Festival season is just about over and it’s fair to say that ever since any of us can remember, there’s never really been a shortage of Rock fests, or Urban music fests, or even Reggae fests. What there has been a shortage of, though, are Latin music fests… Of course you have your local Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Salsa festivals, but as far as a multi-day event with MAJOR Latin music acts of all genres curated specifically for the Spanish speaker, they virtually just don’t exist… That is, until Los Dells Fest came along in 2017. Who would have ever thought that the biggest Latin music festival would take place on a 1,500 acre ranch in Wisconsin? For the third year in a row, Los Dells has found a way to bring over 50 de la Musica Latina’s biggest names to America’s heartland. Everyone from Banda MS to Karol G to Wisin & Yandel and Bad Bunny have graced the Dells stage… Even one of my personal favorites, Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista Social Club has played the two-day fiesta.
Created by founder and CEO of Contemporary Services Corporation, the nation’s leader in crowd management, Damon Zumwalt realized that the Latino community was being underserved when it came to live music experiences. A self-described “Mexicano de corazón” who is fluent in Spanish, Zumwalt decided he would throw the festival himself on his ranch. You can read more about him in his 2018 Billboard article here.
I was more than excited to attend Los Dells fest this year, mostly in part because my flight last year had been canceled due to bad weather, but also because some of my favorite artists would be performing and it would be the first time I would get to experience their live sets. By the time we had made our way to the festival grounds, I could hear Elvis Crespo’s performance underway as he sang and rocked his hips to his hit songs Suavemente and La Sonrisa… I looked over and the entire crowd had turned into a dance party. The energy coming off the stage and audience was so contagious that I even caught myself shyly dancing a quick Merengue when I thought nobody was watching.
With over 20 acts performing on 4 different stages, it was impossible to catch everybody I had planned to see, but luckily enough, I was able to find time to catch a few artists in the press room.
Adriel Favela, the 27-year old Banda and Corrido singer whose hit song La Escuela No Me Gustó, was amped for his interviews. After kindly taking selfies and mandando varios saludos to press members families back home, I asked him if he’s experienced any backlash from being a leader of the new generation of Corrido singers who openly sing about smoking weed and more taboo topics that seem to have struck a chord with older generation audiences. “Everything we sing about now are the same things they were singing about then,” he told me. “La diferencia es la manera en que lo estamos cantando” / “the difference is the way in which we are singing about it”, he clarified. Favela is one of the few Corrido artists who has successfully been able to incorporate little bits and pieces of Hip Hop culture and slang into his music so I felt it necessary to ask who his favorite rapper was. “The OG Snoop,” he smirked. “We’re homies.”
photo credit: @deadgearproductions
Next up was an artist whose career I began writing about early of last year (you can read more here) and who I had yet to see live in concert. If you don’t know too much about Musica Regional Mexicana, that’s ok. All you need to know is that just 3 years ago, El Fantasma (The Ghost) was working as an arbolero (tree cutter) and quickly rose to stardom after his hit song Mi 45 became a fan favorite. He began booking 3-5 sold out shows on a weekly basis all across the U.S. and Mexico, and recently played to a crowd of 14,000 at San Jose’s convention center. It’s nearly impossible to turn on Spanish radio and not hear his voice blaring through the stereo speakers accompanied by his banda comprised of clarinets, drums, trombones, trumpets and a tuba… And just like I had been watching on social media for the past year, without fail, crowds came running to the stage to catch the closest possible glimpse of The Ghost himself.
I’m not gonna lie, after El Fantama’s set, I was beat. I found my way over to the nearest taco truck to refuel and convinced myself to stay for Logic’s set. Afterall, he was headlining the two-day pachanga. I never really found out whose idea it was to have Logic at the top of a Latin music festival line-up, but I’m glad I decided not to call it a night.
Immediately, I remembered that Logic is one of today’s very few artists in Hip-Hop who not just MC’s, but can also sing, song-write, and produce his own material. His performance was emotional for some, as I looked around and saw a teenage boy with tears in his eyes. He looked over to me and said “I’m his biggest fan. I drove 5 hours to see him.” Another crowd-member had brought along a copy of Logic’s debut novel SUPERMARKET and waved it around until the rapper noticed from the stage. He stopped the show, asked for the book to be brought up and signed it, thanking the fan for his support. It was then that I realized how special Logic’s connection to his fans really is, and how for one of the first times that I can remember, a non-Latino artist had the opportunity to headline a festival full of Latino’s from every country and turn many of them into brand-new fans whom he may not have been able to reach without the help of Los Dells.