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Chapter 16: Cascabel Years (Take Two)(2000-2001)


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The Cascabel Years (Take Two)

Cascabel 2000

At the beginning of the year 2000 I was a Mariachi free agent. This was a fine turn of events from the perspective I had at the time. I was recently engaged and walking the long road to the alter. My free agent status made it very hard to have steady mariachi income. My school check gave me enough money to pay for the wedding in spades, but part of planning a wedding is planning the future. The School check needed to be saved for the future. I was doing fine, but was also missing the security of building a group and working to a goal. I made Mariachi Estrella my primary group and played with who ever needed an extra violinist.

While this was transpiring, Joe Figarelli's Mariachi Cascabel was prospering. They had fully recovered from the 1998 Cascabel/Fuego fiasco. They had Eddie Mendoza on guitarron and Vicente Barrera on Harp (a first for Cascabel). It all seemed like the turmoil of the past was over. Joe had asked me to join his group in late December of 1999. He asked if I would help him out at a gig at the K.C. Hall in Kingsville and for some gigs in Corpus Christi. I turned him down, things were going very well and I felt that he had enough violinists at the time. I did not want to become just a face in the crowd. I did have a lot of fun that day, but I had gained kudos as Joe Ely "El Mariachi Loco" Carrales and had no desire to become just another violinist. I told him that I was not ready to join the group. I also said that I didn't want to make any long lasting choices before the turn of the century.

Joe Figarelli continued to tell me that he would hold an opening in the group for me for a few months or, until he got another violinist. I told him to call me when he needed me and that I would be glad to help him, but I was still going to freelance a bit longer. He remained cool and we parted from the K.C. Hall in good standing.

The waves of time and society churn more violently than any terrestrial ocean. People come and go and minds change on an almost daily cycle. Friends are dedicated to each other one day and turn to bitter enemies the next day. So is the cycle of the mariachi band. Most mariacheros are like a dam, holding back emotions and ambitions until it snaps like a balloon. Other mariacheros are like leaves blowing in the wind, the drift from place to place. Mariachi groups too are as different as hot and cold. Some groups operate with military discipline, others as loose as that sock in the wind.

Mariachi Cascabel was in a precarious situation during the summer of 2000. Eddie Mendoza, a native of Corpus Christi and former mariachi bandleader, was ready to form a new group in Corpus and gave Joe Figarelli his notice. With Eddie would be going several players from Corpus. I do not know the full story and will not attempt to say more. Whatever the reason, Mariachi Cascabel was once again in a state of flux.

Early in July of the year 2000, Tony Moreno called me and let me know that there was again an opening in the group. Tony gave me a short explanation of what had happened and that I should be ready for a call from Joe Figarelli. The call came that evening.

Joe told me that he needed a violin player and offered me the position of section leader. I told him that I would help him out as long as he could on a month to month basis. In other words, I would be there until thing got bad. I had been burned in too many groups to deal with a new string of bad politics. Additionally, I told him that I didn't want to ride in the back seat ever again. This was a point of respect; I had ridden in the back seat 80% of my first "tour of duty" and did not want to revert to those days. I was to be treated with the respect of a musician, and would return the compliment.

I was back. I resolved to improve the condition of the group and re-establish Mariachi Cascabel's Internet presence. I also had some money set aside to record the group again. I was read to promote and go. The main point that influenced my decision was the need for steady money to pay off the up-coming wedding. This time I would not be alone, Norma would be at my side. Going through life with an equal partner is the best way to make sure that you will both be strong in the face of hardships.

Our first gig as Cascabel 2000 would be in Beeville, Texas. Our group was made up of Ernie Gutierrez, Isabel Salazar, Lisa Soliz and myself on violin. On trumpet we had Joe Figarelli and Rolando Reyes. The Rhythm section was made up of Tony Moreno on guitar, David Gonzalez on vihuela and Vicente Barrera on Guitarron. Later J.P. Ramirez joined us, briefly. J. P. began to show the violin section some new innovations on some of the old parts. In the end Cascabel 2000 was not for him. April Santa Anna also played violin for us in that period.

We soon had steady restaurant gigs in Alice and San Diego, Texas. We began Friday nights at the Taqueria Jalisco in Alice and finished the evening in San Diego at a restaurant called "La Sierra del a Silla." We prepared music for these places and were beginning to draw crowds in Alice. San Diego was a different story. We lost the San Diego gig before the end of the year. We played at the Alice restaurant until about mid-December. This was no set back though, we found ourselves playing ore and more engagements in Alice due partly to the restauants. Alice was becoming a mainstay for us. Every weekend for months included at least one Alice gig.

All was well and we were without problems until one weekend night when I need the night off for a personal engagement. It seemed that David Gonzalez and Vicente Barrera had got in some sort of disagreement. The result was that Vicente would not be in the group with David and, since they were cousins, April would not be in the group either.

This was, at least to me, a bolt from the blue. I had not expected such a move. But, fortunately, the new group was strong enough to recover. David switched over to guitarron and our music was again back on track.

The first big engagement of the new group was played on April 21, 2001. At the Bishop Old Tyme Fair. This is the annual "spring fling;" Cascabel has played for years. The last one I had played was when I was doing my student observation assignment in Bishop in 1998. We made the cover of the Kingsville Record.

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