¡Viva Mariachi!

Spice up your evenings with Austin mariachi

The sweet, soothing, and sentimental sounds of mariachi music are an effective antidote to an overdose of loud, searing, angst-ridden rock or rap. Music, lest we forget, can be delightful, gay, and harmonious; for many centuries it was actually prized for these very qualities! Mariachi music is unabashedly sweet, with heart-melting harmonies; do yourself a favor and help yourself to beautiful music along with some of Austin's fantastic Mexican food.

El Gallo (2910 S. Congress, 444-6696, www.elgallorestaurant.com) features the haunting sounds of Azul y Oro every Sunday brunch, noon-2pm, and on Friday and Saturday nights, 6-9pm. Their three-part vocal harmony and strumming guitars are overlaid with the dulcet tones of the muted soprano saxophone, creating a strangely 1920s sound. The effect is very original and romantic, like ghostly echoes of distant times.

Fonda San Miguel (2330 W. North Loop,

459-4121, www.fondasanmiguel.com) showcases the band Los Indianos every Sunday during its famous buffet brunch. Los Indianos have more of a Sixties folk sound, not unlike the Kingston Trio, with sharp chops and tight harmonies and a great repertoire of Mexican favorites.

Mariachi Relámpago is the winner of Austin's first mariachi contest at the Long Center and features a full lineup of seven musicians, including violins and horns. This is an extremely professional outfit, with many recording credits to its name and an unmatched reputation. Mariachi Relámpago plays at La Feria (2010 S. Lamar 326-8301, www.laferiaaustin.com) on Thursday nights, 7-9pm, and at La Terraza (1605 E. Oltorf, 444-0018) on Fridays, 8-10pm.

No discussion of mariachi could be complete without homage to Mariachi Estrella, Austin's longest-performing mariachi band. Originally formed in the 1960s, the nine-member Mariachi Estrella is still going strong, performing at Azul Tequila (4211 S. Lamar, 416-9667, www.azultequila.com) on Thursdays, 7-9pm, and Fridays, 9-11pm, and at Casa Garcias (1901 W. William Cannon, 441-9504, www.casagarcias.net) on Fridays, 6:30-8:30pm.

Matt's Famous el Rancho (2613 S. Lamar, 462-9333, www.mattselrancho.com) provides the music of Mariachi Jalisco every other Thursday evening. This fivepiece outfit includes violin and trumpet and specializes in the traditional sound of Jalisco, Mexico.

Evita's Botanitas (6400 S. First, 441-2424, www.evitasbotanitas.com) showcases Mexican guitarist and singer Miguel Bernal Fridays and Saturdays from 8pm to closing. Handsome and soulful, Bernal is the archetype of the serenading caballero.

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