Last weekend Latin music filled the stormy air as this year’s Pachanga Latino Music Festival began Friday night with a brief storm like you see in Hollywood movies. After an opening set by Austin-based Este Vato, attendees were quickly gathered under the pavilion stage at Fiesta Gardens and given plastic rain ponchos by the staff. For a while it felt like the opening scene in Scarface when the Cuban refugees arrive in those “camps,” but luckily the storm let up enough for the show to go on. And go on it did…
After the rough part of the storm it was time for the Monterrey-based co-headliners to take over. The young tribal trio known as 3BallMTY got the largely Mexican (not Mexican-American but Mexican) crowd pumped up again with their live DJ-estyle set that featured beat pads, live percussion and young Mexican break dancers flashing their stomach muscles for the ladies to scream at. It was great to see the young trio, who aren’t old enough yet to buy beer legally in the U.S. yet, return to Austin after a South by Southwest performance last year. “Intentalo” sounded much better on the large stage than it did at some downtown bar.
Friday’s headliner was the Zapata, Texas-based norteño veterans, Intocable. With the most cowboy hats and boots I have ever seen under one Pachanga Fest stage, it was clear that their crowd will come see them in Austin come rain or shine. The group plowed through a plethora of popular hits including “Hay Ojitos” and “Robarte Un Beso .” Very few bands still have such star power in this genre, in the U.S. La gente came out and Intocable closed out Friday night proper.
Gates opened on Saturday to much better weather and a full day of live performances. East Austin teen collective Anthropos Musician Collective opened the fest with an enjoyable set that included a Buena Vista Social Club cover. Miss “POPopportunity” herself, Miranda Gil from Austin followed right before local conjunto favs Susan Torres y Conjunto Clemencia performed. While all these performances were happening, the popular Niños Rock tent offered lessons and demos for the kids.
Right around 3 p.m on Saturday is when the bigger names and touring acts begin to play during Pachanga. One of the Bay Area’s three groups on the fest, Latin fusion group Bang Data turned heads early while the older, more Tex-Mex crowd was watching the legendary Flaco Jiménez on the Pavilion Stage. Austin’s first chicha group and Grupo Fantasma/Brownout side project Money Chicha started shortly there after, dawning bandido-estyle bandanas to hide their faces. Perhaps it was because they would later come out as Grupo Fantasma and didn’t want that to be too obvious. Either way, it is the biggest stage the psychedelic-chicha group has played and they sounded killer.
The early evening gave Austin their first look ever at new Nacional Records recording artist Raul y Mexia (pronounced Mex-Eye-Ya). The San Jose, CA group is composed of two brothers who are the sons of Hernan Hernández of Los Tigres Del Norte. The duo’s music sounded nothing like their father’s, although the influence is clearly there in their fusion of different sounds that include R&B, pop and traditional Latin rhythms.
The toughest choice for attendees came around 5 p.m as we all had to choose from Morrissey tribute band Sweet & Tender Hooligans and Mexican DJ duo Los Master Plus. While Morrissey is in the hearts and ink of so many of us Latinos, Los Master Plus are a heepster favorite in Mexico. Ironically, both bands perform covers and cater to almost the same crowd. Given the rare opportunity to see Los Master Plus while they were in the country, I headed to the Hierba Stage to watch crowds laugh and dance to a cumbia-fied, electronic cover of “Sex Is On Fire” or “Sex En Fuego.” I totally should have gone to the see the Morrissey dudes…
After hip-hop duo Los Rakas rocked the crowd Pana-baynian estyle at the Patio Stage, the three surprises of the fest followed. Austin-based Como Las Movies, a Latin fusion group that features former members of Maneja Beto, blew away a small but packed crowd under tent stage. It was refreshing to hear after catching a brief part of the Selena Y Los Burritos set, an Austin-based Selena tribute band. I’m still not sure if it was terrible or awesome, but I think that is the reaction the group goes for.
The last surprise of the day was during the Grupo Fantasma set. Austin’s biggest and baddest Latin band played their usual amazing live set with their same familiar songs we’ve been hearing for the last few years. They were nothing short of spectacular, as always and people loved them. The surprise came from founding member and who I thought was their leader, Adrian Quesada, announced he was leaving the group. We have more details on that here.
Before the night’s headliners took the stage, Austin-based singer-songwriter Gina Chavez closed out the Tent Stage to a receptive crowd. Vallejo, a longtime Austin modern rock fav, was a great warm up for Los Lobos as they reach fans both Latino and non. Tucson’s Sergio Mendoza y La Orkesta, a 2010 Pachanga performer making their way back to the fest, blew everyone watching away with their vintage big band, mambo-influenced music. It was the first time all day that I witnessed a crowd demanding an encore.
The night’s headliners, while different in terms of the genre they play and the crowd they attract, were perfect headliners for a Latin music festival in Austin. Monterrey-based accordion assassin Celso Piña headlined at the Hierba Stage for a crowd dominated by la gente while East L.A. rock icons Los Lobos headlined the Pavilion Stage. As much as I love Celso and hate to miss his live sets, the voice of seven-year-old me inside my head who got the La Bamba soundtrack in 1987 guided me to watch Los Lobos.
Not only was their set at Pachanga one of my favorite Pachanga Fest moments, it was the first time I got see Austin-based country singer Rick Treviño perform with the group. He joined them for a George Jones cover of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” as a tribute to the late country legend. It should be no surprise really as Treviño was part of the Canto album from supergroup Los Super Seven back in the early 2000s with Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo from Los Lobos.
Treviño wasn’t the only special guest of the night, although he was the bigger name. Los Lobos brought out relatively unknown (stateside that is) accordion player Dwayne Verheyden. Those that follow accordionists and conjunto fests, including Flaco, know Verheyden. The young Netherlands born accordionist joined the Lobos for most of their set, surprising attendees watching as he played rancheras, country and rock songs with the group as if he were a Texas-born vato. He stayed on stage as the group closed out the fest with “La Bamaba” and a their cover of The Young Rascals classic “Good Lovin”.
As with every Pachanga Fest’s end, no one left unhappy from either stage and everyone is already wondering who will the folks behind Pachanga Fest bring next year. Hopefully one day we can see more indie bands in the mix and bigger after parties. No pressure Pachanga Fest organizers…