Music Is Freedom at the Wildly Eclectic Pachanga Fest

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Pachanga Fest Latino Music Festival Feat. Julieta Venegas, La Santa Cecilia, El Gran Silencio y más Fiesta Gardens, Austin May 10, 2013

"Music is our freedom" said the lead singer of Making Movies as the band opened the 2014 Pachanga Fest Latino Music Festival. That concept was felt all throughout the event, where people young and old, local and international, all converged upon Austin's Fiesta Gardens to enjoy the seemingly never-ending variety of musical genres from across the globe.

From the tally that I attempted to keep, every country of the Western Hemisphere -- from Mexico to Argentina, Panama to Colombia, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and more -- were all represented, both onstage and off. A band like Making Movies played salsa music inspired by Hector Lavoe one minute, while the next a band member was dancing to a jarabe tapatio from Jalisco, Mexico.

Pachanga is a fascinating and grand experience. With the sun blazing down and a cool breeze from Lady Bird Lake on their face, festival attendees were treated with a completely pleasant environment. The mood was joyful and fun, with plenty of room to roam between stages and beneath the soothing shade of the trees.

Red Bull Panamerika was once again host of the Patio Stage, bringing a younger, hipper and hip-hoppier aspect to the festival. Puerto Rico's AJ Davila hit the stage with an interesting mix of garage-rock and punk, which attracted a large crowd to dance along with the tracks from his solo album Terror Amor. Later on Monterrey's Nina Dioz brought out her confident, fun and too-cool-for-school Spanglish rap to the stage, with dance moves and a smile that won over the crew of young people hovering around the stage all day.

The one group I had told myself not to miss this year was DMK, a family trio from Colombia who rock out as a Depeche Mode cover band. The father serves as front man, while his young son and daughter play along on the keyboards, xylophone, recorder and ukulele. As the fun, electric notes of "Just Can't Get Enough" sounded out beneath the Pavilion Stage, both band and crowd shared in the happiness and healing power of music. Seeing a family brought together by music was simply endearing and heartwarming...and their cover on "Enjoy the Silence" was spot-on.

The festival's other cover band that really made some noise was Brown Sabbath, the alter ego of Austin favorites Brownout, only playing Black Sabbath covers such as "Iron Man" and "War Pigs." And boy, were they loud! As if the sun wasn't enough to melt your face off, this set was certainly capable of rocking your face off.

Story continues on the next page.

Of course, most attendees eagerly awaited the night's headliners. The main sets began with La Santa Cecilia, the Latino-music darlings from California who recently won a Grammy Award and delighted the Pachanga crowd with a blend of cumbia, ranchera and vallenato, on a mix of their hits like "30 Dias" and "La Monedita" and covers of U2's "One" and a Spanglish version of the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever."

Julieta Venegas shined brightly closing this year's festival. With an equally beautiful voice and smile, she wasted no time immediately playing her hits. "Eres Para Mi" and "Lento" were especially well-received, as the audience's singing was amplified by the pavilion's metal roof. The crowd did thin out a bit during some new tracks from Venegas' 2013 album Los Momentos, but those who stayed were treated to an inspired set by the Mexican-American songstress.

As we walked out, I saw a very tired and very happy Rich Garza, founder and producer of Pachanga Fest, making his final rounds. He said that this year was another success, with very few hiccups and lots and lots of smiles. I asked him what it would take to bring his festival to Houston, to which his face lit up. "I've really thought about it! I think that would be a lot of fun!"

More photos on the next page.


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