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Radio-station concerts always reflect their listening audience. KIIS-FM's Wango Tango features young, beautiful people whose idea of political activism is sharing a salsa session with our appointed president. KRTH-101's Legends of Rock & Roll is a haven for has-beens who never really were. And KROQ's Weenie Roast is composed of heavily tattooed and pierced poseurs whose existential angst consists of not being able to get good cell-phone reception.
Spanish station 97.5 Super Estrella (KSSE) continues this trend with Reventón Super Estrella, the station's annual songfest at the Arrowhead Pond. The acts on this year's bill represent the wide diversity of Super Estrella's listeners and, by proxy, Southern California's growing Latino middle class. There are rockeros keeping true to the rock en español spirit by being politically and musically conscious. Some come only to dance. Many even wish they were white. But all share one thing in common: they'll insist they're not that type of Latino—they have money!
The co-headliners for the Reventón are Mexican rockera pioneer Alejandra Guzmán and Puerto Rican eye candy Chayanne. Born to the Sonny & Cher of Mexico—actress Silvia Pinál and Enrique Guzmán (whose Elvis covers created a huge scandal in '60s Mexico and made him one of that country's first rock stars)—Alejandra is known as La Reina de Rock (The Queen of Rock) in her native country. She's ruled the rock en español scene for more than a decade with covers of such rock standards as "La Playa" ("The Beach," the Spanish version of "Hound Dog") and her own rock ballads. She's also lived the requisite American rock-star life—a fanatical following, a darling of the critics and the yellow press, even a stint in rehab.
Although Guzmán's music seems as innocuous as Pat Boone's compared with Mexican rockeros like Molotov and Maldita Vencidad, she remains popular due to her husky voice, which is filled with the same beauty as Cassandra Wilson's. It's a tool that's enabled Guzmán to incorporate various musical styles while keeping a roc foundation, in a way serving as a blueprint for the rock en español of today.
Chayanne is best-known to American audiences for co-starring with Vanessa Williams in 1998's reprehensible flick Dance With Me, which proved Madonna's Rule: pop singers make catchy music and horrible movies. Don't let that filmic folly detract from his music, though, which has been turning on Latin audiences for more than a decade. A 1989 TV commercial for Pepsi made him a pioneer among Latinos who've successfully crossed over to the mainstream American market. Besides his music—a mix of salsa, dance music and R&B—his looks have played a large part in his immense popularity. He's posed in Playgirl (although not naked) and is famous for shows where he wears see-through shirts while dancing with beautiful women at his side. He's also politically active, devoting time to helping the United Nations' Immigrant Foundation and World Refugee Organization and speaking openly on his opposition to the U.S. military presence in Vieques. But dance music is a vehicle for grooving, so Chayanne doesn't bother incorporating politics into his songs.
Other acts on the Reventón bill range from one-hit wonders to established pop groups and undiscovered gems. The requisite Band That'll Never Have Another Hit slot is filled by El Chombo, a Panamanian DJ whose song "El Gato Volador" ("The Flying Cat") is destined to join the pantheon of forgettable animal tunes like "Disco Duck" and "Who Let the Dogs Out?" There's also Mexican septet OV7, pop pochos who are a marketer's dream, with their Real World/Survivor mix of races and personalities. They also remind you of Sugar Ray—the only substance to their rap and pop tunes is that they're insanely catchy, especially "Enloquéceme" ("Get Crazy for Me") and "Shabadabada" ("Nonsense Music to Bilk Listeners To"). And then there's the granddaddy of all boy bands, Menudo, who'll also be at the Reventón, albeit under the guise of MDO, the latest incarnation of Latin America's greatest plague.
The best of the lesser acts is Mexican trio Moenia. Electronic and techno styles are mostly ignored when Latin American music is discussed, but in the major cities (such as Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Los Angeles), Spanish electronica is huge. Moenia is a leader in the genre, gravitating toward new wave beats and lyrics that actually have meaning in the notoriously vacuous world of techno verses. The haunting voice of Juan Carlos Lozano, backed by thumping beats, is not to be missed.
Tickets for the Reventón sold out in something like two seconds, so it's guaranteed that most of Latino OC will be there. That hot Mexican with the obviously dyed blond hair? She'll show. The Nicaraguan who insists on calling himself "Henry" even though his name is "Enrique"? Private box. Your gardener or car washer? Sorry—they'll be working. Besides, Super Estrella's listeners don't want those Latinos partying with them.
REVENTÓN SUPER ESTRELLA WITH ALEJANDRA GUZMÁN, CHAYANNE, EL CHOMBO, OV7, MDO, MOENIA, AND SPECIAL GUESTS AT THE ARROWHEAD POND, 2695 E. KATELLA, ANAHEIM, (714) 740-2500. SAT., 4 P.M. $35-$85. ALL AGES.