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Cultures collide to make beautiful music at the RiverStage

The Lake View Mariachi are getting ready take on the outdoor venue once again next week.
Credit: Randall Case

SAN ANGELO, Texas — The Bill Aylor Sr. Memorial RiverStage has hosted a lot of great music since its opening 36 years ago in 1987.

Willie Nelson brought his Texas outlaw country there. B.B. King brought his Mississippi blues. Merle Haggard brought his Bakersfield sound. Kool and the Gang brought their New Jersey celebration. It’s been host to both Lobos and Lonely Boys (on los same night!) and the Southwest indie rock of Calexico. Ice Cube brought West Coast royalty like Too $hort and Cypress Hill (Willie was there in sprit that night).

But some of the most beautiful sounds to ever skitter down the Concho River come courtesy of San Angelo’s own north side.

The Lake View Spring Mariachi Concert is set for Thursday, May 18, and if it shakes out anything like in years previous, it will be another RiverStage night to remember, for both the talented young musicians on stage, the folks dancing on the huge concrete slab in front of the bands, and the hundreds of people up on the grass.

“We’re hoping we have a lot of people,” Lake View junior, guitarist and mariachi band president Darren Anthony said. “Because usually we do them at Lincoln Middle School or our Lake View auditorium, but the last few concerts we’ve had like a thousand people and there’s nowhere to sit. So we’re like, ‘Let’s do this for the people.’ We’ll make sure there’s more space out there for people to come see all this awesome mariachi music.”

Anthony said the joyful, infectious spirt of mariachi is a good fit for the open air of the river walk and the downtown area.

“I like playing outdoors a little bit more. A lot of people, even driving by, can hear us. They’re like, ‘Whoa. There’s mariachi playing?’... Then they pause and say, ‘That’s some good music.’”

That good music, like all good music, is something that has the ability to break down stereotypes and draw in other cultures.

“My family, we’re Black, but we have Hispanics in my family,” Anthony said. “My mom and my grandparents are Dominican. So I was like, ‘Maybe I can mix it.’ I’m singing [mariachi] and I’m doing something that’s not normal for my culture. Everybody looked at me like, ‘Mariachi? That’s Mexican culture,’ and I’m like yeah, it’d be pretty cool to see somebody my color doing mariachi music, representing other cultures, you know? So they’re like, ‘Yeah! Do it!’”

Credit: Randall Case
Lake View junior and mariachi president Darren Anthony

He quickly found out that making mariachi and listening to mariachi requires… 'different' skill sets.

“When I first started, I was like, ‘This is hard, man.’ I have to work hard at it, because everybody else, they grew up on this music and I didn’t grow up on it as much. So I have to work extra hard, but honestly, I love it more than anything else on this planet.”

In addition to the Lake View Varsity and Junior Varsity Mariachi, the concert will first feature the Lincoln Middle School Beginner and Advanced groups, allowing a clear line of musical progression and accomplishment to be seen, all in one night.

“[The non-varsity groups] aren’t as proficient, but they still work as hard as our varsity members,” Anthony said. “They just want to play their instrument, and I’m not gonna argue with that. I love my instrument, too. But when we compete, we rehearse every day. For about three hours out of the day. We have constant rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals. We get it done.”

Gates will open at 5:15 p.m. and the show will start at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free, but any donations, large or small, will go back into helping the band travel to the many competitions and shows they participate in throughout the year.


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