by Tom Nguyen
[UPDATE: Set times have been released and are posted at the bottom of this article.]
For a first time festival debuting this Saturday, November 11, Tropicália Music and Taco Festival at Queen Mary Park is as ambitious as they get in LA’s crowded music festival landscape. I mean who programs Norteño (Los Tigres del Norte) with 90s R&B (Ginuwine)…and throws in free tacos for everyone?!? That’s bold! Offering up such a bilingual and multi-generational lineup of music is a breath of fresh air for a music lover like me, who’s tired of bland, vanilla lineups catered for a white audience (lookin at you, Coachella) than for Brown, Black and immigrant folks with musical palettes that know no borders and yearn with nostalgia for our parents’ music.
True to its name, the festival features Latin alternative darlings Chicano Batman, heavily influenced by Brazil’s Tropicalia movement, as well as Os Mutantes, the esteemed psychedelic rock group from that very era. Cumbia fans will savor Sonora Dinamita, Celso Piña and Very Be Careful, and some of my favorite bands and DJ collectives will be representing LA’s eclectic music scenes I love so much: Buyepongo, Las Cafeteras, The Buttertones, Cuco, Chulita Vinyl Club, Funky Sole, Dub Club, Low End Theory, Scam and Jam. The late addition of Mexican rock legends, Cafe Tacvba, cements an already stellar lineup of Latin acts that includes reggaeton royalty Ivy Queen, and Colombian American pop princess Kali Uchis.
The festival is organized by the same folks who manage The Observatory Orange County, a venue that regularly features hip hop and other upcoming talents on its main stage and smaller stage, The Constellation Room. They’ve curated quite an eclectic lineup of hip hop acts: Goldlink, King Krule, Madlib, Sango, Smino, Phoney Ppl, Weapons of Mass Creation.
Swoon to the soulful voices of Jhené Aiko, Jorja Smith, Jessie Reyez as well as timeless songs by 60s soul and R&B legends The Delfonics and Brenton Wood. There are more venerable acts too: Wanda Jackson, the Queen of Rockabilly still performing at 80, 70s Spanish singer Jeannette, and Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, whose 80s hit “Love Come Down” I’m going to be singing along at full force!
Here are some of the acts I’m looking forward to seeing for the first time and the set times for the festival:
Os Mutantes – The psychedelic rock band was one of the most influential during Brazil’s Tropicália movement of the 60s which challenged the country’s oppressive military dictatorship. They fused the psychedelic influences of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and others of the time with Brazilian forms of music like bossa nova and samba, and in turn, their experimental and progressive music has been cited as important influences by Kurt Cobain, Beck, Talking Heads’ David Byrne. You can hear their influence with LA Latin Alternative bands like Chicano Batman and Brainstory. The band reunited in 2006 and just today, released the track “Black and Gray” as a cry for help to the First Lady Melania Trump. Sergio Dias, the band’s sole original member since the 60s, says of the song, “To whom can we ask for help? The Senate? No, Melania, our first lady… Maybe she can enlighten our president and make some changes…I’ve never seen Trump extend a slight tenderness or affection to this poor immigrant…like me. Does he have her behind a wall also?”
Ivy Queen – The Queen of Reggaeton from Puerto Rico is a pioneer in what was and still is a male-dominated scene. She’s always challenged male entitlement and objectification of women, like in her classic song “Quiero Bailar”. The Biebers of the world may just be discovering reggaeton now, but La Diva has been speaking out about racial and gender politics and blazing the trail for a new generation of reggaetoneras for more than 2 decades! If you can’t get enough reggaeton after her set, here’s the perfect after-party: the very same night is Escándalo at Bootleg Theater, a special night of reggaeton by 2 women artists: Tomasa Del Real from Chile and La Goony Chonga from Miami.
Jessie Reyez – The Colombian-Canadian singer/songwriter from Toronto has been enjoying meteoric popularity from the song “Figures” off her debut EP Kiddo. Her voice and lyrics are raw, emotional and intense. She’s outspoken against sexism, misogyny and racism and her short film “Gatekeeper: A True Story” is a must-watch about abusive behavior she’s suffered in the music industry…a timely and poignant cautionary tale in light of all the revelations lately about abusive powerful men in the entertainment industry.
Kali Uchis – I finally get to see this sensational phenom, who burst on the scene with her vintage vibe, hypnotically poetic lyrics, bubble gum pop princess aesthetic and music videos she directed herself. The bleached blonde hair is dark now, and she’s showing more of her Colombian roots in her Spanish songs and music videos shot there.
Jorja Smith – The world was introduced to the British singer/songwriter’s smooth, soulful voice and powerful lyrics, when she first released “Blue Lights” in January 2016 at the age of 18, about police brutality against black bodies. And behind the youth is confidence and wisdom beyond her years and an earnest need to tell things like it is and not shy away from singing about heavy subjects…”I’m not here to sugarcoat things,” she tells Pitchfork in a recent interview.
Cuco – Meet the millenial heartthrob who’s got Latinx teens swooning at his sold-out shows with his dreamy, bilingual songs about young love and awkward relationships. The 19 year old from Hawthorne in South LA grew up listening to Chicano rap and playing music but only started releasing music last year. His romantic ballads with a lofi aesthetic backed by his trumpet playing are instantly resonating with his fans, one of whom describes him best: “His music is reminiscent of what my parents listened to and what I’m listening to. It’s pretty nostalgic and to see another brown kid do that and not care about toxic machismo culture, it gives me hope for the next generation of brown kids.”
Sango – The Soulection producer has spent the past few years in a love affair with Brazilian music and following his “Da Rocinha” mixtapes fusing trap with Baile Funk music from Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, his latest release “De Mim, Pra Você” (“From Me, To You”) is more “influenced by Northern Brazilian music. Black music.”
Phony Ppl – Described as “The Most Famous Band You’ve Never Heard Of”, the Brooklyn natives describe their music as “vintage astral funk, soulful complex R&B, and dusted-out hip-hop which evokes a newfound genre-less form of music originating in the basement of a Bedford-Stuyvesant home studio where the band begin making music together in high school.” Elijah Rawk, their guitarist who’s also performed as part of Kali Uchi’s band the past 2 years, highlights the importance of Tropicalia bringing Latinx and black music fans together in a recent OC Weekly article: “We’ve been getting acclimated with our Latin fanbase and trying to expand more into that. When you grow up in New York City, Latin people and black people tend to go through the same walks of life. It’s a deep understanding.”
Tropicália Music and Taco Festival
Saturday, November 11,
Queen Mary Park, Long Beach
Hosted by East LA native Felipe Esparza best known for his raw, real-life comedy, his
irreverent on-stage persona, wild hair, and his often-imitated phrase, “What’ sup fool?”
Admission includes free All You Can Eat Tacos until 4pm, provided by some of the hottest Tacos in town: Carnitas el Momo, Dia de los Puercos, Mariscos Jalisco, Burritos La Palma, Pez Cantina, Calo Provisions, Taqueria la Venganza (Vegan), Epic Tacos,
Cuatro Calaveras, La Calaca Fish Tacos, Dos Mexicanos Grill, Street Kitchen LA, Bann Mi Tacos, Chichen Itza, Taco Mel, The Classic Taco, 3941 Tamales, Casa De Brisa, Los Tacos Guys, Barrels Baja Fresh Tacos, Vchos Truck, Triple Threat Tacos, Butchers Block LA, Padre Long Beach, Macheen Tacos, Chuys Tacos.
General admission tickets starting at $75 ranging to $95 as the festival date draws nearer. VIP admission starts at $150, with packages like “Rage on the Stage” selling for $500. Those who want the ultimate VIP treatment can opt for “VIP Legend” and “VIP Cabana” packages.
View the entire line up and purchase tickets at: http://www.tropicaliafest.com/