Julieta Venegas, La Santa Cecilia Bring Latino Sound and Style to Austin's Pachanga Music Festival
This article is part of Latin Post's On the Road series. Follow our adventures at #LPOTR.
"Everything's bigger in Texas," and when it comes to live music in Austin, you have to go big or go home.
Known for the caliber of its talent and wildly popular festivals such as South by Southwest and Austin City Limits, where thousands of artists, musicians, filmmakers and tech gurus flock to the "live music capital of the world," Austin literally covers its bases with more music venues per capita than any other U.S. city.
However, Austin has another stellar music festival up its sleeve — the Pachanga Latino Music Festival at Fiesta Gardens, which draws some of the best up-and-coming and established local and international artists to the Texas capital.
Also known as Pachanga Fest, it's a seven-year-old Latin-themed music, cultural arts and food festival dedicated to showcasing the vibrant blend of Latino-created art and music from a multitude of genres — traditional and contemporary, indie, rock, alternative, cumbia, ranchera, electronic, hip-hop, and others.
Given all the hype of this city, this Yankee had to see what the fuss was all about, so I decided to make the trek to Austin to attend Pachanga Fest on May 9-10. Needless to say, Austin and Pachanga didn't disappoint.
Pachanga Fest coordinators point out that it stands out for its appeal to Latin audiences, which aren't always served by the major events that make up Austin's growing music scene. While the audience at Pachanga Fest was predominantly Latino, there was also a lot of diversity — various ethnicities, ages, hipster and mainstream. Whether sporting a fedora, cowboy hat or boots, it didn't matter — there was a feel-good vibe in the air.
At times, the Texas heat and blazing sun was tough for this northerner to handle, but there was a nice, greatly-needed breeze off Lady Bird Lake as spectators transitioned from the Pavilion, Patio and Hierba stages.
This year, Pachanga Fest welcomed five-time Latin Grammy Award-winning and Grammy Award-winning Mexican-American singer Julieta Venegas, as well as La Santa Cecilia, who won a Grammy this year for Best Latin, Rock and Alternative album, as the festival's headliners.
Venegas, a singer-songwriter born in Long Beach, California, but raised in Tijuana, Baja California, effortlessly transitioned from playing the accordion to the guitar and the keyboard as the audience cheered, chanted and danced to her hit songs, including "Es Para Ti" and "Me Voy."
Named after the patron saint of musicians, La Santa Cecilia includes accordionist and requintero Jose "Pepe" Carlos, bassist Alex Bendana, percussionist Miguel Ramirez, and lead vocalist La Marisoul, who gave an energetic performance that featured a surprise guest performance from Cuban female rap duo Las Krudas Cubensi.
La Santa Cecilia, which hails from L.A., has an affection for both American and traditional music. The band's eclectic taste is influenced by a range of artists from Miles Davis to The Beatles, Zeppelin to Janis Joplin, Mercedes Sosa to Ramon Ayala.
"It's been great. We played for the first time on the small stage [two years ago]. We had an awesome show and people got super into it," La Santa Cecilia percussionist Miguel Ramirez told Latin Post. "We had some friends from Austin called La Krudas Cubensi and people just went nuts. It was a great experience. Austin has been really good to us, so we're really happy."
Other acts that took the stage included Brooklyn-based Latin Alternative band Chicha Libre; alt-rock Venezuelan group and 2013 Latin Grammy winners for "Best Rock Album" La Vida Bohème; cumbia dance quartet Sonido San Francisco; Austin's own Latin rock band Del Castillo; four-piece Latin alternative fusion group Making Movies; Internet sensation and Colombian Depeche Mode family cover band DMK; Mexican rock-fusion band El Gran Silencio; 2013 Latin Grammy Awards' "Best New Artist" Gaby Moreno; Mexican rapper Niña Dioz; AJ Davila Y Terror Amor; and Brownout performing "Brown Sabbath," a Black Sabbath tribute.
On Friday, May 9, I was able to whet my musical appetite at Pachanga Fest's pre-party at the Empire Control Room & Garage, a smaller, more intimate venue where the lineup included Los Pajaros, La Vida Buena, Bidi Bidi Banda (a Selena tribute band), GOBI, Making Movies and La Vida Bohème.
On the outdoor patio, Pachanga attendees danced to traditional and eclectic beats by DJ Peligrosa, "a collective of DJs, producers and visual artists re-energizing the sights and sounds of Latin America's past, present and future."
The Pachanga pre-party allowed for die-hard fans to assemble into a mini-mosh pit, where they jumped and dance to the beats of Venezuelan's punk-rock indie band La Vida Bohème, which ended the night with a bang with its earth-shattering synthesizers. There was one casuality however — a Super Mario Bros. piñata that didn't stand a chance and was torn to pieces during the excitement.
After taking in the sights and the sounds of Pachanga Fest 2014 and dancing and dodging a piñata during the pre-party, I realized that, like the festival, Austin has a lot of authenticity, diversity and quirkiness — and they'd like to keep it that way.
The city's motto is "Keep Austin Weird," which is a testament to its residents' desire to keep the city's eccentricity and diversity thriving. I think they're on to something pretty damn cool, and I can't wait to see what else Austin has to offer down the road.
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