20 Years After Release Of ‘Beautiful’ Along The Mississippi, Javier Mendoza Band To Play It Again
A little over two decades ago, Javier Mendoza was living in St. Louis when he decided he wanted to quit music. He traveled back to Spain, where he grew up, intending to stay. But ultimately, through a series of events and personal connections, he ended up coming back to the Gateway City — and picking up his creative work again.
One song he wrote at that time, titled “Beautiful,” still stands out when he looks back.
“Without that song, I wouldn’t have even returned to the United States,” Mendoza told St. Louis on the Air.
He was “searching for solutions, searching for a creed, searching for someone to teach me how to breathe,” as the rock singer-songwriter puts it in the track, which received extensive radio play when it was first released.
Its success helped the Javier Mendoza Band sell out the legendary Mississippi Nights club in 2001 for the release of its sophomore album, also titled “Beautiful.” This weekend marks its 20th anniversary, and Mendoza, who moved to Nashville in 2013, is returning to St. Louis to commemorate it alongside the rest of the band members.
On Saturday, the five musicians will perform “Beautiful” in its entirety at the Blue Strawberry. In fact, they’ll be presenting it twice,adding a 5 p.m. show as all the in-person tickets for the 8 p.m. show have been snapped up (virtual tickets are still available for the 8 p.m. show).
Mendoza describes the reunion as a one-time opportunity, with original members together again after so many years. But returning to St. Louis, for Mendoza, is nothing new.
“I still don’t feel like I’ve left St. Louis, to be honest,” the musician said. He estimates that he traveled to his former city at least twice a month pre-pandemic and plans to return several more times this fall.
He’s also returned in recent years to some writing about the need to breathe. In March 2020, amid COVID-19 shutdowns, Mendoza began writing “Respira,” which is Spanish for “Breathe.” More than 20 musicians from all sorts of cities and countries joined the project, an 11-minute audiovisual creation that feels almost like a mini-concert. The effort raised thousands of dollars for artists in need.
“The song kind of takes you from what I felt was the pandemic, to the uncertainty, to the calm of being alone and [the] isolation, to what I thought was gonna happen — so the ending has this darkness with glimpses of hope,” Mendoza said.
On Friday’s show, he joined host Sarah Fenske to revisit “Beautiful” and share some of his more recent writing and reflections as well. He remembered the 2001 album’s release party, in downtown St. Louis, as a night full of energy and excitement.
At the time, the band seemed to be finding just the right chemistry, something Mendoza recalls translating to the crowd, too.
“Somebody had told us that we were the only unsigned band to have sold out the place — I’m not sure if that was accurate or not, but we were very excited about it, just to see a line of people trying to come in, after especially breaking up the band, or the first group that I started,” Mendoza said. “And then bringing this back with such great energy, it was so exciting.”
Most recently, Mendoza has been focusing on solo work, under the name Hobo Cane.
“I love my [given] name, but I never really intended it to be an artist name. … And what happened was when I moved here [to Nashville], I had a chance to start over and also have people not stereotype what kind of music I may play,” the musician explained. “Because with ‘Javier Mendoza’ I always gotten the whole thing where, ‘Oh, he’s gotta be a Latin musician,’ or, ‘He must be a Flamenco artist or a Latin jazz artist.’ And I’m just a rock artist, singer-songwriter, who sings in Spanish and English.
“So with ‘Hobo Cane’ I thought that you had a little bit more ambiguity, so people would step into wherever the club [was] or stage I was playing and not have a preconceived idea of what I was. And ‘hobo,’ I love the word ‘hobo,’ because although some people think it’s a bum, it’s a transient or migrant worker. And that’s what I’ve been all my life.”
The second part of the name, “Cane,” comes from his mother’s maiden name, Cañas.
Performing with Mendoza on Saturday will be Javier Mendoza Band members Jim Peters (guitar), David Karns (bass) and Moises Padilla (drums), as well as special guest Pete Ruthenburg (piano). It’s the first time most of them have played together in well over a decade.
What: Hobo Cane Presents the Javier Mendoza Band
When: 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Blue Strawberry (364 N. Boyle Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108)
Note: The in-person 8 p.m. show is sold out, but there are still spots for the 5 p.m. show at the Blue Strawberry as of this writing. And virtual tickets for the 8 p.m. show are also available.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.