“You can dance and sing at this concert,” Santiago Jiménez, Jr. urged 200 fans at the Pearl Stable on July 22. “I want everybody out of their chair and on the dance floor.”
Santiago’s brother Flaco is noted for mixing Tejano music with other styles. Their father Santiago Sr. was considered to be a pioneer of Conjunto music. Santiago keeps his sounds within the traditional Tex-Mex realm – and he does it well, as 50 couples on the dance floor will attest.
Santiago Jr. carries on the tradition of his grandfather, Patricio Jiménez, an accordionist and dance musician from Eagle Pass. The polka beat reverberated around the room like the inside of a drum. In fact, the round building, built in 1894 as the stable for brewery delivery horses, resembles a drum.
But polkas were not the only rhythm in the air. Jesse Garcia on bajo sexto, Charlie Torres on drums, and Manuel Rendon on bass, could keep up with an assortment of corridors, schottis, rancheros, and even Hawaiiana.
Santiago’s primary instrument is the old-fashioned two-row button accordion like his father’s. He paid homage to his dad with songs like “Margarita” and “Viva Seguin.” Like the other members of his familia, Santiago makes the accordion sing!
Stable partitions provide privacy for a few tables around the inside perimeter of the historic building. A dark and cool interior brings a welcome change from the bright and hot exterior of the Pearl Brewery and everywhere was the triple X motif.
According to a poster on-site, in the royal days of old, the king would send his men out to sample the beer in the towns he was to visit. If the beer was good, they would mark it with an X, a better brew would be marked with two X’s, and excellent beer would be indicated with XXX.
The triple X theme was repeated in the railings, the carpet, the I-beams supporting the ceiling; even the wood rafters were crisscrossed with X’s. The chandeliers and wall sconces in the lobby were made of multi-colored beer bottles. Wrought iron barley seemed to grow everywhere. It was enough to drive a man to drink. Except, there was no beer for sale inside the Stable this night.
And if his fans wanted authenticity, they got it when Santiago launched into the classic, “Volver.” Who could not remember that song!? Even the false ending didn’t fool the folks on the dance floor. They kept dancing until the final note. “You Are My Sunshine” was sung ranchero style, then it was blended in to “El Rancho Grande.” The dancers were sure of their steps. Waltzes were on the floor for every song.
Santiago won a National Heritage Fellowship in 2000 for lifetime achievement in traditional Tex-Mex music. He was inducted into the Conjunto Hall of Fame in 2011. “I’ve played for 51 years,” Santiago said. “I’ve got 85 albums and have recorded a thousand songs.”
The Stable at the Pearl Brewery provides a free concert every Wednesday until August 26. Country & Western, German Polka, American Rock, Czech-Moravian Music, and Big Band Jazz will fill the hall in upcoming weeks. Visit their website for the Summer Dance Hall Series to see the calendar.