Long Beach celebrated all acts of diversity, specifically the Latin culture, with a successful turnout and welcoming environment. Presented by The Observatory, the festival ran extremely smooth, versus some productions that attempted smaller “conceptual” fests this year. Held at the Queen Mary, old school buses acted as shuttles and took concert go-ers from the Long Beach Convention Center to the front gates of the fest. No delays in opening, and only one minor rule of not allowing “pens” I was against (I’m a writer). Tropicália welcomed every guest and highlighted the features that made us all different and even more so, what connected us. Displaying an eclectic line-up, stages reflected a progression of time through the musical world, specifically within the evolution of Latinos and Latinas. The festival made a statement through its line-up: Oldies and a taste of disco that circulated the 70s swirled around, nostalgic 90s hip-hop that shaped fashion, Norteño, cumbia and salsa spoke of past generations, and finally the youth’s experimental rock ran vivaciously. History’s original intent of empowerment decades ago, flowed potently, but without defense or hostility. Simply put, Tropicália was Long Beach’s Quinceañera; a feeling of togetherness, no matter your background, with a heavy amount of alcohol and food celebrating growth.
Cutout and props made for great photo ops right by the beautiful port and by the Queen Mary, while signs strewn across made locating the Taco festival and beer extremely easy. From 12-4 p.m. local Taco Vendors handed out free tacos to get through the festivities. Familiar Observatory benches consumed the center’s dining area that held as an obstacle during the peak hours of the free food, and free pupusas, as herds of people filled every square inch. Despite the occasional traffic jam that is inevitable at a sold out festival, people’s demeanor and well-being were filled with joy.
Right until the sunset and the moon’s reflected glare on the water’s dress, Tropicália embodied so much more and left a sense of peaceful sparkle of pride right to our boots, red lipstick, and winged eyeliner as far as the brows could go. Here’s to next year and our favorites that stole our hearts.
The crowd reflected the “chicano” movement – having a blend of where Mexicans came from, but where they are at now; America. Few amount of words or actions could describe this feeling of belonging, even for those unfamiliar with the music. I’ve witnessed many acts blending the lines of traditional Spanish and modern music, and Chicano Batman is a group that comes around every now and then. To create music, to create an image and a common thread for those born outside of the U.S. and generations to follow, is a thread that is sometimes lost. Energy lasted for days while the screen showcased filtered projections from their recent “Freedom is Free” video, followed by stills of socially moving actions that resonated throughout the night. Equally humble in their own blend of pop and psych, Chicano Batman are truly Los Angeles’ current hometown heroes.
Responsible for the existence of many, many people, thanks to his smooth baby making music, Brenton Wood walked on the Dia De Los Puercos stage with confidence radiating from his lime green zoot suit belting out classics and warming a range of hearts. One of the best crooners to bestow classic love songs, Wood’s performance was flawless and added a purity in romance that at times is missed in modern love songs.
Brooklyn’s Phony Ppl opened up the main stage with vitality that was the needed spark. Bouncing from rap to vocals, frontman Elbee Thrie did not slow down, constantly engaging with the crowd inviting everyone to come closer. The smooth production of the ensemble and riveting core allowed for tracks to come alive on stage. Presenting new material off of a forthcoming album that doesn’t even have a name, the 5-piece engulfed watchers, specifically bassist, Bari Bass. Closing with the hit “Why iii Love The Moon“, Phony Ppl continues to be an act that can take you from a range of emotions seamlessly, filling you up while still wanting more.
Denise Carlos, Leah Gallegos, Daniel French, David Flores, Hector Flores, y Jose Cano, better known as Las Cafeteras embody what it means to be a product of immigrants, equally embracing both halves of their environment. Holding on to traditional folk music, Las Cafeteras’ energy are one of the best witnessed. Each member is presented with their moment to shine while they feed off of each other, the crowd, and holding torches to a past where immigrants could not celebrate their own history. Not only do Las Cafeteras hold a special place in Los Angeles, equally showcasing their own pride to the likes of Chicano Batman, but in a way that each generation may bask in. Truly a wonderful act with beautiful music to witness.
The Red Pears
El Monte’s Red Pears blew us away live on the Modelo Stage. Being the smallest stage, the Modelo Stage needed raw, gritty energy to thrive and Red Pears did just that. Alternative rock and angst added for one of the funnest pits of the day, and became a replication of a backyard gig while demonstrating a revival of a youthful spirit when watching live music.
By far one of the best LA bands I’ve witnessed. SadGirl didn’t waste anytime with their set due to time and opened with a rockabilly inspired psych that wiled up the crowd. Through the waves of crowd surfers and moshers soaking up “Born Dumb“, “Swine” and “Breakfast is Over,” all came to a hush as the opening riffs of “Little Queenie” took center stage. Misha’s stage presence is memorizing to say the least, and subtly warmed the cool night that the gentle sea mist slowly encapsulated.
Flawless. British artist Jorja Smith is blessed with vocals that can tame and stir up an endless amount of emotions against an old school, R&B feel. Smith walked on stage and felt the love of Long Beach and never let a smile escape her existence. The amount of light she carried on stage seemed natural, always carrying a genuine love and a favorite that owned the Dia De Los Puercos Stage.
U.K.’s Yellow Days definitely didn’t hold anything back on stage as they took us away to better days. Mixing a retro sound, with bright, indie chimes, Yellow Days’ charisma were intoxicating, led by emotive vocals.
Where do I start? Colombian artist, Kali Uchis, is more than a talented vocalist but a beautiful performer that rides the waves of the ripples she just created. Playing classics off her Por Vida album to a reinvented, slowed down version of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together“, Kali Uchis transforms everything she touches into gold. Noting how she started making music alone in her room, traces of humbleness and gratitude built the platform that she graciously destroyed on the main stage.
Café Tacvba have never let me down live. Packing energy, lavish outfits, and humor during performances, Café Tacvba continue to be international icons, proudly representing Mexico. The ensemble creates textured music, blending sounds and cultures that is adored by many, but to witness them perform classics live is otherworldly.
Los Tigres Del Norte
Finally, the night was closed by legends, Los Tigres Del Norte. By this time the amount of love and slurred speeches rang true to the warmth of a family party – the real feeling the fest and Los Tigres brought. The group came out continuesouly grateful and played like they never aged. The crowd took it all in and as the brave went out of the massive crowd to refill their drinks, brotherly love was felt as strangers found a common bond and danced on the walkway. Los Tigres made you feel good that you were alive and Tropicália made you feel proud of who you were.
All pictures by Martin Santacruz Jr. Please credit photographer and publication if sharing.