Soundcheck: Maná again strikes heartfelt chord with Valley audiences

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By ERIKA DE LOS REYES AND XAVIER ALVAREZ | STAFF WRITERS

We’re not the first to have done this here, or the last, but with the Rio Grande Valley serving as both home to original artists who’ve shot to stardom in the music industry as well as a place that’s attracted the biggest names, highlighting musicians in an area that’s given so much to artistry is a no-brainer.

That’s where Soundcheck comes in.

Soundcheck is a new column MyRGV.com is launching featuring music from the region, primarily focusing on promoting local artists but also diving into mainstream acts who perform in the Valley.

This is the first in what we hope will be a longstanding series, and we encourage readers to email us your recommendations to [email protected].

In our inaugural feature, two MyRGV.com journalists attended the Maná concert in Edinburg last month to stretch their legs a little. They were tasked with writing what they feel rather than focusing on a review.

Mana performs Nov. 4 at Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg. (Monitor photo)

ERES MI RELIGION, BY ERIKA

As the first chords of “Bendita Tú Luz” by Maná began to play, I felt a heaviness in my heart and the warmth of tears streaming down my face. In an instant, I felt like I was 12 years old again, clinging onto the song for comfort.

In that moment, I was brought back to a time when I lost two of the most important people in my life — my abuelita and my tia Margarita. My abuelita was in a sense a traditional Mexican grandmother who cared for you in a stern but loving manner. She helped raise me and my siblings, often cooking us dinner after school while we waited for my parents to be done with work.

My tia was stricter and showed her love in a different way, like saving the leftover frosting for you even though she was angry you didn’t let her decorate the cake in peace, or allowing you to borrow her DVDs even though it bugged her that they were often misplaced.

They were beautiful people who deserved more from this world than they got.

When they died I sank deeper into my own head often using music like a safe haven that would protect me from the harsh realities of life.

I spent the majority of my time attached to headphones and ignoring the world.

It was during this time that Maná became a band that helped save me from grief, longing and loneliness. Their song “Bendita Tú Luz” became a sweet reminder of the beautiful people they were. It became a comfort song that I attached their memory to.

Now as I stood at the Maná concert at Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg on Saturday, Nov. 4, it was as if they were there with me once again. I couldn’t help but weep as I heard Fher Olvera sing, because it felt as if my inner child was healing from the heartbreak.

These are the beautiful moments that I experienced together with the approximately 7,900 people who packed the arena that night, in our very own Rio Grande Valley. I was reconnected with those lovely memories, and connected to a band that I never thought I’d see just 20 minutes from my home.

My editor has always said that a newspaper’s coverage of its community should always reflect the good and the bad and to highlight the truly extraordinary rather than the ordinary. The Mana concert on Saturday was an extraordinary experience for those in attendance that reflects the Valley’s place in the entertainment industry, which is about more than the border and its political identities.

I’m sure I was not the only one among the thousands that night to have felt the way I felt.

Although the beginning of the show brought bittersweet emotions the remainder of the concert brought nothing but feelings of joy and love.

In fact, one of the highlights of the show, for me at least, was when the band played “Eres Mi Religión” a song that encompasses the feeling of being deeply in love with someone.

As I stood there next to the person, my person, I felt myself wanting to stay in that moment forever. The moment when we sang together as we held hands — in that brief moment I swear it was just us.

But as I looked around I noticed that it wasn’t just us who felt the affection in the air. Other couples swayed and kissed as the melody echoed across the arena.

It was then that I realized that Maná’s music has a certain power that helps people forget about their everyday worries.

Mana performs Nov. 4 at Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg. (Monitor photo)

POR QUE ME VALE, BY XAVIER

Seeing Maná in concert again made me reminisce about the first time I saw them when I was in high school, which was well over a decade ago.

I initially didn’t want to go.

Don’t get me wrong, I was and still am a fan of Maná, but my mental health as a teenager was hellish. It was your typical lovesick, heartbroken, angry and self-hating teen angst, but I did and still suffer from depression.

The anti-depressants prescribed by the doctor in Mexico my parents took me to see only enhanced my symptoms and were too strong for my stomach to handle, which was already suffering from a few ulcers caused by my poor mental state.

I’d often be lying in bed in the fetal position due to the pain, all while attempting to 100% Fallout 3 on my Xbox 360, my most reliable, mute companion at the time.

I reluctantly joined my mom and sister to the Maná concert at what was known as the Dodge Arena then (now Payne Arena) out of a sense of obligation. I didn’t want them to go alone.

Huge crowds, loud noises and long lines at the bathroom are just a few reasons why the concert-going experience doesn’t appeal to me, but despite it all, I went.

Before I knew it, my worries had melted before me. I no longer was the hurt black sheep, I was simply a fan enjoying Maná’s music along with others. I was part of a collective who were all letting loose. Something I found extremely difficult to do.

It felt euphoric. It was the same feeling I felt when playing as part of my school’s band and mariachi. We were an ensemble creating something beautiful.

I think it was this moment where Maná’s “Me Vale” became my favorite song of theirs.

Mana performs Nov. 4 at Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg. (Monitor photo)

“Me Vale” is an anthem of self-liberation and self-acceptance. It asks the audience to live life authentically, to embrace their individuality and to not let the opinions of others dictate their happiness.

I had heard the song many times before, but this was the first time I actually listened. It really spoke to a younger me who had lost his way due to school life and years of physical illnesses, which had only worn him down.

Depression is a funny thing. It saps the joy out of everything that once brought you happiness and excitement. It weighs on you as if you were Atlas doing your best to keep your world afloat. Some days you’ve stared into Medusa’s eyes and turned to stone, unable to move your own body and you lay in bed as the clock slowly ticks away.

But that’s what makes us incredible. Despite it all, we move forward whether it be on your own accord or with a little help from your friends.

It’s safe to say that I’ve gotten a lot better over the years, but it isn’t something that goes away completely. You just gotta keep on livin’. If not for you, then for those around you.

“Me Vale” is a straight lethal dose of encouragement and empowerment. It’s helped me realize what I want and what I have to do.

Maná properly throws the middle finger to the world as they perform my favorite song during their concert. They tell the world, who cares? I’m me. Even if I’m not OK, even if I am my own worst enemy, I’ll always get back up and do what I need to do to be better.