San Francisco’s biggest music festival used to be all about diversity. In its past editions it featured pretty much all the biggest names in the Latin Alternative genre: Manu Chao, Café Tacvba, Nortec Collective, Kinky, Ana Tijoux, Bomba Estéreo, Los Amigos Invisibles, Ximena Sariñana, Rodrigo & Gabriela, M.I.S., etc.
To be fair, it isn’t just the Latino music world that’s remained underrepresented during the last few Outside Lands. There’s also a notorious decline in hip-hop and “world” acts. As a result of this, the festival looks more and more like a Bon Iver Fan Club meeting and less like a true representation of the cultural plurality and ethnic diversity of a cosmopolitan city like San Francisco.
So, for the second consecutive year, this reporter had to struggle to find a story relevant for this page and wandered around Golden Gate Park wondering, once again, where my Latinos at?
It was Saturday at noon when LoCura hit the solar-energy-powered Panhandle Stage, admittedly too early for most festival goers—particularly those who had stayed up late the night before singing along to Sir Paul McCartney. On top of that, Latino fans, the few scattered among the crowd, tend not to be particularly punctual, so when Kata came out singing one of her cumbias, the crowd response was almost as cold as the weather. However, it only took her a couple more songs to warm things up, and then the sun finally yet briefly came out. Suddenly, even the gringo hipsters were clapping along to the contagious rumba flamenca beat.
DEUCE ECLIPSE’S CAMEO
Local Latin alt heroes Bang Data were present at the festival supporting their friends LoCura. Drummer Juan Caipo, who’s currently working as a producer on LoCura’s next album, was seen by the mixing console, and rapper Deuce Eclipse blessed the mic with some of his bilingual flow for two LoCura songs. A definite highlight of the day.
Like I said, LoCura was the only band singing en español, but there was one band, playing on one of the alternative side-show stages, with a name en español. Marin-County-based Gypsy jazz trio Beso Negro is led by Madrid’s Javier Jiménez. Some of their songs have Spanish-language titles, but this reporter didn’t hear him pronounce a single word in Cervantes’ tongue (but he didn’t stay for the full show either, so, there’s that).
It may sound stereotypical, but in the quest to find Latinos (anywhere), the easiest way is to start by the kitchen. Outside Lands prides itself on offering the best selection of gourmet foods of any U.S. music festival and when it comes to pleasing the sophisticated palates of San Francisco’s foodies, that’s quite a task. Of course the menu offered plenty of Latin and/or Latin-inspired recipes, including the Chilean empanadas of Sabores del Sur, the Venezuelan arepas of Pica Pica, and the amazing lamb paella of Gerard’s Paella (this writer’s personal favorite).
Walking across the Polo field on Saturday, we ran into this miniature escola do samba, playing remarkably good Brazilian-style batucada and bringing a bit of tropical heat to this gloomy, San Francisco pseudo-summer. Hard to tell if any of the drummers were actually Brazilian, but one of the dancers following them around had a perfectly rounded bubble-butt so maybe…
With limited luck finding Latinos on the rock-centric stages, we went to the DJ’s dome with hopes of listening to some Latin rhythms being mixed over electronic beats. On Friday it was DC’s All Good Funk Alliance‘s turn, the DJ duo who has, in the past, successfully experimented with Latin music but are currently more focused on futuristic electro-funk. Unfortunately, aside from a short transition between two other funky tracks, there wasn’t so much as a hint of Latin music in their set. On Sunday, however, it was Chicago house legend Gene Farris who surprised us when he got the packed dome dancing to a classic Brazilian house remix.
THE RANDOM MASKED LUCHADOR
We don’t know if it’s always the same guy, but every year, since Outside Land’s first edition, this El Santo impersonator has been spotted dancing alone at the techno dome.
Regardless of the lame Anglo-centric lineup, plenty of Latino fans were mixed among the crowd, because, obviously, we don’t only listen to music en español. A Paraguayan girl wearing pajama pants, a hot couple of Bolivian ravers, two chaparrita Mexican rockeras, and a stereotypical Argentine dude with mandatory soccer jersey, were some of those in attendance.
A few said they were excited to see the ex-Beatles headliner, others were there for Nine Inch Nails, but all of them agreed that it was sad not having more Latino performers this year. “They should have Hello Seahorse!,” complained one of the Mexican rockeras. “Why aren’t Calle 13 or Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas playing here?” said somebody else. Still, they all had a good time.