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Ruido Fest 2018 :: Gathering of the Latin Alt Tribes!


Marcella Gallo
Fotos: Jean Marc Lavoie Jul 05, 2018

Pilsen, is a vibrant, artistic, and cultural neighborhood located in the west side of Chicago that for decades has been a port-of-entry for Mexican immigrants and that has been recently named “one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world” by Forbes magazine.  It was in late June of 2018, that the barrio once again embraced Ruido Fest, a three-day, Latin Alternative music, food and crafts festival now in its fourth year. 

This year’s eclectic lineup featured a number of acts ranging from Latin rock and ska, to cumbias, and locally or internationally known bands and DJs offering an array of electronic sounds.  

Local favorites ranged from Subatomico (Latin Alternative), Divino Niño, Quinto Imperio—hailing from the Back of the Yards neighborhood and playing a fusion of cumbia with reggae, salsa and hip-hop,—and The Braided Janes debuting at the fest with their Latin Rock sound.

The DJ Stage featured Chicago global base producers and DJ Duo Los Marafakas, along with Enrique Tobias—a veteran of the local rock en español scene since the 90s. That same stage was also dominated by female DJs including Calixta, a fixture in the popular Cumbiasazzo Nomadic Party who is also known for her VJ skills. Other DJs to grace the stage at Ruido Fest 2018 included La Spacer -co-founder of TRQPITECA nightlife events-, and Reggae Selectress Kinky P playing her Reggae-Dub-Roots sounds from Jamaica.

Friday’s band lineup included Playa Gotica from Chile, Sputnik (Mexico City) Combo Chimbita (New York) and Kinky. Los Mirlos, took the stage to showcase their cumbia-amazonica-psicodélica from Peru, including their worldwide hit La Danza de Los Mirlos from the album Afrosound released in 1973. Jorge Rodríguez Grández, native to Moyobamba and founder of  Los Mirlos, started the band in 1968 in the San Martin region where the genre originated. The band made it to the Ruido Fest in Chicago this year on opening night to continue to spread their Amazonian identity while encouraging even the shyest of wallflowers, to hit the dance floor.

Another band to light up the evening lineup was Plastilina Mosh, the legendary Monterrey-based duo of Jonás González (lead singer and guitar player) and Alejandro Rosso (vocals and keyboards) at the Estrella Jalisco stage performing their Electronic Alternative Rock hit songs. Their setlist consisted of crowd favorites such as Human Disco Pop, Mr. P Mosh and Peligroso Pop. Plastilina Mosh played an hour-long set as the the sun fell and set the mood for the headliners that followed.

It was time to shake the mud off your shoes and head to the main stage as Los Angeles Azules were ready to perform.  There was something special in the air that night, more than just the misty rain and alfresco cumbia beats while thousands of people waited in anticipation for the band -hailing from Iztapalapa, Mexico-, and it was palpable.  The Addams /Medill Park was about to become the biggest outdoor cumbia sonidera dance party Chi-town has ever seen. 

The band took the stage and performed all time favorites such as El Listón de tu Pelo, Mi Niña Mujer, Mis Sentimientos and Entrega de amor. Their performance was captivating, as it had been at Vive Latino 2015 in Mexico City a few years ago when they were joined by special guest Saul Hernandez. This year, it was Kinky who was invited to join the band on stage for a memorable performance of Cómo te voy olvidar.  The mud and rain couldn’t keep these hardcore cumbia lovers from experiencing Los Angeles Azules, as the end of the night reared its head at Ruido Fest that Friday.

On day two the lineup was lit for Saturday. Upon early arrival, a good spot was almost guaranteed to catch a glimpse of Rubio, a Chilean project fronted by Francisca Straube, former drummer and leader of Miss Garrison. Although Miss Garrison was scheduled to play Ruido Fest this year, they announced in early June that, after ten years of uninterrupted band activity, they had decided to take an indefinite break.

This was unfortunate and unexpected. Many Chicago fans were bummed that the band would not be playing at Ruido, since their last album Al Sol de Noche topped many fans’ favorite albums of 2017. Rubio’s performance, however, proved to be a solid lineup replacement. Although their 30-minute set was only a teaser, it was executed superbly.

Fran’s energy on stage was contagious and powerful, with her voice transcending like no other.  The band’s live version of Seres Invisibles was electrifying. Their live sound -including a violin, classical piano and percussion- coupled with Fransisca’s voice, is the perfect combination, characteristic of this emerging electronic band.

Riverside’s Voodoo Glow Skulls followed. This Ska-Punk-Rock band formed in the early 90s and made for a visceral experience, featuring an impressive horn section. Frontman Efrem “the bean” Shulz (Manic Hispanic, Death By Stereo) has a knack for driving the crowd into a mosh pit.

Los Caligaris, originally from Cordoba, Argentina, combined ska latino with a circus-like themed performance. From the beach ball surfing to idyllic weather conditions, it is fair to say that Los Caligaris brought “El show mas feliz del mundo” to Pilsen.

It was around 6pm that Grammy award winner Gaby Moreno took center stage. Just under a year ago, Gaby graced the Millenium Park stage as she headlined a free show for the Downtown Sounds Summer Series.  Her fans were excited for her return to the Windy City to perform a genre that she coined “Spanglish folk soul”.  This talented native of Guatemala succeeded in satisfying the rockero crowd  with her tunes “Maldición Bendición” and “Fronteras” , which truly hits home during these times as she sings “This is where I belong...”  from her Ilusión album.

Celso Piña y su Ronda Bogotá was up next, closing out the night with his amped-up cumbia party and non-stop dancing. As he mentioned during the press conference, he will continue to take his music all over the world. It is worth noting, that ‘maestro’ Piña revolutionized cumbia in Monterrey in the early 2000s. It was then that he began his rebeldía musical with his album Barrio Bravo, mixing various -seemingly opposite- musical genres, such as Vallenato and Norteñas, proving to be a worldwide hit and was brilliantly achieved once more during his stop at Ruido.

It was inevitable that Panteón Rococó would headline again at Ruido. This time on a Saturday night two years to date from their last performance at the festival.  The only band at Ruido who was welcomed by their loyal fan club, Chicago Chapter, all dressed up in Panteón gear and carrying banners that read: “Ejército de Paz”. Frontman Dr Shenka, has a way of captivating the crowd and conveying the band’s message of “paz, resistencia y baile”.

Panteón drew in thousands of people of all ages, performing a power-charged setlist of 16 songs including: Arréglame el Alma, Vendedora de Caricias, Hostilidades, Acábame de matar, La Dosis Perfecta. The finale included a rendition of their smash hit, La Carencia, joined on stage by Los Caligaris. Considered one of the hardest working, and most successful bands to ever come out from Mexico City, Panteón Rococó has a trajectory of more than 20 years under their belt and countless hits to prove it.

Sunday’s conclusion of the three-day Latin Alternative Music Festival led you down memory lane and back to the start of the Rock en Español movement from the late 80s and early 90s with Los Amantes de Lola performing their hits, Mamá, Beber Tu Sangre and many more. They also ran through a set of covers of spanish rock favorites such as La Muralla Verde (by Enanitos Verdes), and Manuel Santillán, El León (by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs).

After a hiatus of over a decade, Mexican electronic music pioneers, Titan made a comeback with their fourth album, Dama. They hit the main stage as the sun was setting and pleased the adoring crowd with a stellar performance.

“Su Majestad Imperial” Silverio—a regular at the fest (and founding member of Titan) stirred the crowd into a frenzy with his outrageous antics which include stripping down to his red underwear. Silverio proved to be a favorite -once again-, at Ruido Fest.

Chilean hip-hop artist Ana Tijoux was a breath of fresh air as she closed out the Estrella Jalisco Stage with her raps for social justice. Ana was sure to give a shout out during her set to Blocks Together, a community organization from the Humboldt Park area that works on issues relating to education, housing, economic justice and the criminalization of youth.

As the festival came to a close at the main stage, a large crowd marked their spot as they waited for the iconic group Caifanes to seal the deal. Still running strong after an illustrious 3 decade-long career, Caifanes performed over an hour and a half of hit after hit, bringing joy and nostalgia to the rock veterans who sang along to each and every song.

At the end of the day, Ruido Fest is more than just a Latin Alternative music, food and crafts festival. It is a cultural gathering that brings together local and internacional talent to an iconic barrio in Chicago, unifying latinos from all ethnicities, nationalities and cultural backgrounds. Established in a neighborhood that once was predominantly Mexican, and now struggles with gentrification, Ruido Fest is also -in a unique way-, a symbol of resistance for the Pilsen residents and it's buoyant artistic community.

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