After a week of non-stop rain soaked the city, the clouds parted on Saturday just in time for the Pachanga Latino Music Festival. With the Fiesta Gardens’ grounds, on the shore of Lady Bird Lake, in good condition, there was no stopping the Latin music celebration.
Crowds this year seemed thinner than last year, but some of the bigger acts still brought out the fans. We saw the fest expand to Dallas and Houston this year
and concentrate more heavily on international Latin alternative acts that included veteran musicians and up-and-coming acts.
Coming to this festival with an open mind to explore new music always helps create the most unforgettable moments. Here are some highlights from Pachanga Fest 2015.
Best Meeting of the Minds: Compass (Mexican Institute of Sound + Toy Selectah)
“Austin feels like home,” Camilo Lara (of Mexican Institute of Sound) said from the stage. Compass – the highly-anticipated project of DJ/producers and Mexican music giants Lara and Toy Selectah (of Control Machete fame) – was supposed to perform at a free South by Southwest show at Auditorium Shores back in March. But when rain wreaked havoc on the park grounds, causing standing water, that show was cancelled. Disappointed fans left not being able to catch one of Mexico’s most-buzzed about projects.
Pachanga Fest was a second chance, and Compass didn’t hold anything back. The power duo, along with a full band, presented many never-before-heard songs because only two from their self-titled album have been released so far. But if the enthusiastic Pachanga crowd is any indication, the Compass album, which features dozens of collaborations, should find a lot of love. Compass’ high-energy set also brought attention to the 43 missing Mexican students and drug violence in Mexico.
Usually behind a turntable, Toy Selectah fans got a special treat by seeing the part-time Austinite on the guitar. In addition to Compass’ songs, festivalgoers were pumped up
hearing familiar versions of MIS hits like “El Microfono” and “Yo Digo Baila.”
One of my favorite quotes of the day came from Lara who said, “Keep Austin Cumbia.”
Most Pleasant Surprise: Ceci Bastida, Orkesta Mendoza, Camilo Lara (MIS)
Morrissey made a Pachanga Fest appearance, well, actually Mexrrissey. I was hoping for lots of collaborations during this festival, since many of the artists on the bill have worked together. Finally, on my way to another performance, I spotted Camilo Lara of Mexican Institute of Sound and singer-songwriter Ceci Bastida join the indie mambo band Orkesta Mendoza on stage to perform as their popular project Mexrrissey, which reimagines Morrissey songs with a Mexican twist. Even NPR Alt.Latino co-host Felix Contreras got in on the fun and played the congas.
Proud Latina Moments: Mala Rodríguez and Ceci Bastida
As one of the best rap en español MCs, Mala Rodríguez of Spain delivered a fierce set that’s easily one of my top Pachanga performances in recent years. Seeing Rodríguez, a pioneer for Latinas in hip-hop, command the stage with unapologetic attitude, unmatched rhyming skills and showmanship made me feel pride for the women in music squashing barriers every day. I can finally cross Rodríguez off my concert bucket list after years of waiting for her to tour the U.S. She
was worth the wait.
Tijuana-born singer Ceci Bastida blazed her own trail years ago after singing backup for Julieta Venegas. It was empowering to see her onstage alongside two other strong female bandmates who played the guitar as well as percussion and trumpet.
Hardest decision of the night: Kinky
The Monterrey electronic rockers have become regulars in Austin’s festival scene, headlining twice now at South by Southwest’s Pan Americana Festival in 2013 and again earlier this year. The crowd’s animated reception at Pachanga Fest proved that Austin just can’t get enough of Kinky.
Although they started their set off slower with an acoustic portion, they later showcased the dance hits that have established them in the Latin alternative scene. I had planned to check out Ximena Sariñana, whose set overlapped with Kinky’s and whose show was closing out the fest, but the quintet’s high-spirited, dance party set made it extremely difficult to peel away. Against my better judgement, I finally did. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen Kinky perform, they will always be the party kings.