On Saturday, November 11, thousands gathered along the waterfront in Long Beach, California, at Queen Mary Events Park for the first Tropicália Music and Taco Festival. Fans of every generation came out in droves, to catch everything from nostalgic norteño to soulful Chicano crooners like Los Tigres del Norte and Cuco, alongside an equally impressive taco vendor lineup.
As one of the top 10 most diverse cities in the U.S., Long Beach was an appropriate place to host an eclectic and sizable lineup like Tropicália’s. What at first glance may look like a random collision of genres and musical eras, Tropicália’s lineup was expertly curated, showcasing the multidimensionality of the Latinx community, something that’s often overlooked at similar fests, and especially at major national ones.
Tropicália did an excellent job marketing the event to attract those of us who identify with the norteño and cumbia we grew up listening to, but don’t feel restricted to following one specific genre. Lineups that embrace nostalgic acts and up-and-coming sounds seem to be en vogue these days (see Ruido Fest’s diverse offerings this year), and Tropicália’s curators understand that multiplicity is essential to putting on a strong festival in 2017. Crowds grinded to Ginuwine’s babymaking R&B classic “Pony,” two-stepped to “Mil Horas” by cumbia legends Sonora Dinamita, danced to the afro-diasporic sounds of Buyepongo, and made it back in time to sway to the mash-up sounds of Chicano balladeer Cuco.
What’s more, free tacos for the first four hours of the festival from local favorites like Mariscos Jalisco and Carnitas el Momo ensured a large crowd for the day’s earlier sets.
Without a doubt, the festival standout was La Caballota, La Potra, La Diva, Ivy Queen, with her perreo feminista performance of “Quiero Bailar.” She brought a strong and much-needed dose of women’s empowerment to the stage, and as she quipped near the end of her set, La Diva made sure everyone knew “los hombres tienen miedo porque llegó la mera mera.”
Later in the evening, Kali Uchis entranced the crowd with her featherlight vocals, channeling Selena with her high ponytail, sequined bellbottoms, and sparkly bustier. She took the romance to another level with her cover of “Sabor a Mi,” and ended with a hilarious surprise cover of “Suavemente” that made the crowd go wild.
Current affairs were not forgotten through the day. Café Tacvba got political, emphasizing the need to protect our planet, while Chulita Vinyl Club draped a “Protect Central Americans and TPS” banner on the DJ booth during their sets.
Unfortunately, Goldlink had to cancel his performance due to the birth of his first child, but beat scene favorite Sango was there to save the night. He brought straight fire with an extended set of his baile funk reworks, which included an Afro-Brazilian redux of Goldlink’s hit “Crew.”
Nods to West Coast rap staples and oldies drove home the diversity of musical tastes represented at the festival. Sango sampled Nate Dogg; Ivy Queen rapped to Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode;” Kali Uchis sang a rendition of “Let’s Stay Together,” and Cuco covered the rock en español Hombres G classic “Devuélveme a mi chica.” The legendary Los Tigres del Norte closed out the night as fans of all ages – properly buzzed, of course – swayed to their sentimental classics.
Tropicália’s sold-out success was an example of what happens when festivals cater to multiple experiences of Latinidad in curation, rather than relying on a stereotypical or narrow understanding of our communities’ music tastes. May future festival organizers know that our identities can’t and shouldn’t be easily defined.