Last year, The Highball faced its biggest crowd ever when over 1000 people showed up to hear Bidi Bidi Banda, Austin’s own Selena tribute band. This year, the celebration is going to be even bigger in remembrance of what would be the late singer’s 46th birthday.
Next Sunday, Bidi Bidi Banda is hosting Selenafest for the second year in a row. The festival is celebrated on Selena’s birthday which will fall on Easter Sunday this year. The festival will last longer than previous years since the band plans to double up on shows to accommodate bigger crowds throughout the day. A representative of the city council will be at the festival to declare April 16 Selena Day in Austin.
“In a city where a fear of gentrification is on everyone’s list, to say Tejano music is an important thing for us to recognize and this is the day for that, is important to our community because it’s positive celebration,” Keith Ruckus, entertainment director at The Highball, said. “If there’s going to be tears it’s going to be tears of joy that day.”
Lead vocalist Stephanie Bergara said the festival will include a Selena look-a-like contest, a dance contest and Cumbia dance lessons in between performances from Bidi Bidi Banda and Su Madre.
The proclamation is a victory for Tejano music fans in Austin, where the genre often gets sidelined by larger music scenes, Bergara said.
“It’s important for Austin to host Selenafest because if you look at the landscape of Tejano music, it’s regionally based in San Antonio,” Bergara said. “It puts our flag in the ground and says we in Austin love Tejano music, too.”
The Selena fandom is booming all over again in locations across Texas. The Alamo Drafthouse sold out of tickets to the rescreening of Selena in every location last year.
Bergara said Selena’s spike in popularity is a combination of it being close to the 20th anniversary of Selena’s death and a growing sense of cultural pride.
“Right now Chicano culture is such a big thing especially given the political landscape,” Bergara said. “The look, the energy and the vibe is definitely an opportunity for Latina women to wave their flag and say this is what we look like in America in 2017, we still look like Selena, we still love Selena.”
Christina Horton, Mexican-American and Latino studies sophomore, said Selena is relatable to younger generations because of her charismatic personality.
“She died before I was born, but seeing her in videos and interviews, she was very real,” Horton said. “Her confidence sparked confidence in me. If that girl from Corpus Christi can do it, then I from El Paso can do it too. Not just performing, but whatever I want to do in life.”
Selena’s confidence and stage presence are the most important aspects of what Bidi Bidi Banda wants to recreate for Selena fans. Banda is different from other Selena tribute bands in that Bergara doesn’t impersonate Selena or dress like her.
“One of the biggest compliments I’ve ever gotten was from some older woman. A woman older than my grandmother came up to me and said ‘I saw Selena back in the ‘80s, and you don’t look like her, you don’t exactly sing like her, but the energy is the same,’” Bergara said. “That’s the biggest compliment I’ve ever gotten through the band.”
Bidi Bidi Banda’s true goal is to channel the high energy Selena used to stir in audiences, and Bergara says they plan to bring it to the Highball again this year.
“That’s all we’re trying to do is capture the energy,” Bergara said. “We want to take people back.”