Tropicalia 2017 REVIEW

Within the first few hours of the Tropicália Music and Taco Festival on Saturday, it became clear that the event would define an important cultural moment for Southern California. Tropicalia was revolutionary in aspects of music and culture, since music and culture are directly tied to our histories, struggles, and ancestry; the relationship of the vibrations were brought together in awe of these multicultural integrations of musical styles. Tropical, ESPECIALLY for their fist/experimental festival at the beautiful queen Mary in Long Beach.

After shaking their hair around to the surf-rock/doo-wop wave of L.A.’s Buttertones, fannypack-donning normcore kids darted across the Long Beach festival grounds to sway their hips to Celso Piña, Mexico’s rebelde del acordeón, before running back, through a food court filled with L.A.’s best taquerias, to grind like preteens at a middle-school dance as Genuwine performed his 1996 hit “My Pony” at the the Dia De Los Puercos Stage early in the day.
As if tasked with doling out a history lesson early on, the stages continued this call-and-response for the surprisingly large noontime crowd, alternating between classic Latin acts, nostalgic R&B and contemporary riffs that pulled from everything in between.

The Buttertones Shot by Aika Eden

The Buttertones Shot by Yadira Ramirez

“This is the soundtrack to my childhood!” a young, queer couple wearing matching “Young, Latin & Proud” shirts squealed to each other (with as much surprise as pride) between La Sonora Dinamita’s high-energy cumbia tracks. Then they flitted off to watch South L.A.’s Wu-Tang Clan–loving Buyepongo play jazzy punta songs off their latest EP, Túmbalo.

This is what it sounds like to be a millennial Latinx in Southern California right now, a time when people of color are being demonized by top government officials and identity is less and less able to fit into the structured boxes of yore. Instead of being depressed about the hate and divisiveness exposed by such politics, the youth are embracing a world where chaos is the norm and sonic and cultural diversity are a given.

Like the Tropicália movement in 1960s Brazil, from which the festival gets its name, this new breed of Latinx listeners are not afraid to borrow, copy, paste and reclaim elements of popular culture as their own along the way. If Brazil is at its best when it cannibalizes other cultures (as the manifesto that inspired the Tropicália movement proposed), then so is Southern California, a place with strong Hispanic roots and a history built on the art and culture of its immigrant populations.

Using the no-limits power of the internet as a guide, these millennial Latinxs are driving the creation and celebration of an entirely new generation of Chicano culture that seems poised to unite even non-Latinxs with its vision of a borderless universe.

By the time the sun went down, Tropicália’s three side stages had already hosted everything from chill-wave and funk DJs to dive-bar indie rock bands to ’90s Spanish-language ska and more.

On the mainstage, traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity were being crushed out of existence, first by Cuco — the 19-year-old bedroom crooner who wound through sadboy hits like “Cupid’s Quiver” and “We Had to End It” to a screaming crowd of female fans — and then by Ivy Queen, the powerful reggaetonera who had by far one of the best sets of the day.

Rocking a DBZ tee with that low-key ambiance was one of my favorite artists, XXYYXX. He played some of his classic tracks like “Set it off” and an original with incorporations of old school Spice girls thrown in the mix.

XXYYXX Photo by Aika Eden

XXYYXX Photo by Aika Eden

Other classic female performers long underappreciated for their efforts in male-dominated genres got enthusiastic revivals at Tropicália. Jorja Smith, from the West Midlands was incredibly swaying in her voice and her body language, and when she played hit single, “On my mind”, it was like her music video all over again but with a giant crowd of happy diverse and free spirited souls.

Jorja Smith Photo by Aika Eden

Jorja Smith Photo by Aika Eden

In a poignant example of the two sides of this new era, Tropicália faced attendees with a choice of closing acts for the night. On the Dia de Los Puercos Stage, R&B singer Jhene Aiko soared over beats to songs from her latest drug-induced album, Trip. On the main stage, multi-Grammy-winning legendary norteño group Los Tigres del Norte played a nearly two-hour set of corridos, ballads and cumbias.

The crowds for both were as large as they had been all day. The kids are gonna be all right.




November 19th, 2017

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *