As someone who was born and raised in Pomona, Rene Contreras knows the frustrations of its residents and music fans in one of L.A. County’s overlooked cities all too well. “Every time I’m in [LA neighborhoods] Echo Park or Silverlake,” he explains, “everyone’s like ‘EWWWW, you’re from Pomona!’ Pomona’s not that bad, man.”
Contreras decided to show the doubters and haters just how fun and vibrant Pomona can be by launching the Viva Pomona Festival. The two-day festival celebrated its third year this past weekend with artists such as Thee Oh Sees, Crystal Antlers, !!!, Porter, and Chicano Batman playing for a large, majority hometown crowd in and around The Glasshouse concert hall.
Contreras came up with the idea years ago during a brainstorming session with friends over a round of tacos. They wanted to book a show that would highlight the diversity of music from the neighboring Inland Empire region, which includes the San Bernardino and Riverside counties. That region is typically, and unfairly, known primarily as three things: the home of the annual Coachella festival, the region where people go to retire, or the place where ’90s rap-rock bands still go to thrive.
“The I.E. is overlooked by L.A. and Orange County. I feel it’s not well-represented,” says Contreras of the region that bands such as Quitapenas, Brainstory, and Inner Prisms call home.
“I have nothing but good things to say about people from the I.E. and Pomona,” adds Eduardo Arenas of Chicano Batman, who’s performed a number of times to both adoring and skeptical crowds in the area. He continues, “Out in L.A., we have that kinda Hollywood culture, we have that get-up culture…you have to conform to a certain thing. Out here…I think people just want to be themselves, and they’re figuring it all out.”
Ever since the festival’s first edition, Contreras has collaborated with a crew of friends, small/independent labels, and artists from across the country to bring different scenes to Pomona. This year was no exception, as the roster hosted acts from across southern California, as well as a number of international artists. Mexico City surf/garage group Los Blenders made their international debut on an outdoor stage, while psych-rock group Dorotheo from Guadalajara shared the stage with So Many Wizards and The Buttertones from L.A. Our faves Porter packed out The Glasshouse with help from Él Mató A Un Policía Motorizado in town from Buenos Aires.
“We want to bring a vibe to Pomona,” says Contreras. “It’s about the suburbs, it’s about bringing different cultures together so we can bring something good to Pomona.”