Festival Review: Pachanga Latino Music Fest 2010

bomba at pachangaMost of the Austin Vida staff was at Pachanga Latino Music Festival on Saturday, May 22, and when we weren’t busy dancing our booties off we were taking notes and shooting photos, while observing the sights and sounds. The festival was great fun overall, as we were there from noon to almost midnight. But our only concern is that, for some reason, headliners Bomba Estéreo weren’t allowed to play an encore after the crowd chanted madly for one. And across Fiesta Gardens at the Pavilion stage, where Roberto Pulido was scheduled to play until 10:30, the show was cut off at 10 on the dot.

Aside from that, we don’t have many complaints. The artists were all very approachable and hung out to watch other band’s sets from the crowd (something you definitely don’t see at ACL). The enthusiasm from the fans and the musicians alike is what really made this year’s Pachanga stand out. There seemed to be a genuine love of the game from the diehards and an exuberant curiosity by the casual fans and newcomers.

So with that, here are mini-recaps of the bands we saw and the photos we took. All photos by Mari Hernandez and Chantel Clopine.



The day started with San Antonio accordion-punk-rockers Piñata Protest ripping through an enthusiastic set in front of fans who traveled up from San An’ to catch their hometown heroes. Fedora-sporting frontman Alvaro del Norte jokingly quipped, “This is the Hierba Stage. So you can smoke hierba.” Shortly thereafter, they burst into a rapid-fire cover of “La Cucaracha” with del Norte showing off his trumpet skills. These guys are like if the Dropkick Murphys grew up in South Texas watching Cheech and Chong movies all day.

Next up on the Hierba Stage was the virtuoso hard rock of Cream-influenced trio Amplified Heat. At one point, our photographer Mari Hernandez affectionately said, “These guys need to stop showing off.” It’s true; you were either headbanging or staring in awe of their hyper-kinetic classic rock stylings. It got loud, too. “Sweaty beards and rock ‘n’ roll,” is how our intern, Winston Rivas, described it.

Girl in a Coma was one of the other four bands representing San Antonio, and they had one of the biggest and most enthusiastic crowds of the day. This alt-rock trio rocked a lot of covers during their set, including Selena’s “Si Una Vez.” From afar, you could’ve sworn it was the Tejano legend herself; their voices were that similar. But we really dug their seductive take on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by The Beatles. This is a versatile band, and one to keep an eye on.

pacha massivePacha Massive was the band our writer Eugenia Vela was most eager to catch—and they delivered. Their unique style and a multifaceted air of “cool” made them so approachable and relatable that everybody went nuts. The mix of raggae/electronica/funk was so perfectly tied together with vocalist Maya’s sensual voice and style, and they had fun dedicating their song “Pachangueando” to the festival, which they called the “Pacha Fest.” The airy, hazy and bluesy atmosphere they created was perfect, relaxing the crowd as the sun began to set, but inevitably exciting them enough to keep dancing into the night.

Bomba Estéreo closed out the dance party with the ultra-charismatic Liliana Saumet making us wonder why she isn’t bigger than M.I.A. right now. After all, Saumet actually has talent as an emcee, singer and dancer—not to mention her larger-than-life stage presence, which is both sexy and street simultaneously. And for anyone who thought this was just a dance band, Bomba showed off their musicianship and experimental side with between-song psychedelic, electronic interludes before blowing up with crowd-pleasing scorchers like “Fuego.” Saumet even invited nearly a dozen girls from the audience to get up on stage, at which point they danced during a 10-minute song. One of the girls looked so tempted to booty dance with bassist Simon Mejia while Saumet quickly spit psico-psico-psico-psico-psicodelica! For a second after the show was over, it looked like we were teased with an encore, but it never happened, leaving some in the crowd to boo. It was an awkward end to an otherwise fantastic day at the Hierba Stage.



{becssg_c}0|av-100522-pach-hierb01-pacha.JPG|Pacha Massive at Pachanga Fest| Photo by Chantel Clopine {/becssg_c}




brian lopez bandThe Patio Stage is always the sleeper stage with the best unexpected treats. Everyone knows about the big international headliners at the Hierba and the Tejano stars at the Pavilion, but it’s the Patio’s indie vibe that makes it the most accessible to newcomers and rewarding to those who thought they were in the know.

Brian Lopez kicked off the afternoon with his haunting big-band-style approach to indie singer/songwriter performance. He had a cellist, violinist, pianist and upright bassist to back his Jeff Buckley-esque warble. Lopez, an Arizona native, sang songs in English and Spanish about love and heartbreak. It was a chilling performance at times, and the quietest audience all day. While one of our female writers lamented that he wasn’t as cute in person as his photos suggest (cheap shot, but still), we were all blown away by his talent on stage. We hope he returns to Austin soon.

Next, Brownout maintained its Latin funk supremacy, playing all the hits and a couple of new songs. They’re starting to use more vocals, which is cool. Guitarist Adrian Quesada doesn’t get to flex his vocal muscles in the group’s other project, Grupo Fantasma, so it’s nice to see the dude can really sing. The band went on at about 3:30, and the first thing we noticed was the large crowd. We didn’t see that many people show up that early for Pachanga last year. In 2009, it took until the sun started setting to get that many people out.

Most people stuck around for Los Angeles-based Chilean singer/songwriter Pilar Diaz. Those who didn’t should be kicking themselves. With a ukulele and a unique voice, Diaz enthralled the crowd of newbies. How she hits some of those notes, we have no clue. Go girl. We have to admit, there’s some really interesting music coming out of L.A. right now.

david garza at pachanga festOur writer Eugenia Vela called the next act, David Garza, “the quintessential likable dude—nice, funny, wins the crowd with his conversational rock.” This was almost an allstar set, with Maneja Beto’s guitarist joining as well as Michael Ramos of Charanga Cakewalk. Most people who excitedly filled the stage were clearly already familiar with his music, and everybody danced and swayed or nodded along to his whole set. Garza joked around with the audience, and confirmed that “the accordion is the official instrument of beer.”

Hacienda closed the Patio stage with their nostalgic ’60s pop-rock. From the tiny town of Boerne, these brothers and a cousin play some of the tightest and grooviest old-school rock ‘n’ roll around. A friend of ours who isn’t really into Latin music but was at Pachanga anyway commented on how these guys are better than almost every other “garage rock” band he’s seen in town. These dudes are quintessentially Texan, however, even naming their album Big Red and Barbacoa. Doesn’t get more Tejano than that.



{becssg_c}0|av-100522-pach-pat01-david.JPG|David Garza at Pachanga Fest| Photo by Marcos Chantel Clopine {/becssg_c}




We jokingly wondered if the very first act of the day was annoyed that they were missing the Saturday morning cartoons. Victoria, Texas’ 24-7 includes four very talented boys—three of them in their early teens, and the solid and talented drummer was about 11. They proved to be quite grown up with a bluesy funk style reminiscent of Los Lonely Boys. Looking at these boys (and their female guest vocalist with a voice of true soul) perform on the Pavilion Stage certainly took me back to an eighth-grade party in which the band got all the girls, except this band actually does have potential. Their set included a little bit country, a little bit Santana with a twist, and an instrumental “Low Rider,” which gives me hope in thinking not all boys are listening to Nickelback these days. 24-7 guitarrist Nikko Vallejo is a great talent, a pleasure to watch.

Before catching the Pavilion’s next act, we stopped by the Niños Rock Tent for a drumming workshop. The tent came alive with tables full of blow-up saxophones, tiny accordions and guitars, which tattooed moms so proudly handed to their adorable kids. As some children sat down to learn “how to get a beat” on drums, others, like blonde little Pearl, took initiative and joined Alex Vallejo on stage. Baby rock stars of the future got inked: Painted stars, butterflies and musical notes covered their eager faces as they clapped along with their parents and found a rhythm all their own.

Eugenia caught Vitera’s set next at the Pavilion. Being that she’s a Monterrey hipster, she had this to say: “I’m not the greatest fan of pop-rock, least of all pop-rock en español. But these guys are a pretty perfect version of what they are. Heavily reminded me of Moderatto, a sort of Kiss-meets-Timbiriche of today.” You can’t deny his violin skills, either.

For Songwriting 101 at the kid’s tent, toddlers and fedora-clad daddies sat down with David Garza and Michael Ramos. The gist of what they learned? “For songwriting, you gotta have good music” and “you gotta have something you can tap your foot along to,” according to Garza, their teacher of the day. The kids shook along with their canary yellow maracas, using their own personal drums (their laps), joining in on “Wooly Bully” and “Twist and Shout” and paying close attention to Garza’s oh-so-wise lessons, which we can all take a cue from: “Music was the first language.”

Next was the Grammy-nominated Tortilla Factory, a big band that holds a style all their own. With a mix of Spanish and English lyrics, it’s a kind of old-school Latin rhythm that Pachanga attendees simply loved. With classic balads, their own rendition of “Stand By Me” and an electrifying Celia Cruz-esque flare, they truly got it right in asking, “Where else can one play country, salsa and Tejano and get away with it? Just Austin—keep it weird!”

Y La Orkesta was definitely one of the day’s favorites—from Tucson, Arizona, they were abound with an energy, passion and spice that got everyone dancing. Their cleverly arranged performances and obvious chemistry is definitely what most fits to the definition of “pachanga!” There has never been a better time to mambo—when the frontman is howling to the beat, and with Brian Lopez on guitar, if you heard this band and didn’t feel a sudden jolt of energy and urge to dance… well, then there’s something wrong with you.

Next up was Willie Alvarado. I think a lot of kids have at least once sat down and watched their parents slow dance, cheek to cheek, to a beautiful balad that takes them back to a time only they know of. Alvarado perfectly embodied this, with his tranquil and romantic voice that people sat down to enjoy and admire. His personal version of “Bésame Mucho” was definitely a favorite—we’d never seen so many ladies-of-a-certain-age swoon.

mariachi las altenas at pachangaFrom San Antonio, the all-female mariachi group Mariachi Las Alteñas was what brought the broadest smile to Eugenia’s face at Pachanga. She said, “Just last week was my sister’s graduation, and horrified, she told me she’d forgotten how embarrasing it was to be serenaded by mariachi. But I know if she’d seen Las Alteñas, she’d be smiling, too.” With their gorgeous outfits of bright gold and red, the Mariachi was a wave of familiarity, right down to the charming scream of, “Ay papacito!” The Pavilion Stage was packed for the girls, who dazzled everybody with their beautiful voices and performed one of our all-time favorites, “Amor de mis Amores.” No better song to dance to!

We were most anxious to catch the salsa piano legend Larry Harlow sit in with Austin’s hometown salsa/cumbia heroes, Grupo Fantasma. After playing a good half hour of new material, Fantasma was joined by Harlow for renditions of classics like “La Cartera.” There were a few technical difficulties at first, as we couldn’t quite here his piano. But that was taken care of quickly. The crowd was so busy dancing they didn’t notice. Harlow summed up the night perfectly when he shouted happily into his mic, “Austin Es Musica.”



{becssg_c}0|av-100522-pach-pav01-247.JPG|247 at Pachanga Fest| Photo by Chantel Clopine {/becssg_c}

Austin Vida Staff

Entertainment and culture in Texas, with a Latino twist.

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