Pachanga Fest: A Latino-Music Spread Worth Driving West

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For anyone who loves music, it would be a dream come true if some of your favorite bands accepted an invitation to play a show in your backyard. Throw in a variety of delicious food, cold drinks and a handful of your family and friends, and you might stumble upon the creation of a pachanga, which means "lively party" in Spanish. An Austin gentleman named Rich Garza had such a dream, and in 2008 he debuted the Latino alternative music event that is now known as Pachanga Fest.

Now in its seventh year, the annual family-friendly event showcases a vibrant blend of Latino-created music and art and its impact on American culture. That includes rock, alternative, Tejano, mariachi, cumbia, salsa, electronic, funk and hip-hop. A portion of this year's proceeds will benefit the Austin Relief Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to providing disaster relief in Austin.

We spoke by phone to Señor Garza in anticipation of Pachanga Fest 2014, which is being held this Saturday at Fiesta Gardens in Austin.

Rocks Off: Hola amigo, how are you, sir? Rich Garza: I'm fantastic. A bit tired, very busy, but fantastic.

First of all, we'd like to say that Pachanga Fest is one of our favorite music events of the year. Can you tell us about the artists that are playing the festival this year? We are very thrilled about this year's lineup, which is a unique mix of quality local and international Latino artists such as Five-time Latin Grammy Award-winning rock superstar Julieta Venegas, 2014 Latin Grammy Award-winners La Santa Cecilia, Austin's own Latin rock band Del Castillo, and many more. It should prove to be a very enjoyable weekend.

Tell us a bit about your history and how you ended up as the producer of such an event. Well, I was born and raised in Austin, but my family was from the small town in the Rio Grande Valley called Alice. After high school, I moved to the East Coast where I studied history at Brown University. I would then spend the next ten years or so working in sports and music marketing in New York City.

When I moved back to Austin in 2005, I worked for a Hispanic marketing agency where one of my first projects was a campaign with Dr Pepper and Los Lonely Boys. That experience in working with and combining bands and brands is basically the genesis of Pachanga Fest.

As a producer of a music festival, do you travel to see other music festivals as research? I definitely attend other festivals to check out the experience, but from a consumer's point of view. I call it "Audience Advocacy." We strive to provide a good experience from start to finish, and that includes communications with the fans through schedule info, maps, etc. So yes, I've attended Coachella and of course ACL, and have enjoyed and learned from each experience.

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Do you remember any experience in particular that cemented your desire to create your own event? I remember one festival in particular... It was the 1997 H.O.R.D.E. Festival. My company was selling sponsorships to the festival and we had tickets, so I went down to the stop in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. One of my buds was a member of Neil Young's road crew, and he allowed me backstage and side stage for Neil's set.

I was hooked after that. I ended up hitching a ride on their tour bus for more than 40 shows. I always say it was my "running away with the rock & roll circus" phase. Either way, that was a very transformative and integral part of my evolution.

What was your initial goal when brainstorming about the first Pachanga Fest? I wanted to provide an outlet to showcase the vast amount of talent in the Latin Alternative music realm. We wanted to create something other than just a Tejano or Regional Mexican showcase, something more modern and hip for the younger generation.

What were the major obstacles? RG: Money! Finding funding is the most important and most difficult part of producing something in this scale, but I knew I had the knowledge and ability to seek out the brands and sponsors. We provide then brands with a great proposal and deliver value to their brand.

That's the power of the Hispanic community. We make up 32 percent of the population here in Texas, so brands want to tap into that and align with their fans. This is definitely a labor of love, with lots of blood, sweat, tears, and maxed-out credit cards along the way, but it has certainly paid off. In the end, I want this to be a celebration of the culture, a way to share the love.

The 2014 Pachanga Fest kicks off Friday night with a pre-party at Empire Control Room (606 E. 7th St.), and takes place on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Fiesta Gardens (2101 Jesse Segovia). Afterparties will be held at Volstead Lounge, Hotel Vegas and Gypsy Lounge (1500-1504 E. 6th St.).


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