Chicago’s stellar second installment of Ruido Fest took place over the weekend, and it was packed with riffs, pits, and singalongs that left hundreds of stories and hangovers in its wake. Droves of Latinos braved the scorching sun and crowded into Adams/Medill Park in the historically Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen to see some of their favorite artists – indie and mainstream – from across the Americas and Spain. Ruido Fest faced its share of growing pains this time around, most of which were handled well, while others were simply out of organizer’s hands.
Before the festival even started, the unexpected announcement that La Ley, Friday’s headliner, had canceled their set left many scratching their heads. Uncertainty only grew when Mon Laferte and Hong Kong Blood Opera also canceled, while other bands like Adan & Xavi and Comisario Pantera had noticeably absent band members. Stories of visa and customs issues left Ruido organizers scrambling to fill the holes in their lineup, reaching out to Silverio and Adan & Xavi to play extra shows, moving Panteon Rococó into a headlining slot, and the last minute addition of Chilean reggae band Gondwana to even out the bill.
Then there was the issue of sponsorship. For Ruido to grow in size and highlight artists who rarely get a second glance from mainstream festivals in the U.S., it will likely face a marked increase in corporate sponsorship. This year the stages boasted AT&T and Coors Light banners in lieu of last year’s luchador namesakes. There was also a Toyota set up – complete with bleachers and display cases – which ended up being larger than the official third stage the company had sponsored; unfortunately, there was limited visibility and many bands struggled to play comfortably there.
The crowd was only slightly fazed by these hiccups and was down to boogie from the start. Helado Negro kicked things off on Friday, tinsel dancers and all, hypnotizing the crowd with his sensual beats and beautiful howls. Where Mexrrissey encountered sound difficulties leaving many unmoved, the complete opposite happened when Miranda! burst on the stage in fully ruffled costumes, walking the audience through an hour-long singalong of their greatest hits, complete with choreography and shrieks of elation. Carla Morrison, Panteon Rococó, and Silverio all closed out the Friday stages in high spirits, leaving the day’s rocky start in the dust.
Saturday started bright and early with Vaya Futuro. The Tijuana foursome brought their beautiful dreamy shoegaze to the Ruido stage, as well as the easygoing banter that went on to make them festival darlings. The smaller Toyota stage had its best showing on Saturday, featuring spectacular sets by Chicago indie rockers You Are Here, the brilliant rhyming of Mexico City’s LNG/SHT and a complete shredding session from Spain’s Sexy Zebras. Though closing sets by Natalia LaFourcade and Maldita Vecindad were the biggest crowd pleasers, the day’s most riveting set came from Le Bucherettes, who barreled through their set list with the force of a runaway train. Clad in red from head to toe, lead singer Teri Genderbender wailed, danced, simulated childbirth, and crowd surfed well after the end of the set, eyes closed and breathlessly thanking the audience.
Sunday posed many questions, since the day’s lineup featured the most buzzed about artists and suffered the bulk of the weekend’s cancellations. The first unmissable band was Marineros, who gathered a large crowd but received a lukewarm response after technical difficulties marred their sound. Costa Rican garage rockers Las Robertas were up next, shaking the entire park back to life with their high-powered fuzzy riffs and excellent drumming. Dromedarios Mágicos – the rising folk star from Chihuahua – had one of the festival’s most heartwarming sets, playing to an audience largely comprised of fellow artists, press, and new friends he’d made throughout the weekend. His set featured a cover of AJ Davila’s “Ya Sé,” guest strumming by Vaya Futuro’s Aldair Cerezo and front row cheering by LNG/SHT.
The day’s sweetest moment was followed by its most dangerous, when Silverio stepped in as Mon Laferte’s replacement for his third performance of the weekend, having played on Friday and at one of the official after parties the night before. There was no sign of oversaturation for Su Majestad Imperial, with the crowd eating up his campy punk while showering the stage in beer cans, red skivvies, and insults. Aterciopelados and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs closed out the festival by playing remarkable sets for frenzied crowds.
It’s safe to say the sophomore edition of Ruido Fest had a larger draw than its predecessor, largely building on excellent talent and positive word of mouth from last year’s event. However, the festival’s lack of genre diversity is something Ruido organizers can address in future installments, since most of the lineup featured pretty straight and narrow rock en español acts. Some may argue this is the festival’s only marketable genre, but the remarkable success of Miranda!, Silverio, and Camilo Lara’s cumbiafied Mexican Institute of Sound DJ set all beg to differ. As an extension of Riot Fest, it makes sense that Ruido organizers favor rock acts, but a big pop or reggaeton act might present great opportunities for the growth of the festival.
Ruido’s integration of local acts did not go unnoticed this year, with many coming out to support friends and family. “For us as local bands this means we have a voice that we can project to other parts of the U.S. or Latin America,” says Julian Jeronimo of You Are Here. “Three years ago, if you had told me there would be a Latin music festival of this magnitude in Chicago, I would have told you no way! Go to LA! Go to New York! I think the promoters know what’s going on and really want to push a scene here.” You Are Here is one of six Chicago bands that played the festival, generating plenty of buzz for the bourgeoning scene.
Ultimately, the weekend can and should be seen as a success. Curveballs aside, spirits were high, the artists were thrilled to be present, and most importantly, people had fun. Chicago is beginning to attract the attention it deserves, and it is largely due to the personal stake local Latinos have in supporting raza-oriented endeavors. Two years running, Ruido Fest is still a blast and provided they listen to the community and learn from experience, the festival has a bright future ahead.
Check out more photos from the festival below:
Photos by Angela E. Mejia for Remezcla