AUSTIN, Texas One mark of a powerful artist is the ability to overcome adverse performing conditions, and that's exactly what Tish Hinojosa did at the one-year anniversary celebration of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Tuesday morning.
Amid the glitter and chrome, the boarding calls and lost-luggage announcements, the Mexican-American composer and her cohorts Marvin Dykhius on guitar and mandolin and Chip Dolan on accordion and keyboards created an island of music and words where listeners, be they passing travelers or city residents participating in the celebration, could almost smell the mesquite campfires and see the canyon colors of a different Texas.
Hinojosa opened the first half of her two-part set with "Riendo el Rio Corre" ("Laughing River Running") (RealAudio excerpt), an evocative bilingual voyage down a river of love and memory, from the album Dreaming From the Labyrinth (Warner Bros., 1996). The trio followed up with "Corazon Viajero" ("Wandering Heart") (RealAudio excerpt), a slower, jazz-flavored composition from her award-winning 1992 record, Culture Swing (Rounder).
"Our sets are always a little unpredictable," she said during a conversation before the event. "We never just put it on automatic pilot and go. ... I want to see what will work for a particular audience, what will play in that neighborhood," she explained.
Hinojosa's "neighborhoods" during her years as a folk performer have included clubs along the Riverwalk in San Antonio, invitation-only concerts at the White House, honky-tonk dance halls in New Mexico and the stages of the Southern Crossroads festival at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.
So she wasn't disconcerted by the changing flow of workers setting up punch bowls for the anniversary events or the curious travelers who couldn't quite figure out what was going on even though the stage, a permanent setting for performances at the airport, is emblazoned with the foot-high words "Austin, Texas: Live Music Capitol of the World."
Taking note of the stage decoration an arch of multicolored balloons Hinojosa then offered her song "Wildflowers," remarking on the bright colors and the happiness expressed in the song and telling the growing crowd that "I hope everyone feels like this today."
The composer had additional cause for celebration herself, as the day marked the nationwide release of her recent record, Sign of Truth (Rounder), from which "Wildflowers" and the song that followed, "Roses Around My Feet" (RealAudio excerpt), were taken.
Drawing the first half of her set to a close to make way for Austin Mayor Kirk Watson's anniversary remarks, Hinojosa chose to go further back in her songbook for "Love Is on Our Side," a song of hope for peace and justice, and finished off with, as she called it, the "true Texas polka version" of the traditional Mexican folk song "Pajarillo Barrenqueno."
"We wanted this to be an intimate celebration, sort of what you might think of for a baby's first birthday," airport official Jackie Mayo said before the event, and the relaxed crowd of airport workers and airline passengers made her wish come true. Mayor Watson pointed out that a main goal of the municipally owned airport was to make it a uniquely Austin place to be, and to offer a distinctive first impression of the city.
Following the mayor's remarks, Hinojosa and her band returned to the stage with one of her most requested tunes, "San Antonio Romeo" (RealAudio excerpt), an "answer song" to Bob Wills' famous bit of western swing, "San Antonio Rose."
She continued with several more tracks from her new record, including the title cut. Giving a nod to the location, Hinojosa offered the meditative "Song for the Journey," also from the new record, "to all the travelers here today, to anybody going on a journey," and finished the second half of her hour's worth of music with her Dylan-esque road song from Dreaming From the Labyrinth, "God's Own Open Road."