Alvaro Del Norte, an accordionist and singer for San Antonio’s Piñata Protest, was raised on Mexican music. And, because he was constantly surrounded by it, he hated it.
But as he grew up and moved out of his parents’ house, Del Norte’s musical tastes returned to the “catchy and melodic” accordion-powered sounds of his youth, and he decided he wanted bring it together with punk-rock, his first love.
But first, he had to find an accordion player.
Out of necessity, Del Norte picked up the squeezebox himself, and is now not only Piñata Protest’s lead singer, but its accordionist as well. But learning the accordion wasn’t as simple as learning the guitar, bass, or piano, all three of which he plays, so he enrolled in a class at a local college.
Now, the accordion is a central facet of Piñata Protest’s sound, and, at times, even elicits laughter from the audience.
“The element of surprise in art in priceless,” Del Norte says.
In fact, on one tour with Reverend Horton Heat, a drunk crowd member commented that he “didn’t know that Mexicans could play like that.”
Taking it in stride, the band had a good laugh about the encounter.
“I feel like we’re changing people’s perceptions not necessarily about Mexicans, but about the accordion and what it can do,” Del Norte says. “The accordion is just as much of an instrument as the piano or a guitar.”
Nor has the accordion kept the band from shying away from more punk elements in their music. Loud electric guitar (along with drums and bass) round out the multi-cultural sonic space that Piñata Protest has carved out for itself since it began playing shows in 2006. And after the current tour, the band will — if all goes well — head into the studio somewhere in Southern California, ostensibly to soak up the areas’ punk heritage and channel into a new record.
Outside of the band, each member holds down a day job, but the punk-rock ethos of Piñata Protest still shines through in their regular life.
“It’s very much what I imagine being a pirate would be,” Del Norte says. “I mean, pillage and plunder…you party, and then you set your sails for the next city or whatever. It’s a great way to spend your life. “
Piñata Protest plays with Day Labor, Corazon Salvaje, and Shark Punch at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 14 at 924 Gilman in Berkeley. More info here.