2012: A Transformative Year for Rancho Alegre

When the story of Rancho Alegre is told, 2012 will be remembered as one of our most important years. And the year that we quit…for a few days.

Let’s start at the beginning. A lot has happened, so if I miss anyone or anything, it’s not intentional. 

January

Promotions, publicity, fundraising, and logistics began for the Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival. We appeared on the Spotlite Show with Pete Diaz a couple times, as well as Fiesta Musical with Isidoro Lopez, the Blackland Reporter, the YNN morning show, and we got our biggest break with a great story by Nancy Flores in the Austin American-Statesman, complete with full-color photos! It was also translated for Ahora Si.

No one really knew who we were yet, and they weren’t quite sure what to make of us. Those sponsors who took a chance on us will always have our business and gratitude.


February

The 1st Annual Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival brought 3 days of Conjunto madness to the dancehall atmosphere of the Austin Moose Lodge, with a packed house each day.

We had awesome in-store performances by Susan Torres y Conjunto Clemencia and Tina y Grupo Tormenta at Waterloo Records and the one and only Chano Cadena at Antone’s Record Shop.

A few highlights: Rene Joslin came out of retirement, Jesse y Beto Duran y Los Aguilillas said their final farewell, and Austin got to meet Smiley y La Fuerza Musical, Joe Gonzales, and Thoze Guyz for the first time. Linda Escobar sang with Susan Torres. Juan P. Moreno was Linda’s surprise guest bajo sexto player. Lloyd and Libby Doggett were there. So was Johnny Degollado.

We collected about 50 pounds of food for the Capital Area Food Bank, and introduced everyone to the photography of Rolando Medina, who also documented the festival as well. Julian Fernandez provided top-notch equipment and gave us priceless guidance, and Jesse Colunga and his staff ran a tight ship at the Moose.

Compa and Dulcez Martinez of Compadresmusic.com were indispensible. As Compa ran the board, Dulcez chatted up a storm with friends and family online, and they streamed the event worldwide on Stickam.com.

It was…breathtaking and exhausting. But we were ready for more. And Piper even had enough energy remaining to design the LHF logo for the new album by Los Hermanos Farias.


March

Trying to keep the momentum from the festival, we invited Joe Gonzales, Thoze Guyz, and Conjunto Calidad back to the Moose for another great show. Thoze Guyz did another in-store performance at Antone’s Record Shop, again to great response.


April

Getting back on track with our interviews, we talked with Santiago Jimenez, Jr., and the beautiful, delightful Queen of Conjunto herself, the incomparable Linda Escobar, who, not surprisingly, gave us a very touching, insightful, and deeply personal interview.

Also in April, we were contacted by Delaney Hall of KUT Radio here in Austin. Texas Music Matters was putting together the Austin Music Map, a new project featuring obscure but beloved music venues in Austin, and they wanted to feature the Moose. Specifically, Conjunto at the Moose.


May

The Austin Music Map makes its debut with the Moose as the first venue profiled. We were ecstatic. The following weekend, we had the pleasure of “helping” judge the polka dance contest at Johnny Degollado’s Cinco De Mayo Conjunto Festival.

We also had the honor of organizing an Austin CD release party for accordion virtuoso Joel Guzman and Sarah Fox at the Moose. As always, Joel and Sarah put on a fantastic show, and we even had a cameo from the amazing Rene Joslin.

The last weekend of the month, we made a special trip to Corpus Christi to visit with Rick De La Rosa, son of the legendary Alfredo De La Rosa. Another great interview, we got to see how the De La Rosa name and legacy are being carried forward by Rick’s band, Los D Boyz. At the time, Alfredo was gravely ill and needing a kidney and liver transplant.


June

After taking a stab at live-streaming (not as easy as Compa and Dulcez made it look!) the A-T Boyz with Cacy Savala at the MACC awards early in the month, we finally took a little time off.


July

A month of interviews….Locally, we talked with Austin legends Johnny Degollado and Leonard Davila. Then, an incredible, last-minute, budget-conscious trip to Corpus included interviews with Ricky Smith of La Movida, JD of Los Enmascarados, and Agapito Zuñiga. By the end of the month, we caught up with Pio Treviño as well as the Gonzales brothers of Tierra Tejana.


August

After talking with Bernardo y Sus Compadres, Ricky Ruiz y Los Escorpiones, and Kyle’s own Conjunto Romo earlier in the month, we lost a major source of funds and realized Frank’s health was declining further.

We quit. We took down our website, and even cancelled our benefit for Alfredo De La Rosa, who underwent a successful, miraculous double organ transplant.

Then, we got phone calls, emails, and messages from fans and artists alike, telling us how much they loved what we were doing. So, we retooled and decided to focus on interviews and stop promoting, except for, maybe, another festival.

We put the website back up, and were back by the end of the month…and interviewing rising star Nikki Lopez with veteran Tejano musician and Cañonazo bandmate Rat Silvas.


September

We started September out with a bang by talking with Michael Salgado at the People En Español event in San Antonio, Siggno at a benefit in Seguin, and David Lee Garza in San Antonio.

Public Radio again…but this time, the dulcet tones of Baldomero “El Parrandero” Cuellar were heard on public radio stations everywhere during NPR’s All Things Considered, talking about Conjunto in Austin.

Interviews continued with the King of the Brown Sound, Little Joe, with Austin’s own Susan Torres y Conjunto Clemencia, and aspiring orquesta guy and Utah transplant Noel Hernandez.

Hollywood called toward the end of the month…things were about to get a little more interesting around Rancho Alegre.


October

Sirius XM satellite opened their Austin studios, and Rancho Alegre was lucky enough to get on the media list for the event. By happenstance, we met up with Piper’s longtime idol, Texas music writer Joe Nick Patoski and plotted ways to try and get Conjunto on the radio.

Piper started writing previews for Tejano and Conjunto shows for Austin Vida, an online Latino culture magazine for the Austin area. And she didn’t suck!

Then we took a little bit of a breather to celebrate Piper’s birthday and begin to contemplate the next Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival lineup…


November

Thankfully, we took a break in October, because November was hell on wheels.

We started the month out with one of our most ambitious interview tours to date. Our first stop was Houston, where we met up with the stunning Mickey Mendoza, bandleader of Mickey y Sus Carnalez at her barber shop. Later that night we drove out to Pasadena and caught a glimpse of the future of Conjunto with the members of Crystal N Crew, all of whom are under 16 years old.

Then we headed down the coast to Corpus Christi for an intimate interview with the legendary Tejano icon and record mogul Freddie Martinez, Sr.  We headed up to Refugio for a great visit with our good friend Smiley Cuellar of Smiley y La Fuerza Musical. We also got a great surprise when we made a quick stop in Kingsville to catch up with Rick De La Rosa…we got to meet the incredible Alfredo De La Rosa, who looked absolutely fantastic post-transplant.

But we weren’t done with this trip yet. The last day, we drove from Corpus to Laredo to interview the super cool Edgar Vasquez, and then ended the day with Tejano superstar Ram Herrera in San Antonio.

The very next day, we had Nicolas Cage shooting a film at Rancho Alegre. Our property was filled with equipment, staff, and stunt chickens, and we even got to watch a shootout scene get filmed.

Linda Escobar’s Veterano Festival in San Antonio later that week would be our last adventure on the road for that action-packed month.

But things weren’t over yet! November went out like a lion! We started talking about a radio show with KDRP, Community Radio from Dripping Springs that had just expanded into Austin and a great article about us, written by Emily Mathis, was published in the Texas Observer.


December

Normal people might decide they’ve had enough and coast through December. But we’re just not normal. So, the first weekend of December, we were back in Alice, Texas, talking with legendary Gambler de Ruben Naranjo, Pico Ramirez, and checking out a show by his sons, Rene Ramirez y Poder de Tejas.

As if that wasn’t enough, we headed to Corpus again for an interview with Jimmy Gonzalez. This time, we took Thomas Hernandez of Turntable Records and Tommy De Leon of Fiesta Musical with us, and we even stopped at the beach and paid our respects to Selena.

It’s fitting that we ended the year with an awesome interview with one of our mentors, Julian Fernandez of Los Texas Wranglers. He even gave us and our fans a nickname: The Jolly Ranchers.


2012 was a roller coaster ride if ever there was one. So, 2013, let’s see what you got!

Right off the bat, we are nearly finished redesigning our website and starting the machine for this year’s Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival.

If you don’t already “like” us, you can keep up with our shenanigans in real-time on Facebook, Twitter, and Conjunto is Life. We’re also on Pinterest and YouTube, and even though we have Tumblr and Google +, we don’t really understand how to use them.

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