La Patrona. The Friday-night events were a huge hit, drawing in a packed, multicultural house dancing la quebradita or el pasito durangüense to the bandas’ passionate, horn-laden resplendence.

In late April, after a long hiatus, Mexican music returned to Lost when Banda La Patrona rocked the CN&R’s CAMMIES world-music showcase at Lost on Main under its new name, La Original Banda La Jalisciense (11 members of the 14-piece band are from the Mexican state of Jalisco). That wasn’t long before they flew to Los Angeles to compete in the semi-finals of Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento, Estrella TV’s Spanish-language version of America’s Got Talent. The band came in third, said trombonist Victor Lozano last week, hours after getting off a red-eye from L.A.

Traditional Mexican music draws huge audiences of local Hispanic residents to concerts held at such places as the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds and area casinos. Although, acknowledged Redcorn, Chico’s non-Hispanic community is largely not in attendance and largely unaware of these huge events happening right here in Butte County.

Redcorn himself didn’t follow traditional music until later in life.

“I grew up listening to that music, but I didn’t like it,” said the 38-year-old.

“If you liked that stuff, you were [suspected of being] illegal. We made fun of it all,” Redcorn said, referring to himself and his four older siblings.

As a child of a Hispanic mother and a Native American father growing up in L.A. in the 1970s and ’80s, Redcorn was acutely aware of the need to distance himself from anything that might invite racial discrimination.

Redcorn’s change of heart came when, as a farmworker advocate, he volunteered to help with a local Día del Campesino (“Day of the Farmworker”) celebration in 1995, sponsored by the Hispanic Resource Council of Northern California, which featured a mariachi band and Aztec dancers.

“In getting involved with this event, I found my Mexican heart,” said Redcorn, “which I had all along, but it had been tarnished by racism.

“I heard the music and I said, ‘I can’t believe I dissed this for so long.’ … In the Indian world, they say your blood will always call you back. This music was speaking to my heart.”

After staying involved with the annual event for several years, Redcorn went on to organize his own show, a Cinco de Mayo family event in Children’s Park in 2003 featuring four traditional bandas, including Cañada Musical (“one of the local success stories”) and Mariachi Juvenil.

“It was a huge success—3,000 people,” Redcorn said. “Lots of non-Hispanics, which was the best thing that could have happened. … The Chico community embraced it.”

It was the first time, said Redcorn, that a traditional Mexican-music concert was held in downtown Chico.

“I noticed that white people and non-Hispanic people liked Mexican music,” he said. The next step, after two more successful Cinco de Mayo concerts, was to bring the music into a downtown nightclub on a regular basis.

“My interest is in promoting Mexican music, bringing it downtown, adding culture to the scene,” said Redcorn. While Lost on Main has gone back to its regular Friday-night dance music for now, they want to put on more traditional-Mexican music shows and continue to expose more of the community to the fun, active scene that’s happening right under its nose.

“La Banda La Jalisciense has become our house band,” Redcorn said. “You’ll see Banda La Jalisciense playing at Lost in the future. To me, they are the best local band.”