Pachanga Festival Puts Latin Music on Center Stage Tonight at Gas Monkey Live

Ceci Bastida, dubbed by some as the Latin Cat Power, plays Pachanga tonight at Gas Monkey
Ceci Bastida, dubbed by some as the Latin Cat Power, plays Pachanga tonight at Gas Monkey

There's a festival entering its eighth year down in Austin this weekend, but you've probably never heard of it. It doesn't get flocked to by hoards of people clogging up your social media feeds with endless posts, tweets and photos, but it's tapped in to a vibrant part of America's youth culture all the same. That festival is Pachanga Latino Music Festival, and starting this year it shouldn't continue to fly so far under the radar. That's because for the first time ever it's expanding from its traditional Austin location and doing two satellite shows in Houston and Dallas, with the latter happening tonight at Gas Monkey Live.

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It's an ambitious plan for the event, which has long since established itself as a top-notch showcase for Latin food, art and cuisine down in the capital city. The three events are being spread across consecutive nights: Last night was the Houston festival, Saturday night is the main event down in Austin, and tonight, right in the middle, is Dallas.

This is great news for fans of Latin music as Pachanga has long been the premier event in the state to catch some of the world's most groundbreaking Latin acts. This isn't what you would normally consider traditional Latin music, though. No, this is some of the most inventive music being made on the planet right now, it's just that it's not getting mainstream attention because most of it is being sung in Spanish. Not that it needs to break into the mainstream; demographics are shifting in America, and there's a booming Latino middle class who is there to eat this material up. That's why we're into an eighth edition of the festival, and that's why the Dallas addition is so exciting.

The lineup is stacked. First there's Kinky, who are one of the most imaginative and groundbreaking acts on the planet, Latin or otherwise. There's Compass, who's one of the founders of The Mexican Institute of Sound who have killed it when they've played fests like Fun Fun Fun. He'll be teaming up with fellow artist Toy Selectah to blow minds tonight. There's also Ceci Bastida, who people keep calling the Latin Cat Power.

Each of these artists already played last night down in Houston, but there's an additional special act hitting the stage tonight in Dallas: Mayta, one-time winners of the Dallas Observer Music Awards, will be opening the night up. Only a couple months back, Mayta were also a part of the Indie Rock Latin America Festival that took place at Club Dada, but this event will put them on an even bigger stage -- both literally and figuratively.

The members of Mayta know what this means for Dallas, and for Latin music in Texas as a whole, so they've been tirelessly promoting the event in every way they can. They taped a segment for Telemundo 39's De todo un Poco program where they expounded on the opportunity they've been given by being the opener for the event. They've been pushing it with wild abandon on all forms of social media. Not surprisingly, guitarist Renato Rimach says the band if very pumped about the opportunity.

"Personally, I'm excited about sharing the stage with Kinky and Compass," Rimach says. "Big fan here. I wish they would take us to Austin and let us melt some faces there. I'm glad they brought the party here because it helps promote Latin rock and its talent -- something we don't have much of in Dallas sadly."

Ultimately, having an event like Pachanga come to Dallas is a huge opportunity for the city. Latin American music is all too often overlooked by mainstream culture, and Dallas is no exception. But an event like Pachanga is the perfect platform to experience it, and having a local artist like Mayta on the bill is a further boon to the profile of local Latin American artists; not only can an event like Pachanga find a home in Dallas, but the city's own musicians are good enough to be a part of it.

So this is why events like Panchaga matter. It serves a showcase outside the accepted norm, a world where people aren't easily pushed by what the "tastemakers" decide we should listen to. Hopefully having a show like this is a first step towards Dallas embracing the culture that's bubbling below the surfaces it normally fixates on.

PACHANGA LATINO MUSIC FESTIVAL with Kinky, Compass, Ceci Bastida and Mayta takes place at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday, May 15, at Gas Monkey Live, 10110 Technology Blvd., $25

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