La Tocada Festival Was a Win for Fans of Latin Alternative (and Pupusas)


Panteon Roccoco (Credit: Ed Carrasco)

After getting swung at by a crackhead at the Expo line (such is life), I manage to safely trek through the downtown 7th station and the Union Station with no further incidents. At the Chinatown stop, there is a mixture of Dodger fans and music aficionados on the train stop. For those heading to the Tocada Festival at the L.A Historic Park, it’s an eclectic bunch; hipsters, punks complete with all the gear — boots and jean jackets in the hot weather is insane but they are committed — and older normie Mexicans in typical normie clothing. A few rocked the Mexican national soccer team jersey.  

Walking in, the festival layout looks simple: Two beer gardens, one VIP area, and four stages. There was no crossover noise pollution because of the perfectly orchestrated set times. The Echo Park stage had the luchador fights going while the bands performed. The main stage — The Los Angeles stage — was just to the front of it. To the left of the main stage was the Hollywood tent stage — most people use it to hide from the beating sun during the daytime. Everything was pretty well organized. The beer garden for the Hollywood stage was the only bummer. It was a little too far from the tent to actually enjoy the music.

Towards the far right, there is an assortment of food trucks directed to the Hispanic demographic. The bars are stocked with ponche Buchanan’s which is based on the traditional ponche drink but instead of hot, it is served cold with don julio and fresh lime. You could also get chelada’s for four dollars extra (michelada — a better version of the bloody mary) and add it to your 12 dollar Modelo.  There is are traditional American food you find at concerts: chicken strips, pizza, and grilled cheese. But for more people looking for international grub, they served tortas ahogadas, banh mi’s (Vietnamese but Mexican at heart) and pupusas.

Credit: Ed Carrasco

Vchos Pupuseria Moderna I’m proud to say — but biased because of half-Salvadorian — has the biggest line. This is also sad because I have to wait — I want it now dammit. So I’m proud-sad. Or maybe just happy-disappointed? They have the typical Central American spread: fried platanos, pupusas, and some fusion, too. They serve an interesting curtido burger plate (curtido is a pickled Salvadorian cabbage). I was curious. I wanted to try it — but for budget (poor) reasons — las pupusas revueltas (pork, beans, and cheese) sufficed.

At 2 for $11, the pupusas are not cheap. This is a festival after all so you pay festival prices. But a two pupusa deal is definitely worth it when you compare it to something like one measly slice of pizza. That might be the Salvi in me talking, though. I wait for my food and overhear people actually ask for salsa picante, which reminds me this ain’t Coachella. Thankfully, the pupusas are well worth the wait — soft with good portions of meat, beans, and cheese.

Mon Laferte (Credit: Ed Carrasco)

“Mas marijuana para mi?” asks Mon Laferte to hype up the crowd. Still early in the day, there are many still trickling into the festival grounds. She breaks into a ska’d out frenzy of “No Te Fumes Mi Marihuana.” After playing a song about weed in front of everyone’s mom, she then goes into a ska’d up Selena cover, “Si Una Vez.” The crowd is mellow which misdirects me not expect what comes next.

As dusk takes over, Panteon Rococo come up. They go up and explode into a ska beat. The crowd reciprocates and explodes into a frenzy that whips up dust clouds. Mosh spits ensue into full-blown ska orgies. It’s dust and the holy skankin’ spirit time. “Pues que comenza la hostilidad,” shouts the singer Dr. Shenka to the crowd, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. He shouts words of encouragement to the ska pits. “Si te pegan, si te dan un codazo, no ay bronca porque los compañeros están allí para recogerlos.” This translates to if someone elbows you or hits you, your homies are there to pick you up. After a short eye of the tiger medley, they kick it up a notch with “Que Borracho Estoy” During this frenzy, an older gent asks me for a blunt which I, unfortunately, do not have. Such is life.

After all the skanking, the pushing, and beer throwing, I find myself at the smaller Hollywood stage. Caloncho is playing mellow songs, a relief after Panteon Rococo’s intense Aztec warrior performance. Caloncho and his band rock what looks like yellow baseball uniforms while they hit them mellow tunes. All the while, a condom-balloon is being hit into the air by the crowd. Caloncho — aka Óscar Alfonso Castro is a fuzzy indie project a la Mac DeMarco meets Los Bukis. This is music the Hispanic hipsters like me gravitate to. They play “Besame Morenita” which has a lyrical shout out to “Don’t Push” by Sublime. And after, they cover the meme-alicious “La Chona” by Los Tucanes De Tijuana. 

Cafe Tacvba (Credit: Ed Carrasco)

Finally, Cafe Tacvba goes up on the main stage. They start with the song “Futuro”. Everyone begins to migrate towards the main stage. The Mexico shirt normies, the punk rockers, the hipsters, and the moms, all come together into an eclectic melting pot for these alternative high priests of last 20 years. “Pura vida muchachos,” says the singer. He then goes on a rant that water is precious and should not be fracked. They play the hits which are, thankfully, every song. Second up is their mega-hit cover song “Como Te Extrano” originally written by Argentinian legend Leo Dan. Everyone and their Grandma sing along. 

As I leave, I can hear Cafe Tacvba. I leave a little early (I know) because my knees can’t take it. In front of me are the cops dispersing the street cart vendors with the Downtown buildings brightly lit in the backdrop. L.A man.

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