Supersonico is the festival the alt-Latino scene in Los Angeles has been waiting for. Many are calling it the “Latino FYF," the “Latin Coachella,” and even the U.S. version of "Vive Latino." Los Angeles hasn't seen anything like it in at least a decade.
Saturday was a sunny, cool day with a mostly Latino crowd of about 10,000, who were visibly excited to be there. No one was afraid to get down to a little cumbia or hip-hop when the moment called for it. There were teenagers, twenty-somethings, and an older crowd that was drawn mostly by the big name headliners of Café Tacvba, Calle 13 and indie hip-hop artist Ana Tijoux.
Outside of the big names, Ceci Bastida's moving performance of electro/synth-pop songs with a politically conscious message was the most memorable of the day.
She was one of many artists who condemned the recent disappearance of 43 university students in Southern Mexico, an incident that is believed to be connected to corrupt police forces. And at one point, the screen behind her showed a graphic that read, "ALTO SB1070, Ser Humano No Es Illegal" (a reference to Arizona's SB1070, the infamous "Papers Please" law) after she dedicated a song to "All of the migrants, in the United States and all over the world."
Unfortunately, Bastida went on at 3 p.m., when most concertgoers hadn't yet arrived, and she shared the same time slot with the popular local group La Santa Cecilia. She should have come later in the lineup so more people could have the opportunity to discover her.
See also: Our photo gallery of Supersonico
Café Tacvba and Their Infectious Energy
The majority of the people we spoke to at Supersonico said they were most excited to see Café Tacvba perform. Even before the legendary Mexican group took the stage, people were singing along to the famous chorus from "El Baile Y El Salón”: “Paparupapa eu eo” (over and over).
Café Tacvba did not disappoint; it’s clear why they are the reigning champs of rock en español. They were as much in the moment and as excited to be there as the crowd was.
All the songs they played elicited an animated response from the crowd, but as soon as they went into "El Baile Y El Salón,” the echo of the crowd singing along was so loud that it could probably be heard across the nearby USC campus.
Rubén Albarrán, the lead singer, jumped on top of the speakers at one point, engaging with the crowd in a way that none of the bigger acts did. Café Tacvba were essentially giving a lesson in how they are still, 20 years later, legends. They teased the crowd with encore after encore, playing hits like "Cómo Te Extraño Mi Amor," extending their encore into another set of its own.
Up next, our thoughts on the crowd...
Some concertgoers were wearing clothes they designed, or that are popular on Tumblr, like a shirt designed by Laz Huntiez, influenced by Selena's "Como La Flor."
Most people had heard about the show through word of mouth, or saw the buzz coming through their social media feeds. One attendee, Ester Trujillo, said that "If I didn't come, I would have been at home watching Instagram blow up because everyone and their grandma is here except me."
Some of the artists were seen wandering around, as if the line between fan and artist was a blurring one. Ceci Bastida came out to watch Ana Tijoux at the outdoor stage, and La Santa Cecilia, were walking around for a while, watching other performers. When Ximena Sariñana was spotted during Ana Tijoux's set, many fans said that they wished she was on the bill. But according to Phoebe Smolin from festival organizers Nacional Records, she was just there representing Toyota Latino.
Many people came in from out of town specifically to attend Supersonico. Omar Martinez and Maria Rocha drove six hours south from San Jose for Supersonico, "to support the Latin community!" they said.
People's Excitement for The Future of Alt-Latino in the U.S.
Supersonico's lineup demonstrated that the alt-Latino label is elastic and not about one type of music, or one type of artist. You could easily find yourself at the Illuminati Lounge, where Tijuana's María y José was playing a fusion of cumbia and hip-hop, then move to another stage and see Venezuela's La Vida Boheme playing a blend of rock, jazz and punk.
This is what people at the festival seemed to be most excited about — that the genre of alt-Latino and the festival itself isn't about one language, or one genre; there is no paint-by-numbers ideology or aesthetic behind it.
Artists at the festival switched back and forth between English and Spanish, often delivering a socially conscious message along with their music. As Sombra Libertad, an attendee from Los Angeles, said about Calle 13, "They’re political, they're real … [using] their position of privilege to be able to further causes."
She also said she kept running into people she knew and the night was like, "A big-ass family reunion, a who's who of raza Chicana."
If you spent most of your time at Supersonico waiting in a line for the bathroom, the food trucks, the bar, or even to get from one stage to another, you weren't alone. You could spend hours in line and not get very far.
Libertad said, "They needed three times as many food trucks because, no joke, it was an hour and 20 minutes in the food line for food trucks. That was not cute."
Once Calle 13 came on, it was impossible to get from the outdoor stage to the indoor stage or the Illuminati stage, unless you wanted spend 20 minutes in a line to make your way out of the crowd. Moving through the crowd to get closer to the stage during Café Tacvba caused the same issue.
Supersonico was not perfect, but it's not easy to put festivals like this together, and for its first year, it has to be considered a major success. Los Angeles has seen plenty of music festivals come and go, but this one may just be here to stay.
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See also: Our photo gallery of Supersonico
Note: A previous version of this article misidentified the lead singer of Café Tacvba. We also misspelled Sombra Libertad's name and incorrectly identified her as being from Santa Barbara rather than Los Angeles. We apologize for the errors.