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Weekend Reviews | Pop

Misstep Doesn't Spoil Fiesta at Viva El Mariachi

September 08, 1997|YVETTE C. DOSS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's easy to see why a mariachi festival would include a big-name celebrity to draw a crowd. After all, a lineup of 12- or 15-member groups affords little opportunity for that one-on-one identification concert-goers seek.

But why did the celebrity draw at Saturday's Viva El Mariachi '97 at the Greek Theatre have to be actress Maria Conchita Alonso? Despite the raspy-voiced former Miss Venezuela's recent forays into Latin pop, a mariachi singer she's not. Her overdone performance was a minor blemish on an otherwise perfect evening, which was produced by Mariachi Sol de Mexico director Jose Hernandez to help build support for the first Mariachi Heritage Museum in Boyle Heights.

Headlining singer Pedro Fernandez was mesmerizing. From the moment the young heartthrob walked out, he took command of the stage with his soaring voice and youthful energy. Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez reinforced its status as the top mariachi group in the city with a rousing set, including a rendition of "Celos" that featured amazingly subtle and delicate trumpet work. Accomplished groups such as Mariachi Garibaldi, Mariachi Gavilanes and the female Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles rounded out the lineup, along with Ballet Nacional de Las Americas and invited guests Las Altenitas and Ballet Folklorico de Carol Armijo.

The four-hour concert was peppered with powerful moments, such as when Mariachi Garibaldi's only female member, Monica Trevino, took the microphone to sing, and when Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles let loose with a quirky feminist number.

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