Tropicália is upon us once again, and for the second year running, the massive Southern California music festival is hitting Long Beach, California. Like catnip for nostalgia lovers and hypebeasts, the Tropicália bill is overrun with buzzy newcomers and revered legends that are rapidly cementing the festival’s reputation as a force in Latinx-oriented live music.
Ruido Fest and LAMC dictated our summer calendar for years, while increasingly influential enterprises like Los Dells and Oye Fest have helped diversify the Latinx festival landscape and also cater to more localized markets. Meanwhile, Tropicália has offered more mainstream leanings. You’ve surely heard of Cardi B’s much-hyped headlining slot (and the controversial booking of Morrissey), but the inclusion of legacy acts like Leo Dan, Bronco, and La Sonora Dinamita stands out almost as much as the festival’s colorful lotería-themed flyer. Not only that, it’s heartening to see artists like Chicano Batman and Kali Uchis so close to topping the bill, a tremendous acknowledgment of their work and achievements.
Tropicália is produced by Golden Voice, the team behind Coachella, so meticulous curation is almost a given. Their model of putting Latino names on par and above those of white Anglo artists is a strategy pioneered by many DIY festival organizers, and it’s a tactic of desegregation that other mainstream music festivals should strive for.
To help you navigate Tropicália Fest’s daunting lineup, we’ve assembled a list of emerging acts you should check out while feasting on the local taco fare. Pack your sunscreen and bring your dancing shoes, because Long Beach is about to pop off.
For tickets and more info about Tropicália Fest, click here.
Try mixing soul, psych, and synth pop, and you’ll end up with Inner Wave, the charming Southern California quintet poised to steal your heart at Tropicália Fest. The band first exploded onto our radar with their 2014 underground hit “American Spirits,” soon becoming standouts in a local scene that includes contemporaries like Cuco and Katzù Oso. Over the summer, the band dropped “Whoa,” the trippy lead single from their upcoming EP, with a matching video filled with playful pictures from shows and tattoo parlor adventures that perfectly synthesizes the band’s adorable nature and playful antics.
Speak relocated from Los Angeles to Mexico City back in 2015 to find his way across the valley of excess and into a peaceful plant-filled sanctuary of his own making. On his latest album, A Man + His Plants, Speak tackles anxieties of the modern artist: drug use, a multi-faceted identity as both a Chicano and a chilango, and disillusionment with the world and the promise of idyllic social progress that never was. However, beyond the heavy subject matters of standout tracks like “This Mexican (American) Life” and “Perico,” Speak’s live performances are electric and sure to get the crowd jumping with lush beats and a wild stage presence.
Formed in 2012, East LA staple Thee Commons seemed poised to take over the local indie throne with their infectious cumbia-punk energy when suddenly, the band’s founders David and Rene Pacheco decided to reassess and rebuild from the ground up. Enter Tropa Mágica, an elegant new sound out of Southern California. The band’s self-titled debut album dropped back in September with standout tracks “La Flor” and “Uforia” bringing their cumbia roots back into the fold and colliding influences from the worlds of jazz, psych, and even disco into a unique dance party that will get you worked up and sweaty in the Long Beach sun.
With a Bandcamp bio that reads, “Space age tequila sunrise, trash lounge lava pop from Los Angeles,” it’s hard to argue against such a vibrant description of Healing Gems and their whimsical, retro sound. The kooky group has found its way around oddball psych without stepping into comedic territory, quite the feat when you consider the generous amounts of maracas and wavy organ chords that make Healing Gems sound like the house band at a tiki-themed karaoke lounge. Their sound is epitomized by the absolutely nutty “Shopping With Harambe (Stealing From Walmart),” the opener from their latest EP, Feathered Serpent, and the perfect introduction into their world of funhouse musical camp.
Weapons of Mass Creation (WOMC)’s brand of hip-hop harkens back to the classic days of beat tapes and sidewalk freestyling, with an added twist of urban storytelling for timely effect. Like Digable Planets run through a 90s rap kaleidoscope, the Anaheim crew released their self-titled debut mixtape back in 2016, sampling mariachi horns on “Set Backs,” painting a vivid and chaotic portrait of the hood on “City Lights,” and dissecting daily cash struggles on “Money Problems.” Make sure to stop by the WOMC show and bop to the throwback vibes.