Cover Story: This is Grupo Frontera

A few years ago, a cattle rancher and a wedding photographer in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley approached a local car dealership finance manager to ask if he’d like to join a band and gig at quinceañeras on weekends.

The band’s guitarist, Alberto “Beto” Acosta, was working full-time shooting weddings, birthdays, pregnancy reveals, and quinceañeras. The idea was that they could offer a package deal to prospective clients: Acosta would take photos, then he’d strap on a bajo quinto and, along with Juan Javier Cantú, a nimble accordion player and vocalist, and Julian Peña Jr., an energetic percussionist and hype man, they’d get crowds moving to covers of classics by Ramón Ayala, Duelo, and other icons of música Mexicana.

Then one of Grupo Frontera’s songs — a joyous cover of Colombian pop band Morat’s song “No Se Va” — went mega-viral on TikTok, when a couple in Chihuahua, Mexico, danced to it together in lockstep. It rocketed into the Billboard Hot 100 charts, where it hovered for nearly five months and peaked at No. 57. A few months later, the band traveled across their home state to play shows, first in Houston and then several weeks later up at Rodeo West in Dallas, to find massive crowds singing the lyrics to “No Se Va” back to them.

Acosta takes his phone out of his pocket and pulls up a video of the Houston concert to show me the energy reverberating in the room that night. I can barely discern the guys’ voices from the din of people screaming the song’s chorus: “Quédate otra vez / Quédate toda la noche.” (Stay again, stay all night).

Shortly after those shows, Peña made a life-altering decision. “I called Juan and Beto and I was like, ‘Dude I put in my two weeks,’” he recalls between rips of a coffee-flavored electronic vape. “And both of them were like, ‘What!? What’s wrong with you bro, what the hell?’” As Peña saw it, either he could do music full-time or continue his 9 to 5.

Cantú and Acosta were wary — “It was the first song we’d had that hit,” Acosta says of “No Se Va” — but soon every member of Grupo Frontera had followed Peña’s lead and left their day jobs. Acosta put down his camera, Cantú hung up his hat (though you still might see him wearing one on stage), Guerrero put on hold the trucking company he owned, and Solís, who made fences for a gated community, put down his hammer. Brian Ortega, who’d joined the band temporarily as bass player and traveled in from Houston, moved to the Valley and joined permanently.

Their gamble paid off. Now Grupo Frontera is selling out arenas all over the world; collaborating with Shakira, Grupo Firme, and Peso Pluma; and taking their influence way beyond the Valley and TikTok. Their songs have been nominated for VMAs, and Barrera took home a Latin Grammy last year for their Bad Bunny collaboration “Un x100to,” a song that has nearly 750 million views on YouTube. They’ve been nominated for 11 Latin American Music Awards this year, including Album of the Year for their debut, El Comienzo.

Though they’ve gatecrashed the zeitgeist, they’re hardly riding TikTok micro-trends or indulging in passing fads. Everything they release is rooted in traditional musicianship and emotive songwriting. “They know how much to play and not overplay on the songs, which is something that not every musician knows how to do,” says Edgar Barrera, a Grammy-winning songwriter and frequent collaborator of Grupo Frontera’s who also works with Shakira and Maluma, among others.


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