The Festivals Third Year Caters To The Latin Music Communities Complexities, Not Oversimplifies Them
Tropicalia Music and Taco Festival held its third annual event this year on November 9 & 10. Within its initial lineup announcement and release, the neon green and pink flyer was quickly found and shared across the internet plastering your IG feeds, Twitter hashtags and Facebook posts. If you were a fan of Latin Alternative, Ska, Romanticas, Grupos, Indie or Nortenos, you were bound to come across the news of this years event and it is very apparent why. Tropicalia Festival continued its legacy this year in curating a lineup intentionally meant to cross borders, bridge gaps and overall blur a defined genre experience to create a weekend for the prismatic Latinx identity. A community and space, especially in the music world, that has gone overlooked and untouched for too long.
With incredibly rapid high demand, and an even quicker sold out event once tickets were finally available to purchase, the decision was made to relocate the event from Pico Rivera Sports to its final location at the Pomona Fairgrounds. While some took to socials to air their concerns with a rapid change only days before the event in regards to hotels and flights; we’d have to say that the change really created a better scenario for the festival overall. The parking situation was prompt and easy to navigate, more space for quicker entry and elbow room throughout the festival to dance, and of course a wider array of food and merch vendors.
The wild success of the festival in such a short amount of time since inception can be attributed to its carefully crafted and curated lineup experience that reflects the diverse nature of the Latin American population as a whole. While in recent years, the inclusion of Latin American voices and music has been on a steady incline within the industry; it is rare to find catered spaces that truly celebrate the complexity of an already multi-faceted people. Enter Goldenvoice and this years partners, L.A. Taco, to provide the answers and experience that was so utterly needed during todays age in Southern California.
In no other location would you see a festival which would have families flocking together, sharing excitement over artists performing on the same stages. Throughout the weekend, and especially on Saturday, it was almost more uncommon to find groups in attendance that were of the same age group. Looking around you would see a son in cheers with his father, a grandmother dancing with a baby or a family sitting across one of the lawn spaces. The festival exemplified a key aspect of music that often goes overlooked in festivals, one that is able to create an experience of community brought together by music and not just silhoed on a single-tracked genre lineup itself.
What the weekend culminates in, is a euphoric festival feeling of an extremely large carne asada with friends or an expansion of a Quinceañera party with your family. Essentially, it serves as a mixtape of everything a migrant, first, second, third and beyond generation Latin person would hear while either a weekend morning home or night out in Southern California.
Whether people had initial plans of attending the festival for particular artists, with a lineup that spanned somewhere near 30+ artists each day, it was nearly impossible not to discover new music, old music you didn’t realize you knew or your next favorite band. Multi-generational and genred acts filled the weekend; everywhere spanning from early 1960s reunions of grupos romanticas to modern day psychedelic, lo-fi artists. No other festvival where you would be able to see pioneers of Spanish Ska like Panteon Rococo and Maldita Vencindad share time slots with bands they have come to influence like Red Store Bums and Raskahuele who heavily influenced the later LA music scene. Hear heart wrenching songs sang by Paquita La Del Barrio, and then proceed to hear inspired by the same-emotional-energy tunes by diva fueled performances like Kali Uchis and La Doña. You could hear Alternative Indie legends Zoe, and the next day hear modern day Latin Indie soon to be legends Inner Wave.
Saturday shared more of the familial vibes as there were reunion and come back-esque performances by grupos that shared sentiment throughout the age groups present like Los Terricolas, Los Freddys and Los Pasteles Verdes. A large number of cell phones were raised during these sets as they searched for reception to facetime what looked like parents, grandparents and family that could not make it to the event itself but sure to be markers of inspiration for the music libraries of those who were. Sunday saw an incredibly larger influx of Millenials and Generation Z audiences as the day was more-so catered to the current sounds of lo-fi, dream-pop and indie sounds across the nation.
Bridging both worlds and continuing the sentiment of community, were a multitude of cross overs, covers and duets being presented throughout the weekend. Inspector paid tribute to Leo Dan, Natalia LaFourcade joined the stage to sing alongside Marisoul and La Santa Cecilia, Tropa Magica drummer Renee Pacheco was invited on stage to join FIDLAR during a wild performance, and of course the fusion of having two legendary bands on stage at once with Enanitos Verdes and Hombres G which brought their touring show to the Tropicalia stage.
Returning headliners Chicano Batman opted out of their usual suited fits this year, they graced the stage in outfits with a more traditional flare with messages scripted across them like “FREEDOM!” all playing into a verbal, aesthetic and musical homage to the musical genre of Tropicalia, a musical movement in Brazil in the 60’s that was initiated as political protest and rebellion. The band took some time from the set to educate the masses on the movement, all while playing tracks that were heavily inspired by the sounds.
Cuco, also returning as a slated headliner, was gratefully and very enthusiastically cheered onto the stage and throughout his set showing the admiration his fans cary for the young singer who recently cancelled the remainder of his tour to take care of his personal well being. The audience did not seem to take this lightly as they whole heartedly and affectionately showered the dream pop artist with cheers and support as they sang along song by song.
While Saturday could be coined to have had an all Latin artist lineup; the second day differed slightly as it fluctuated on its inclusion of Latin indie artists. What makes this equally as special, is that it found a balance between pigeonholing its curation into a Latin only space; into one that truly values the inclusivity of the Latinx music lover of today. It seems the organizers understand that the complexity of a Latin space does not mean it has to have a strictly Latin lineup, but one that embraces that a singular listener has the ability to enjoy the songs of Caifanes and Fobia, as much as an album by Homeshake and Mild High Club. The most important goal, it seemed, was to have an experience that left no shortage of tunes to carry you throughout the weekend and ensure your eyes, ears and stomachs were kept full as you enjoyed the weekend.
Another aspect of creating and fostering community that Tropicalia has seemed to maintain is aside from returning headliners; there are also a multitude of smaller artists that have continually returned to play the festival. Acts like Yellow Days and The Marias played the initial first year of the festival when much smaller names and on smaller stages to now return as main stage time slots with their audiences, sets and confidence exponentially increased. In an industry thats saturated with rotation of new artists and emphasis on dollar signs; it is comforting to see that the event space has developed alongside their artists and vice versa.
Aside from the music itself, the festival has developed its sense of environment by providing something exciting to see or do at every stop. From its promised, delicious rows of food vendors and array of tacos to refuel; this year also provided a smaller DJ stage that had tunes cranked at all hours to provide a quick dance refuge from the festival itself or to kill time between sets. One of the more engaging moments in the booth was the consistent playing of Caballo Dorado and Payaso De Rodeo, a very iconic and commonly known line dance within Latin communities which had attendees flocking every time played to join in what seemed like mini flash mobs.
For the Instagram and photo savy, there were a multitude of picturesque backdrops and props scattered throughout the grounds to be sure to keep your feeds flooded for weeks to come. One of the favorite set ups being an alter dedicated to recently deceased Walter Mercado who represented an icon that was celebrated across the breadth of generations present at the festival.
Ultimately, the festival is a wild success as it hones in on the aspect of catering to a Latin community by reciprocating their complexities, not oversimplifying them. Every detail, musical act and decision seems to have a larger vision and goal in mind which as an end result, plays into a well balanced relationship between the consumer and creator. From the larger venue location, layout, food choices, lineup and ambiance; attendees throughout the weekend were heard chattering about next years event and left with excitement towards what the next year could bring. But if we’ve learned anything from these last years, its that we can only make the assumption that next year will be even greater; which has our excitement levels at an all time high.