Coachella has not been the kindest to rock en español fans these past few years.
Sure, Venezuelan funky acid-jazzers Los Amigos Invisibles played the festival's first year, in 1999. Then the following year featured L.A.'s cross-cultural music circus of Ozomatli along with Tijuana's beat-heavy banda grupo Nortec Collective.
Then, all the way up until rock en español gods Caifanes made Coachella one of its two reunion shows in 2011, there was always at least one leading Latin-rock act somewhere on the bill. Sometimes, it would be Monterrey-based electronic eccentrics Kinky; other times, it was legendary Mexico City band Cafe Tacuba.
But ever since rappers started headlining the three-day music and arts fest, the token Hispanics have been virtually eliminated, and rock en español no longer even gets small-print representation on Coachella lineups.
Thankfully, now there's Rock Fiesta, taking place March 18 and 19 at the Desert Gardens Showgrounds in Quartzite, Arizona. With 20 live performances from some of Latin America's most important bands spread over two days, it's slated to be the largest Latin rock festival in America.
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Not only is this first-time, multi-day desert festival offering camping on site a la the actual Coachella, but they're also bringing with them to the Sonoran Desert a jaw-dropping lineup of rock en español acts that, in terms of sheer scope, reads like the Mexican equivalent of every English-language Coachella headliner of the last 16 years combined.
At the top of the lineup is Caifanes, which now tours regularly, and Cafe Tacuba. Below them is a laundry list of the top names from the '70s, '80s and '90s — El Tri, Molotov, Panteon Rococo, Kinky, Maldita Vecinidad, PXNDX — all Mexico-based bands who helped define the Latin American rock sound as one that easily fuses pop, punk, blues, ska, cumbia, new wave, oom-pah brass, jazz and more.
The rest of the bill at Rock Fiesta splays outward, reflecting the various directions that rock en español now takes, from alternativo to emo. Mexican bands include recently reunited Nortec Collective, heavy metaleros S7N, pop-punkers División Minúscula and Finde, and the insanity that is Silverio (think of him like a Mexican Har Mar Superstar, who cracks jokes in Spanish and gets naked as he plays bizzaro techno music). Los Angeles' contributions to the genre will be well-represented too, with Ozomatli, Metalachi and Palenke Soultribe all scheduled to perform.
And who says who you have to speak Spanish to enjoy the high-energy shows of Latin rock's finest? With tickets costing significantly less than the real Coachella — Rock Fiesta starts at $120 for two-day passes — expect a lot more gringos and Latinos from both sides of the border (and hopefully a lot less of all the things we really hate about Coachella).