Honestly, this was my first trip to New York City. Definitely a crime, especially for me. I’ve been on the airwaves of Radio New York 91.5FM for a few years now, and a majority of my family was born, raised or has lived there at some point. A trip there was long overdue and when the folks from the Latin Alternative Music Conference invited me out to the 11th annual event -- it was on. I’m a big fan of Latin music and they were showcasing an amazing line-up of artists, including a bunch of KEXP favorites. The week was a whirlwind of activity, from 10:00am pre- panel coffee to 4:00am gyro on the street after the after-party. (it’s the hotel lobby!) Yes, I did make sure to check out some of the best eats in all the boroughs I visited. The experience was completely exhausting and absolutely way too fun. The music industry panels and artist interviews went down in the lovely Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, the concerts and parties were popping all around The City.
Latin is a liberal descriptor. The people and culture hold the same heart, but are incredibly diverse. So too is Latin Alternative: Mexican glam, Argentine reggae, Bay Area hip hop, you name it. There were too many events to catch everything, but I want to share a few highlights with the hope that you learn more about your favorite artists or discover something new.
First up on my list was Ana Tijoux, who’s one of my favorite MCs at the moment, Latin or otherwise. I’m 33 and a 1977 enthusiast and when her latest album dropped it became something of a soundtrack for me. Plus she’s got the beats and rhymes. Ana’s Tuesday in-store at the Apple store in SoHo was the first LAMC show. The plush little upstairs theatre was a casual setting for a quick, but tight live set and autographs. On the mic Miss Tijoux makes it look easy with a confident, but down-to-earth style. She spoke with fans, both in English and Spanish, dressed-down in jean shorts and white tee, appearing to be just all around good peoples. This proved to be true when I interviewed her a few days later. She talked about her new album, Latin America’s perception of its artists, and more:
On Wednesday I headed uptown to Central Park for a free show at the SummerStage. First up was Ana who was joined, as at the Apple Store, by RodStarz from Rebel Diaz and DJ Ethos. They warmed up the crowd who was, myself included, a bit sluggish from days of brutal three digit heat. By the finishing song, a cool version of the title track “1977” that featured some Brazilian drummers, the audience was more than ready to get down. Up next was El Guincho who fed on that energy and turned the place into his trademark surreal, tropical dance party. Mastermind Pablo Díaz-Reixa mentioned that it had been a while since the band had played together and that they were “enjoying their songs” and it showed. The finishing blow was Nortec Collective’s Bostich + Fussible. They dropped border town bombs complete with live accordion, trumpet, tuba, VJ, and Bostich + Fussible manning their spaceship control panel, iPads, and other assorted blinking lights. Fire both sonically and visually. I was able to corral them for 5 minutes during their busy schedule at the conference to talk about their history and the upcoming album:
The day was far from over. I headed out to some dark, sweaty, late-night fun at Santos Party House’s cumbia-dancehall-and-tropical bass weekly “Que Bajo” with resident DJs Geko Jones (a fellow Mo’Glo host) and one of my NYC favorites Uproot Andy. Also on deck were guest DJs and live performances from Montreal’s Boogat and a Panamanian hip hop duo out of Oakland called Los Rakas. Los Rakas was on the top of my artists-to-watch-out-for list and I wasn’t disappointed in the least. Cousins Dun Dun and Rico AKA Filthy Rich were dope all three times I saw them with the highlight being their Bowery Ballroom show alongside a killer live band. And apparently I wasn’t the only one who though so, they were awarded the LAMC “Discovery Award.” Los Rakas spoke to me about their history, being black in the Latin music scene, and more:
Thursday night’s show at the Bowery was a diverse mix. Los Rakas with band, a hard rocking set from Yotuel Romero (from the Cuban rap group Orishas), an acoustic performance from Spain’s La Bien Querida, Colombian beatmaker/DJ Isa GT, Zuzuka Poderosa’s Brazilian funk, and the wild tongue-in-cheek glam of Mexico’s Moderatto. I saw Isa GT three times in NYC and she’s becoming one of my favorite DJs. Another great performance of the night came from Mexico City’s Mexican Institute of Sound who hit the stage running with “Cumbia” and never let up. Camilo Lara and band were joined by Money Mark on keys. Though he was only near the keyboards for about half the set. He was just as often bounding around like a “wild monkey.” (as Lara later described to me) Camilo Lara joined me for an interview to talk about what he’s up to, the music scene in D.F., and more:
Friday evening was a chance for me to check out Brooklyn. Monterrey Mexico’s DJ/producer mas fino Toy Selectah, Argentine reggae star Fidel Nadal, and Ozomatli were all doing a free show at Prospect Park both for LAMC as well as Celebrate Brooklyn! This was by far the biggest venue I saw, and it was packed with people throughout, fire flies were also in attendance. Gotta say Fidel was my favorite. Reggae felt nice in the heat and he’s a commanding, positive presence. And of course Ozomatli were amazing, definitively go see them live sometime.
Saturday it was back to Central Park for three totally different Latin flavors. I was bummed to see that the originally-scheduled opener Colombian reggae-hip hop act Profetas were no longer on the bill, but was quickly relieved when Ocote Soul Sounds took the stage joined by local Chico Mann who you may know from Antibalas. The vibe was mellower than most, deep funky, and created a great atmosphere. Half-way through the next set, Spanish dance-rockers The Pinker Tones, it was clear why most people were here: to see Maldita Vecindad. The Pinker Tones had a great set though, playing tracks in English and Spanish, some from the new LP and older stuff including “Electrotumbao.” The place was already buzzing when Mexico City’s Maldita Vecindad appeared and after the mellow intro ended and the rock-ska started the whole standing area erupted into a rowdy, but peace-minded mosh pit. It rained beer, shoes, backpacks and more.
After a shower I went to the closing party at S.O.B’s. Everyone had put their cameras and notepads away and just enjoyed the night. We danced til they turned the lights on at four in the morning, with me rushing to make my train to a 7:15am flight in Newark. I really enjoyed meeting so many music lovers and artists during my interviews, the great discussion panels, and all the concerts. Big thanks to the LAMC and NYC. I’ll definitely be back.
Chilly hosts the variety mix every Thursday night on KEXP 90.3FM and “Mo’Glo” every Saturday at midnight on Radio New York 91.5 FM. You can follow him on Twitter here.