Tropicalia Fest opened its doors for the first time to enthusiastic music and taco lovers at Queen Mary Park in Long Beach. The sold-out music festival, hosted by comedian Felipe Esparza, attracted a beautifully colorful young and old crowd due to its generationally transcending all-star lineup. The festival featured legendary norteño band Los Tigres del Norte, passionate Latina songstress Kali Uchis, deep and powerful English singer King Krule, indie psychedelic soul rockers Chicano Batman and 30 other diverse performers. The musical acts, along with the assortment of Mexican cuisine, created a festival culture that resonated among the evolving Latinx culture of Southern California.
To avoid traffic issues, shuttles were arranged to pick up festival goers at the Long Beach Convention Center parking lot and shuttle them to Long Beach Port. Even upon arriving early, there was already a line of eager taco enthusiasts at the gates hoping to cash in on the free taco samples that lasted until four.
Four stages throughout the festival grounds offered a wide range of musical performances. Entering the festival, attendees were greeted by the modest Modelo Stage, which provided a platform for smaller artists, such as the Beach Bums and Jessie Reyes, to perform. It also hosted older performers, like Banda Skalavera and Wanda Jackson, who would be familiar to oldies music lovers.
The main stage, Tropicalia, overlooked San Pedro Bay and the Long Beach waterfront, creating a very picturesque atmosphere. Large L.E.D. screens allowed audiences to enjoy views of the band and visuals while standing in the front or sitting on Mexican blankets in the back.
The time approached when our Corona-soaked stomachs began to crave the salty and savory flavors of tacos. A graffiti-covered concrete tunnel bridged the main stage area to the food vendors and the other two stages. Over 20 local vendors boasted a multitude of taco types, from classic birria and vegan to even bánh mì renditions. In addition to tacos, there were other choices such as pozole verde and carnitas taquitos that did not disappoint. The long lines limited the advertised freedom of all-you-can-eat, but people still waited ridiculous amounts of time because, in the end, the tacos were well worth it. The hypnotically smooth sound of Yellow Days could be heard and seen on the Dia De Los Puercos Stage from the taco line.
Tropicalia featured performances that reminded the Latinx audience of family barbeques and birthdays in the park. Celso Pino and Sonora Dinamata, musical staples in the cumbia world, entertained the younger crowd with nostalgia while attracting older audiences to revel in their presence. Cuco, 18-year-old singer from L.A., captured the hearts of the young and old crowd with his modern take on Spanish love songs.
Tropicalia also highlighted many indie bands, including Slow Hollows, Inner Wave and Bane’s World, who recently performed at the KCSB Courtyard, on the intimate Mota Stage. Performing at their first festival, Inner Wave experimented with funky synth sounds and guitar licks, completely jamming out before playing their hits. Long Beach native Bane’s World concluded the night at Mota Stage with their signature dreamy and sentimental sound. The small but loyal crowd was left hungry for more after the set was cut short.
As the sunset illuminated the Tropicalia stage and San Pedro Bay in an orange hue, the headliners began their sets. Café Tacvba, a renowned rock band from Mexico City, played a delightfully eclectic set that was paired with multiple outlandish outfit changes. The Spanish-speaking crowd emotionally sang along as they performed the romantic lyrics of “Como Te Extraño Mi Amor.”
King Krule was next. The sky was now dark and the crowd had anxiously formed around the stage waiting for the English rock sensation. With the release of his new album, The OOZ, followers were excited to hear songs off the album as well as classics like “Baby Blue” and “Easy Easy.” The stage went dark; King Krule stepped on stage with navy lights highlighting his silhouette. Emotionally rich, electrifying and riveting to the core is how we would describe the set, as the audience could feel the passion in his voice.
Kali Uchis followed the energy of King Krule, delivering a truly sensational performance and touching the culture of the audience with her Latina prowess. Notably, she asked the crowd to raise their hands if they spoke Spanish, and 90 percent of the crowd proceeded to raise their hands. In Spanish and English she enchanted the crowd with her harmonic, jazz-like voice before humbly thanking and praising the crowd.
The next band truly embodied the essence of Tropicalia Fest, blending in rich Chicanx-culture storytelling with their psychedelic soul and funk heavy rock. Chicano Batman, native to L.A., was an emotional high point for many in the crowd. The politically empowering lyrics about the Mexican-American experience paired with their incredibly psychedelic visuals truly made an unforgettable experience.
For its first year, Tropicalia was a success. From its packed lineup to completely sold-out tickets, Tropicalia created a festival that celebrated the Latin American/Chicanx culture that allowed for this artistry to thrive. Whether you belonged to this cultural identity or not, the people were welcoming in the celebration of the organic culture they had created. Although the amazing performances made the day possible, Tropicalia was truly much more than that. Considering the impressiveness of its first year, one can only guess what will come next for this young festival.