AUSTIN, Texas - The Austin-based Selena tribute band, Bidi Bidi Banda, is back to in-person shows in Austin for the first time in 15 months since the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down.
As many local musicians struggled with shutdowns, Stephanie Bergara, manager and lead singer of the band says her team lost around $50,000 in canceled shows in 2020.
Despite the pandemic temporarily silencing their music, Bergara says they're back with a bigger voice for change.
"So today we're getting ready to announce a ton of shows, we're playing at the House of Blues, which we played it before," Bergara says from a back corner booth at Latina-owned Austin restaurant Taquero Mucho.
Bergara meets with us in between juggling a day job with the city of Austin, returning booking emails, juggling press interviews, speaking engagements, band practice and being a single mother.
"It's interesting to go from doing this [band work] every single day for six years and then completely stopping," Bergara says.
They started Bidi Bidi Banda more than five years ago and Bergara says since the day they first played at an Austin music festival, things have snowballed in terms of band success.
"Thanks for spending your Sunday evening with us, we're Bidi Bidi Banda," Bergara says in an Instagram post during the height of the pandemic. Like the rest of the world, they were forced to go online.
"It's terrifying to think I've been sitting at home in quarantine eating chicken nuggets with my baby, I'm not singing, what does that look like?" Bergara says, thinking about the long list of upcoming shows they’re already booked.
Bergara says the shutdowns opened her eyes to new possibilities to continue using their voice for change.
"June of last year, I was sitting at home, another Saturday, no-shows and for me as a native of Austin watching people cross the highway from East Austin to the downtown area where the hospital is and where the police department is, i was like i have never seen this before," Bergara remembers as the city of Austin like other cities across the country erupted in protests for social justice following the murder of George Floyd.
"It resonated with me and I was like, what can I do? How can we show that we are in solidarity, we’re standing in solidarity with this group of people and how can we show that we are not going to let this happen anymore?"
Taking lead from fellow Austin musician Jackie Venson, Bergara said things would change for Bidi Bidi Banda in the name of social justice.
"We have a diversity clause in our contract that says, we were going to review the booking practices of anyone who reaches out to us and if we feel like we're being utilized to help you meet a quota or to help you book a Latin night once a year and you don't have a deep investment in hiring people of color we're going to cancel our own show," Bergara explains.
Their show has origins in diversity. The band pays tribute to Selena Quintanilla, a woman who 25 years after her death is still helping break barriers.
"It's no secret to anybody that the music industry is largely led by white men and I think that we can turn that on it’s head," Bergara says.
In 208, Bidi Bidi Banda became the first Latin band to play at Austin's Blues on the Green in their nearly 30-year festival existence.
"Selena meant so much to so many people, including myself and it just feels like she hasn't lost any momentum. She was the first person I saw on television who looked like she could be related to me," Bergara says.
Starting out, Bergara admits it was a heavy burden, trying to be like Selena, until she claimed her own space in the scene.
"I spent my whole life trying to look like Selena make up wise, I spent my whole life trying to be like Selena, but I do think that there's a beauty and an inspiration to the pathway that she sent for me to make my own journey," Bergara says, adding she has no intention to be the next Selena. She describes the band as the Stephanie and Bidi Bidi Banda show who happens to play Selena music.
As the world returns together in 2021, Stephanie and Bidi Bidi Banda are back on their path with a refocused vision on making change in the music industry in Austin and beyond.
She says change begins with being very intentional on the band’s first show in Austin post-quarantine.
The show is at a female Latina owned restaurant, Gabriela's South Austin, no coincidence Bergara says.
As she finishes putting on her bright red lipstick from the Mac Selena collection, Bergara says this show means a lot, knowing her family and friends from the Dove Springs area are in the crowd.
"I'm all done here, ok we're all set!" Bergara says heading to the stage.
"Alright Austin! Help us out!" Bergara says as the band speakers blast a rumble of a car engine for their show opener, La Carcaha.
"The moment I think is most special in watching the shows is when someone hears their favorite Selena song and they close their eyes and are singing along to it and they are transported so whatever place in their minds remind them of the beauty of this music"
A reminder that all voices of all colors deserve a space in Austin.
Bergara says she's working on recording her own music in English and plans to release her first single Summer of 2021.
The band’s next Austin show, not officially announced yet, is July 13th at 3ten ACL Live.
For more information, follow them online.