Piñata Protest performs at Botánica Music Festival.
Piñata Protest led by accordionist Àlvaro Del Norte performs at Botánica Music Festival in 2018. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Talón Fest is a new one-day music festival that will showcase an array of Latino musicians and a variety of styles, with a unique focus. The festival, which was created and organized by Álvaro Del Norte of the conjunto-punk fusion band Piñata Protest, will happen at 6 p.m. at Paper Tiger on Saturday.

The name talón comes from the mariachi practice of going out to restaurants or bars to find patrons that want tableside entertainment.

“Think of the mariachi trios at Mi Tierra [Cafe y Panaderia] or the norteño groups at El Siete Mares [Seafood Restaurant],” Del Norte said, referencing two San Antonio staples where talón is practiced. “I think it is a special kind of music performance that is not only underappreciated but is even looked down on by some. But these are great musicians, and it’s a very hard thing to be good at.”

Del Norte has been dreaming of this festival for a while now, Del Norte said.

“The idea came from my deep love and appreciation for talón style music,” he said. “It’s just a very intimate way to experience music, right up close and in your face so that you can really feel it. … There’s a real power in that.

“There are plenty of festivals that pop up that are focused on Latino music, but they never include or even consider talón, even though it is a cornerstone for many types of Latin music.”

With the spirit of talón in mind, Del Norte has planned a musical festival that brings tableside intimacy into the typically raucous North St. Mary’s Street venue. While some of the bands will still perform on stage, almost all of the festival’s 12 acts will also be playing al talón.

Del Norte said that showgoers will be encouraged to sit out in the courtyard/patio space for much of the festival. There, they’ll be able to enjoy tacos and micheladas, as well as other food and drink, as they are treated to talón-style performances.

Performers on the bill include both of Del Norte’s bands Piñata Protest and Los Callejeros de San Anto, accordion master Eva Ybarra, indie Latin orchestra Volcán, cumbia group Los De Esta Noche, and punk-cumbia crew Tropa Mágica.

The lineup will also feature student musicians from the Conjunto Taller, whom Del Norte “thought it was important to include as representatives of the new generation.”

As torchbearers, Del Norte said, the young performers “really capture the spirit of the festival.”

Some of the acts on the bill have frequently performed this way before; for others, it will be a new experience.

Del Norte sees this festival, which he hopes will become a yearly occurrence, as an act of cultural preservation.

“This city is growing and changing so much, so fast,” he said, “that I just want to help make sure that talón doesn’t die out.”

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James Courtney

James Courtney is a freelance arts and culture journalist in San Antonio. He also is a poet, a high school English teacher and debate coach, and a proud girl dad.