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Tropicália Music Fest Storms into Southland

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Chicano Batman, de izq.- Carlos Arévalo (lira), Gabriel Villa (batería), Bardo Martínez (voz, teclas, lira), Eduardo Arenas (voz, bajo)
from staff reports

Already a buzz among L.A.’s ultra-hip alt-Latino, electronica, retro lo-fi, vintage surf Sangra-burban ponquero goth-rock, crossover Regional Mexican, ’90s hip-hop, ’70s soul and ’50s rockabilly music aficionados, the Tropicália Music & Taco Festival, has, in short order, become one of the most highly anticipated SoCal music festivals of the year. And it is safe to suggest, even in advance, that it will go down in history as the proverbial straw that broke the millennial camel’s back and proclaimed loudly to the world that Latino music IS the mainstream, even if “Despacito,” the all-time most downloaded song in U.S. history was ignored at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards.

The sonic equivalent of the blockbuster PST: LA/LA (Pacific Standard Time: Latin America/Los Angeles) series of art exhibitions and surveys being held across Southern California in a “dialogue” sponsored and guided by the Getty Center and three years in the making, Tropicália bears witness to the fact that, as “raza,” we kind of really do make everyone else hip, and non-Latinos, though loathe to admit it or accept it, have begun to realize they really do need us to be cool.

That’s the real reason they’re opening galleries and coffee shops in Boyle Heights and sniffing around at retro-zoot suit, pachuco-centric celebrations like Barrio Boogie, trying hard not to look like curiosity seekers or tourists. That’s why a certain weekly owned by a corporate New York concern  is hot on the gentrification trail all of a sudden when, for years, they only deigned to cover the “real” Eastside in a positive way every odd year or so when Los Lobos managed to deliver another monster album.

Seven of the bands in the line-up at Tropicália have been featured in Brooklyn & Boyle. Las Cafeteras were on our cover in 2012. Thee Commons played our editor’s birthday party at KGB Studios in 2014. In the words of Marvel’s Stan Lee, “Nuff said.” Elsewhere in this issue, our 9th Annual Día de Los Muertos edition, you’ll find a touching and profound and almost tragic photo essay by panameña transplant Lorena Endara, whose partner, Eduardo Arenas, co-founded Chicano Batman and has been busy producing and recording the next generation of “musical genios” from his part of the world as a gifted and de facto A & R guru.

With Tropicália, Orange County’s The Observatory Group breathes new life into the stale festival landscape with yet another historically eclectic line-up certain to resonate with fans of any given genre. And the rumors are true; it is not a late Fall season leg-pull. You really will have all-you-can-eat tacos until 4 p.m. With a stellar, wish-list, lineup that reads like a savant producer extraordinaire’s personal wet dream, or the musical equivalent of a Siskel and Ebert four-thumbs-up rating, Tropicália unfolds with a masterpiece gallery of musical minds, hearts and spirits, skillfully assembled in an effort to deliver the most soul-stirring, body-thrumming, hip-grooving convergence of delightfully harmonic--as well as infinitely dance-able sounds on Saturday, November 11 at Queen Mary Park in Long Beach. 

From L.A.’s favorite psychedelic funk rockers Chicano Batman and fashion designer turned indiepop/electronica Columbian-American songstress Kali Uchis to Norteño music icons Los Tigres del Norte and legendary alt-rocker “defeño” prophets Café Tacuba, Tropicália’s line-up guarantees a day-long frenzy of Norteño dance twists, twirls and caballito kicks, cumbia trance romance, salsero pyrotechnics, retro-surf-punk-rockabilly contortions and more.

The eclectic blend-o-matic magic will ensure that an artist or group representing the spectrum of dance genres will keep everyone’s feet in step and the crowd moving. With soul music legends Brenton Wood and The Delfonics alongside with the queen of rockabilly Wanda Jackson, plus reggaeton’s royal highness herself, the incomparable Ivy Queen complimented by a set from fierce and firme R&B songstress Jhené Aiko driving the beats, anyone standing still or sitting at Queen Mary Park that day is either inhuman or has a truly legitimate physical condition the producers and artists will make every effort to accommodate, because no one should be denied the auditory experience of a lifetime.

Throwback performances from’90s R&B star Ginuwine and futuristic sets from the modish, lo-fi singer/songwriter/rapper King Krule only add to the visionary breadth of the event. And Latin music as represented by cumbia legends Sonora Dinamita coupled with the vallenato-laced cumbia and straight ahead regiomontano accordion grooves direct from Monterrey, Mexico by Celso Piña, as well as the lush and sexy psychedelia sounds of  ‘Tropicalia’ movement exponents Os Mutantes who come to us all the way from Sao Paolo, Brazil, will undoubtedly provide a small glimpse of what audiences with specific "gustos" can expect.

Las Cafeteras, from El Sereno's Eastside Cafe to the world.
Of course, it would not be a legitimate SoCal celebration of the very best in Latin groove-ology without the presence of Los Angeles’ undisputed forever sweethearts and musical standard bearers Very Be Careful, Las Cafeteras, Buyepongo, La Banda Skalavera, Thee Commons, and Cuco, plus a barrage of homegrown DJ sets and ambiance. These are the groups that have inherited the torch from Ozomatli and Quetzal as heirs to the enigmatic “Eastside Sound,” a tradition that stretches back more than 50 years, when the Cannibal & the Headhunters, a band from the oft-overlooked Hazard barrio opened for the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl and were then asked by the Beatles themselves to board their private jet the next day and open a Beatles show at Shay Stadium in New York.

Buyepongo, led by Metzli Modesto, are Sur Centro-East Los ambassadors of peace, love and power-cumbia.
The ground-breaking Tropicália festival, the first of what many hope will become an annual pachanga, is being  hosted by Eastside native Felipe Esparza, best known for his raw, real-life comedy, his irreverent on-stage persona, wild hair, and oft-imitated “What’ sup, foo?” greeting, a phrase gleaned from a childhood spent on the streets of Boyle Heights. For the record, that particular salutation was already common usage among real Chicanos at least a decade before “Lean Like Cholo” became a brief flash-in-the-pan musical mantra and Youtube viral hit for millions of Americans, Latino and otherwise, not long ago.

All-you-can-eat tacos at Tropicália are being graciously provided by some of the most revered loncheras in Los Angeles County, among them: 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 and Chuys Tacos.

Tickets range from general admission starting at $75 for early-bird purchase and $95 at the gate. 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/

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Brooklyn & Boyle is a print and online magazine dedicated to Art & Life in Boyle Heights and Beyond. The publication features Brooklyn & Boyle stories from the Greater Eastside LA arts scene, including but not limited to the neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, City Terrace, East LA, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, South Pasadena, Cypress Park, Arroyo Seco, Highland Park, and Eagle Rock, places every bit as creative and cultured as one another while aware and active in support of authentic arts and creative projects which support community integrity and respect for the history and heritage of the many Eastside neighborhoods.

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