10 Must-See Acts at This Weekend’s Tropicália Festival

There’s no denying that Long Beach is having its spotlight music moment right now. Over the last few years, the LBC has become a steady contender in the SoCal music festival scene, rising up to compete with its bigger neighbors in Los Angeles and Orange County. Up next is Tropicália Festival, a hybrid “music & taco” festival — admission includes free all-you-can-eat tacos until 4 p.m. — happening at waterfront venue Queen Mary Park.

Although the lineup leans heavily on heritage Latin acts and alt-Latinx up-and-comers, it also features indie rock darlings, local DJ/tastemaker collectives and hip-hop experimentalists. There are lots of new, eclectic sounds to discover (and tons of tacos to eat!) at the first-year festival, so we’re helping to guide your ears. Here are 10 Tropicália Festival acts you won’t want to miss this weekend.

Los Tigres del Norte
Originally formed in Sinaloa, Mexico, in the late ’60s, this NorCal-based group helped originate and popularize norteño, a regional Mexican genre that has since spread globally. Much like the street knowledge dropped by American rappers, corridos, or narrative-based ballads, tell the real-life stories of the oppressed, with topics ranging from heartbreak and betrayal to narcotics and illegal immigration. Los Tigres del Norte have won seven Grammys, with more than double that many nominations; been honored as a BMI Icon at the BMI Latin Awards; sold more than 32 million records; and even have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Next year, Los Tigres celebrate 50 years together, but they don't rest comfortably on past laurels. In 2014, they released “Era Diferente” (“She Was Different”), a love song about a teenage lesbian who falls in love with her best friend. The track, which Los Tigres claim is the first gay love song written by a norteño group, earned them the Special Recognition Award at the 26th annual GLAAD Media Awards in 2015.

Cuco
Cuco is the dreamy creation of teenage heartthrob Omar Banos, the 19-year-old winning over lovelorn youths from his Hawthorne bedroom. His lo-fi sound pulls from all sorts of influences anyone from East L.A. and South Central knows all too well: the “oldies but goldies” lowrider jams of the Art Laboe era; Chicano raps à la MC Magic and Lil Rob; and Morrissey-esque croons of love and longing. He’s got two albums under his belt already, but his latest, the breakout Spanglish single “Lo Que Siento” (“What I Feel”), is gaining him internet stardom; the track counts more than 2.4 million Spotify listens and close to 1 million SoundCloud streams since its release in May. If his synth-based digital love songs don’t get you, then surely his sexy trumpet solos will win you over.

Ivy Queen
Before Cardi B dominated the Billboard charts, power divas like Ivy Queen were laying down the groundwork for today’s multiethnic female artists. Her music has always carried a socially aware, critical worldview, touching on themes of feminism, homosexuality and racism. Her track “Mi Barrio” (2004) criticizes the sociopolitical climate of her native Puerto Rico, while “Quiero Bailar” (2003) famously tackles sexual politics and consent on the dance floor. Her husky voice, no-holds-barred lyrics and aggressive onstage performance style have earned her the title as the undisputed, globally recognized Queen of Reggaeton. Two decades into her career and with nine full-length albums to her name, she remains at the top of her game.

La Sonora Dinamita
This legendary Colombian collective are largely responsible for the international success of the cumbia sound, perhaps the most popular genre to come out of Latin America. Since originally forming in the late ’50s, they have released dozens of full-length albums and compilations. They’re behind many genre-defining cumbia classics including “Amor de Mis Amores” (“Love of My Loves”), “Se Me Perdió la Cadenita” (“I Lost the Necklace”), and “Escándalo” (“Scandal”), songs that have fueled the soundtracks of countless quinceañeras and Mexican weddings across Los Angeles for decades. The group continue to tour the world today following a number of lineup and personnel changes within the band, but the powerful brass section still sounds as crisp and clean as in their original incarnation. This set will be a master class in Latin music heritage and memories.

Sango
Seattle beatsmith Sango is part of a new class of producers mixing and mashing the realms of future electronic and alt-R&B. His music crosses borders and melds international sounds with a finesse and sonic worldview only possible in the digital era. He lifts influences from home, including American hip-hop, gospel, soul, R&B and EDM, but it’s the funk carioca stylings of Brazil that really give his music much of its color. His new album, De Mim, Pra Você, is straight-up space-age electronics with pan-Latin polyrhythms to beat up your speakers, the type of stuff that’ll provide the perfect sunset backdrop at any festival.

The Delfonics
This is the type of rare festival booking you can’t afford to miss. The Delfonics became one of the primary acts that popularized the Philly soul sound of the late ’60s and ’70s, alongside their famed producer Thom Bell, who combined funk influences with grandiose arrangements and sleek grooves. All your favorite rappers have sampled Delfonics classics, from Fugees (“Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love)”) to Nas (“Walk Right Up to the Sun”) to The Notorious B.I.G. (“Hey Love”). Even Quentin Tarantino counts himself as a fan: The director used the Delfonics songs “La-La (Means I Love You)” and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” as key features in both the plot and accompanying soundtrack to his 1997 film, Jackie Brown, introducing a whole new generation to the group. Expect to hear these classics and more soulful showmanship from these living legends.

Celso Piña
In his homeland of Mexico, he is known as Celso Piña. Around the world, he’s known as El Rebelde del Acordeón, the Accordion Rebel. He earned the title by breaking through the genre confines of cumbia and tropical, his main genres, to integrate disparate influences and styles, including norteño, sonidero, ska, reggae and beyond. The 64-year-old is today considered to be one of the most influential artists to ever come out of Mexico, as recognized in his 2001 album, Barrio Bravo, which saw him collaborate with modern-day Latin stars Café Tacvba (who are also on the Tropicália lineup), El Gran Silencio, Control Machete and others to celebrate his 20th career anniversary. He’s due for another such commemoration, but for now, his accordion antics live on at Tropicália.

Os Mutantes
This Brazilian psychedelic rock band grew to prominence during the movement after which the Tropicália festival is named — the tropicália scene in Brazil in the late ’60s, which included the country’s wider art community and combined pop culture with experimental and underground elements as well as homegrown and foreign influences. Their sound is heavily defined by tripped-out noises and way-out-there sounds created through studio wizardry (and probably a lot of drugs) that would make any Sgt. Pepper’s fan ecstatic. Os Mutantes never quite took off outside of their homeland, but their sound can be clearly heard in today’s American indie rock, freak folk and psychedelic pop circles, especially in the vocal experimentations of groups such as Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors. On their latest single, “Black & Gray,” lead singer-songwriter (and the band’s only original member) Sergio Dias, who recently became an American citizen, takes on President Trump with a direct plea to First Lady Melania Trump to save the world from his wicked ways. It continues Os Mutantes’ long tradition of making the uncomfortable sound beautiful and real.

Thee Commons
We recently christened Thee Commons the Best Band in our annual Best of L.A. issue. The East L.A. outfit represents everything we love about our dear city via its musical dog pile of diverse influences and sounds. The group mainly pull from the realms of cumbia, punk and psychedelic rock, but their sonic palate is much broader than that, with elements of surf, rockabilly, funk and even disco heard all over their latest album, Paleta Sonora. Their live show is as frenetic as their music sounds, earning them a reputation as one of the city’s best live acts. Since forming in 2012, they’ve made the rounds across the L.A. market, playing at virtually every musical institution the city has to offer, including Coachella, Desert Daze, Echo Park Rising and Viva! Pomona. They now add Tropicália to that list, with much more surely to come on the local and national playing field.

La Banda Skalavera
L.A. has had a very healthy Latino ska scene for well over two decades now, ushering in three waves of local bands that have keep the movement kicking, punching, screaming and skanking throughout the years. Formed in 1998, South Central outfit La Banda Skalavera were among the first groups to make noise on the burgeoning scene. What set the group apart was their appreciation of musicianship and songwriting. Whereas the majority of the local acts went straight for the jugular via stripped-back ska-punk and skacore, La Banda Skalavera fleshed out their sound with a polished horn section and complex arrangements. They picked up a Best Breakout Artist Award in the Los Angeles category at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009, helping expand their fan base to Europe and South America, and played at the Vans Warped Tour in 2011. For the brave, we highly suggest making at least one round trip in the skank pit; it’s still an exhilarating sensation.

Tropicália Music & Taco Festival takes place Saturday, Nov. 11, at Queen Mary Park in Long Beach. Tickets and more info at tropicaliafest.com.

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