Tropicalia Fest

  • 11/16/2018
  • RL Intern

We Got Our Money’s Worth

By Benjamin Garcia, RLN Reporter

Tropicalia, a brief, dazzling burst of barrier-breaking art and aesthetics from a half-century ago, continues to radiate inspiration to audiences that find its celebration of acceptance just as relevant today.

Tropicalia, also known as Tropicalismo had been simmering in Brazil’s blood for at least the 40 years since its code of cultural cannibalism was proposed by poet Oswaldo de Andrade in 1928, before erupting into widespread public expression in 1967. But it found a timely and vital purpose in 1968, when the release of a namesake album by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil arrived as the antidote to intensifying repression by Brazil’s military regime.

As Tropicalia’s gospel of tolerance spread, opposition also surfaced among the country’s Marxists, who considered its internationalism — especially a Westernism famously epitomized by the Beatles — a threat to the purity of national identity.

As Veloso and Gil continued to play music with anarchist lyrics and participating in anti-government demonstrations, the government and extremists began to characterize them as traitors.  At one point they were jailed for two months and had to seek asylum outside Brazil. In 1972 the movement ended when the military regime instituted crushing force on freedom of expression.

But its legacy resurfaced in Long Beach on Nov. 3 and 4, rather than Brazil allowing for a wider Latino diaspora to take part. Modern rock music and hip hop are also the cultural successors of the original key influences in the Tropicalia movement.

Folks in Southern California were transported to a modernized Tropicalismo haven and jammed to dynamic, passionate, and soulful music artists while spending $9 on run-of-the-mill taco platters.

Tropicalia Fest encompassed both a rich Latino artistic tradition and a sense of late-capitalistic gentrification.

Gary Tovar, the founder of Goldenvoice, may be Latino, but today, Tropicalia remains not Latino-owned.

Last year’s one-day early bird tickets were $75, and this year they were $99. The $9 tacos were all you could eat and free! These prices are offensive to the minority-based audience that the festival sought out. What would you expect from the same company that puts on Coachella?

Day one, electrifying

The environment on the first night was, in a word, magical. All the acts that performed on the “Chalino Stage” seemed larger than life.

Of course Morrissey attracted the largest, loudest and most fanatic crowd. Fans jumped over barriers and climbed onto the stage to hug the legend, only to be promptly thrown off the stage by security.

He was the first night headliner for a number of reasons  including his worldwide renown, energetic performance style, unique voice and emotionally vivid lyrics.

Morrissey has always been able to move feelings of soul-crushing heartbreak in his audience. Similar to the emotional peaks in Latin music. Perhaps that is why so many Latinos love him.

Though tone deaf in other ways, Moz is like our drunk uncle.

He has exhibited racist views of black pop music. In 1986 he called reggae “the most racist music in the entire world” because of its “total glorification of black supremacy.” He has also said he dislikes Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston.

Considering that African rhythms (and later, blues, soul and funk) are a key influence of Tropicalismo, insulting listeners of black pop music is antithetical to the inclusive nature of the Tropicalia spirit.

Though Morrisey loves his Latin American fans— he once said  that they have good hair, skin and teeth, he has voiced anti-immigrant stances in regard to Brexit. He called Britain’s decision to leave the EU “magnificent.”

Morrissey is also an apologist for Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, and blames their victims for the way that men in power systematically exploit people under them, saying “Those people knew exactly what would happen [when they went up to Weinstein’s hotel room], and they played along.”

The Anaheim hip-hop group, Weapons of Mass Creation, was first on the Chalino stage on Nov. 4 and took time out of their 20-minute set to address the people gathering to dance. The band’s vocalist, “Joules,” told the audience that it was imperative for all people to obtain free consent before engaging in sexual activity.

The real star of the night was Kali Uchis, who sounds like bilingual Amy Winehouse and dances like Selena Quintanilla. She was a goddess, full of poise. During her cover of I Feel Love by Donna Summer, she ripped her shiny, translucent pants.

After trying for less than a minute to fix it, she became quite candid and joked, “I’m gonna be honest with you, I ripped my pants. Don’t make fun of me, SpongeBob did it too!” Her confidence was as sexy as her moves.

Due to the historically political nature of the movement that explicitly encourages being fully-inclusive, most of the 75 acts addressed modern political grievances.

Chicano Batman did a call-and-response : “Fuck racism,”  “fuck xenophobia,” “fuck sexism,” “fuck homophobia,” “fuck transphobia,” “fuck nationalism,” etc. While Chicano Batman was making these excellent points, Kali Uchis gave a first person account of what it is like to be born poor in Columbia and grow up exploited in the U.S.

Uchis explained that she generally resents corporations for getting rich off of the hard work of regular people. She added that immigrants, such as her family, do not have as much agency as other poor people.

Absent artists disappoint fans

Mac Demarco is getting heat for half-assing his way through the second most-attended set on Sunday night.

The charges include: replacing his band with a computer, operating it himself and joking that he has a mortgage to pay; is bold choice of apparel, a turkey suit; he didn’t even play guitar

Demarco wasn’t present in the moment, but what was more offensive were the holes in the line-up.

Several big names — Cardi B, Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes and Cuco — were taken off the line-up a mere two days before the festival; and in all too nonchalant of a manner.

Tropicalia tweeted the announcement in the same tweet as the schedule. The second-day headliner, a ‘60s girl band with a cult following and a Chicano teen sensation were missing; they were major selling points for fans and it is unacceptable to receive no reparation and little-to-no explanation.

Not to say that their replacements were less talented, but for the sake of giving customers exactly what they pay for.

The late schedule disallowed festival goers from having a game plan for the two-day and triple-stage event.

We will never know for certain if Soul-singer Brenton Wood was brought in to replace Cuco, as Tropicalia said, or if he was an alternative to The Ronettes; afterall, the two share a similar aesthetic and fanbase.

Trading Be My Baby for Gimme Little Sign felt fair; though, I might have not bought tickets had I known The Ronettes would not show– I would have been happy to get up early to see them as the first act on the main stage. Surely others feel the same way about Cardi B being switched out for SZA.

SZA saves second day

Bisexual Icon and Carson native Solàna Imani Rowe (a.k.a. SZA) was real. Upon entering the stage, she explained that she was having an anxiety attack because she was afraid the audience would have rather seen Cardi B.

While Cardi B is liked more for her rapping than her singing voice, SZA’s voice was the absolute clearest out of any artist over the weekend and this allowed the artist’s raps and songs to be appreciated for both their sound and lyrical depth.

Cardi B is relevant to the festival because of her trap-salsa number “I Like It,” which is inspired by the hit Pete Rodriguez song of a similar title.

Tropicalia fans were angry to find out that an a-lister like Cardi B was replaced by SZA; but SZA has made a name for herself and has proven that she is qualified to headline alongside Morrissey and is just as talented as Cardi B.

Over the past six years SZA’s career has been a slow crescendo of  collaborating with larger artists such as 50 Cent, Schoolboy Q, Khalid and Lorde and writing songs for artists such as Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Beyonce

Last year, she was Grammy nominated for new artist, best rap vocal performance, best R&B performance, best R&B song and best urban contemporary album

SZA was also featured in the Black Panther soundtrack lead single, All the Stars. She offered an optimistic set and she spoke on men, mental illness, and marijuana — relatable subjects.

The twenty-something singer, who closed-out Tropicalia, is chiller than Cardi B — at 9 p.m. and after an all-day event, this suited the tired audience who preferred to sway rather than twerk.

SZA’s feel is not the only thing that made her a more appropriate choice for a Sunday night headliner. Tropicalia is all about diversity and SZA is even more diverse than her music lets on.

Despite the internalized prejudices that many minority communities harbor elsewhere, when SZA sang Normal Girl and 20 Something at Tropicalia, everyone felt understood.

However, when she sings about being different, she is not just singing about being a bisexual black woman with anxiety. She is also singing about being raised as an Orthodox Muslim — and being bullied as a hijab-wearing high schooler in post 9/11 America.

This is a radically new perspective to be shared and celebrated at Tropicalia and one can only hope that this progression continues and the rest of the world follows suit.

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