¡Ajúa! The Hollywood Bowl Goes Latin Alternative, Celebrates Dreamers
Where cultures converge, great music happens. Last Sunday night three of the biggest acts in Latin Alternative music were brought together at the historic Hollywood Bowl amphitheater in a rare and brilliant line-up, as part of the Getty-led Pacific Standard Time LA/LA to create dialogue between Latin American arts and Los Angeles. Mon Laferte, La Santa Cecilia and Café Tacvba took to the stage before a full house of enthusiastic fans in a celebration of Mexican inspiration that also embraced the cause of Dreamers, a group currently caught in the middle of sometimes ugly national conversation about immigration.
The joy and electricity were palpable between the audience and the musicians, who told AltLatino before the show they were also humbled by the experience.
"Es un sueno de cualquier musico estar en este sitio (It's a dream for any musician to be here)," said Laferte, as she shared her awe of walking in the footsteps of previous performers, seeing photos of The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. A Chilean who lives in Mexico, the sassy performer opened the show to a roaring crowd. She and her eight-piece band were as stimulating visually as they were sonically. Dancing about in a little yellow dress, sporting body tats and a flowing mane of red-tinted hair adorned with a big flower, she played a white guitar, standing out against the backdrop of her bouncing band of men in maroon suits.
Laferte is a performer's performer; an actress, dancer and musician all rolled into one, with an emotive soprano soul that energized the audience. Her summer hit, "Amárrame" was a crowd favorite. She also killed it on ballads with the flair of a telenovela. She said her plan for this concert was to make people dance. And, indeed, she did.
Next up was a rich performance by L.A.'s own home-grown largely Mexican-American band La Santa Cecilia. It was a profound experience for the band, having just celebrated 10 years together, and particularly for lead singer La Marisoul.
"As we were driving in, I looked at the marquis," she said, with eyes welling up. "My [high school] classmates' graduation was here at the Hollywood Bowl. I wasn't able to graduate, you know, because I was una loquita, aventurera (crazy and adventurous.) I went to another school – the school of life. But I feel a sense of accomplishment, almost like a graduation. I didn't get to stand on that stage then, but I get to stand on that stage now with my brothers and after 10 years of dreaming, of traveling, of playing."
Those 10 years started on Olvera Street in the city's oldest neighborhood, busking at restaurants and developing their craft. Since then they've developed a Grammy-winning body of work, often blending traditional Mexican sounds with American styles and a dose of social consciousness. Amidst a stellar performance Sunday, they asked every Dreamer to stand up, sharing that one of their own, requinto player Jose "Pepe" Carlos was brought here when he was five and was undocumented for 26 years. "No wall can hold back our dreams," he exclaimed. "We're bigger than that!" It was met with roaring cheers.
"Amor Eterno," a gorgeous, soulful duo between La Marisoul and Carlos elicited lots of love from the crowd, as the amphitheater echoed with thousands of voices singing along. La Marisoul had the crowd in the palm of her hand, soon breaking into contagious cumbias that generated a sea of swaying bodies and shaking hips.
Then in a surprise twist, actor/comedian Cheech Marin walked onto the stage to massive applause and a standing ovation. He delivered a hilarious rant on Mexicanismo that was followed by the band playing the popular anthem "Mexicano-Americano." Mexican and immigrant pride swept the crowd.
Mexico City's powerhouse band Café Tacvba made for a dramatic grand finale entrance, playing a set enhanced by an electronic light show and super energetic lead singer Rubén Albarrán. Working the runway, he bopped around donned with double man buns, a black jacket, white tie and sneakers, thrilling fans with handshakes and dance moves. The band's showmanship was so tight and entertaining, it lit up the adoring audience. Songs from their new album Jei Beibi, such as "Futuro," "Matando" and "Disolviendolos" highlighted their textured soundscapes. The crowd was on their feet for much of the show, singing, dancing and cheering, and through it all, Albarrán delivered messages of staying woke and engaging in activism.
In the city that is said to hold the second largest population of Spanish speakers in the world, bass player Quique Rangel said before the show "it's sad to think that a lot people [here] from Mexico come because it wasn't easy for them and their parents. Our country didn't give them the chance to develop. Now it's a rough time here. Our presence tonight is to try to bring some happiness and some hope for better times for all of us — the ones that were left on the other side of the border and the ones that are developing here that are trying to live. I haven't met anyone that isn't hard working. Recognizing the heritage of people who came here, is a wonderful way to celebrate that we are together. It's a great honor to play here."
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