Emergen-C? Check. Chapstick? Check. Foot powder so my sweaty feet don’t stink up the Sahara tent? Check. This year, as I put together my Coachella survival kit, my excitement is tempered by mourning, realizing that there will be little representation for the diaspora at the festival this year. Now, I know better than to find validation in music festivals, as I am not, speaking solely demographically, the target audience. However, it seems like a misstep by festival programmers, considering the thriving, innovative, all-balls-to-all-walls, Latin American indie and electronica music scene. What happened, Goldenvoice?
If you look really, really carefully at this year’s poster, you’ll see in tiny, tiny lettering the names of two Latinx acts: Zoé and the Martinez Brothers. This pales in comparison to previous years. In 2013 Coachella featured one of Mexico’s newest acts, 3BallMTY. Sixto Rodríguez’s set was so moving it had half the audience in tears, and Café Tacvba rocked the main stage during Saturday’s 5 p.m. slot to a sizable crowd (though, I honestly couldn’t accurately tell because I was in the pit). 2012 featured distinctive acts like Ximena Sariñana, Hello Seahorse!, and Le Butcherettes, the latter providing a live show never to be forgotten with Teri Gender Bender’s scaffold-climbing antics and an end-of-set exit into a crowd of hundreds that carried her across the polo fields. 2011 brought us Caifanes, Ozomatli, Bomba Estéreo, Los Bunkers, CSS, and Twin Shadow, and this is before the comparisons between Debbie Harry and Li Saumet started. Lastly, in 2010—a seeming apotheosis—Calle 13, Lucero, Aterciopelados, Zoé, Céu, and Babasonicos made the lineup.
For a long time South America’s rock ‘n’ roll scene has lived under the shadows of North American and European acts. The growth of Latin American indie music is unprecedented for a lot of reasons: we’ve embraced our own native sounds and hybridized them with modern technology, we can spread our music across borders and times on the Internet in ways that typical distribution never let us do, we’ve traveled and settled across the world, creating repositories of our cultures everywhere. It’s disappointing to not find acts like Javiera Mena, Balún, Los Wálters, Astro, Mala Rodríguez, ChocQuib Town, or Xenia Rubinos on stages in Southern California, of all places. Some of these acts sing in both Spanish and English, to boot! Perhaps Goldenvoice is thinking we’ll hit SXSW or Vive Latino instead.
Perhaps no one was available. Or maybe they just fired “that guy.” You know, that guy who normally books the awesome, edgy Latin indie acts. Nonetheless, I’m amped. How can I not be? It’s three days of music in the sun, eating Cool Haus ice cream sandwiches and dancing next to and with complete strangers and fellow music geeks. Who knows what kind of adventures I’ll find. Still, if I can honor my sadness for one more moment, it’s really the lack of cultural exchange that I will miss: hearing Anglos trying to pronounce Ximena Sariñana’s name while dancing to her music; explaining to my friends why Café Tacvba has to do five encores; finding the random Spanish speaker in crowds of thousands and trying to decipher their accent. I hope you get it right next year, Coachella.
(Photos by Toni François)