Red Bull Music Academy and its music affiliate Panamérika took over the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood for its first-ever (and hopefully more to come!) Escenario concert. The show brought headliners Bomba Estéreo on the stage with opening acts Astro, La Santa Cecilia, Que Bajo?! spinning between sets and special guest Carla Morrison.
To say that this was one of the most highly-anticipated concerts of 2012 (I’ll explain in a minute) and 2013 is the Understatement Of The Century Award. It’s like Pele saying he “once played a bit of football, kicked the ball around the backyard a bit, ¿tu sabes?” Escenario was originally scheduled at the end of December 2012 with Hello Seahorse! and Natalia Lafourcade but was rescheduled following some visa issues (actually, it was management issues because who waits until the day before to submit a visa request? lolz).
There were no visa issues this time thanks to management who know how to handle their shit. Doors weren’t scheduled to open until 8 pm but there were two lines of fans on both sides of the doors wrapped around each block by 7 pm. That’s a huge feat considering how cold it got that night. Angelenos can’t usually hang with anything below 75 degrees.
Fans were immediately treated to some global bass courtesy of Que Bajo?! a.k.a. Geko Jones and Uproot Andy. Think of them as the East Coast Subsuelo and you’ve kinda got the right idea. Almost immediately, the first dozen or so girls who walked in started meniandola to their mixes of beats and old-school tunes. That was the first sign that this was going to be a great night. The second was the ridiculous number of drink tickets that kept materializing in my pockets throughout the night.
Local band and Grammy nominees La Santa Cecilia were first up on stage and they received a huge applause. It was beautiful to see how much they’ve grown over the past couple of years. Singer La Marisoul’s stage presence was undeniable and Pepe and his accordion were the crowd’s favorite, hands down. The band also performed its latest single, “ICE,” and surprised the audience by inviting Carla Morrison to the stage. She and the band performed Morrison’s hit song “Compartir.” You better believe everyone lost their shit right then and there. Case in point: the short girl in the glasses standing by me at the bar yelling “IS THAT CARLA?!” repeatedly. Yes, it’s her, her name’s even on the bill!
Next up were Animal Collective-meets-Neon Indian rock group Astro. The band from Santiago, Chile is one of our favorites and I was happy to finally get my chance to see them live. My first impression is that these guys were loud. I mean, seriously loud. I went upstairs to the VIP area with the older folks (there were a few!) who were chillin’ with their mixed drinks and KCRW supporter cards and it was as least as loud as it was in the front row. NICE!!!
The band’s trademark keyboard sound/style translated well to a live set and it sounded like we were inside a giant arcade machine. The highlight of their set was when singer/guitarist/keyboardist Andres Nusser jumped out into the photo pit and danced around with his keyboard in hand, never missing a beat. His hair was no match for mine though!
There was a lengthy break following Astro’s set and there were even more ladies doing la meniadita to Que Bajo?! Things got pretty serious near the bar when a quebradita dance battle broke out and young hipsters who looked like the Latino version of The Strokes took on a few older folks in botas picudas. I could tell they were the type who usually rock belt buckles the size of Texas.
Carla Morrison then popped out for two songs and split.
A few more dance battles and the stage was set for Bomba Estéreo. The group sans Li Saumet was on the stage warming the crowd up with some deep bass and percussion. The cheers grew along with the rhythm and beat of the opening lines of “Caribbean Power” and La Lady Li ran out, microphone in hand. She sang and rapped in that particular style of hers and wore an outfit that made her look like the Colombian equivalent of Bjork.
Bomba rocked the crowd for nearly two hours and focused mostly on songs from their latest album, Elegancia Tropical. Naturally, the biggest hit of the night was their live rendition of “Fuego,” their biggest hit off their debut album. Morrison also returned to the stage for a duet with Saumet, which got the second largest pop of the night.
The party ended early on 12:30 am as it was an all-ages show, but VIP members were treated to an afterparty with Que Bajo?! and members of Bomba Estéreo. Li Saumet freestyled over Jones’ and Andy’s beats and, once again, los dioses de la cumbia blessed us as la meniadita made a return. I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say that this event needs to happen annually.