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Arts & Culture

Mariachi Vargas Returns To San Antonio With A Drive-In Concert

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Javier Vela
Robert Lopez is a member of Mariachi Vargas. The group will perform in San Antonio on Friday.

They’re probably the world’s best Mariachi group, and they’re performing in San Antonio on Friday. They’re called Mariachi Vargas, and band member Robert Lopez said they have a long, proud history.

“Mariachi Vargas has been Mexico City-based for over 125 years now,” he said.

Lopez plays one of the band’s six violins and sings. It’s a big band, with a big sound.

“There are three trumpets and three guitars and one bass and a harpist,” Lopez said.

Years ago, Mariachi Vargas staked new ground in early cinema, becoming a recurring part of Mexican movies by providing music and dramatic performances in them.

“Always a part of the old movies, in black and white, it was always Mariachi Vargas,” he said.

They kept at it and over time became synonymous with their chosen genre of music. Now, the band has done something it never has done before.

“I’m actually the first Mexican American that’s been a full-time member of this group,” he said.

Most everyone sings, but not everyone is a soloist. In Mariachi, soloing tends to be particularly difficult and demanding. You’ve got to be good, and if you’re not, that’s quickly obvious.

“Yeah, it’s very technical. A lot of control, a lot of subtlety,” Lopez said. “And also a lot of aggressive singing.”

And now finally, after being sidelined by COVID-19 for months, the band has a return performance on Friday.

“It’s the first time we’re going to be doing a live concert in front of people since February. And it’s the first time to be doing a drive-in,” he said.

By drive-in he means that while they’re playing at the Freeman Coliseum; they’re not playing inside. They’re playing outside, in the parking lot.

“It’s basically like a tailgate — you can bring your own food, your own coolers with the drinks, whatever you want,” Lopez said. “You don’t have to be inside your car. You can actually hang out outside of the car.”