Feature Stories

Kirtland Records Expands Its Growing Festival Business with Taco Libre

Imagine the battle between good and evil, played out right in the heart of Dallas. Masked men flying back and forth inside a ring, diving off the ropes and crashing into one another — each battling to find out who's the strongest, bravest and most honorable warrior. All the while, the smell of spices, meat and masa de harina fill the air thanks to adjoining taco trucks.

Now imagine that Deep Blue Something is playing, and you're listening to your all-time favorite song, "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Seem a little jarring? Well, maybe. But that's exactly what will be happening this weekend as Main Street Garden Park hosts the Taco Libre Festival, thanks to the folks at Kirtland Records — owned, coincidentally, by Deep Blue Something drummer John Kirtland.

At first, it's a little hard to suss out where the inspiration came for all of this: Lucha Libre wrestling accompanied by tacos and a mix of Hispanic and local bands? Huh. But it's actually the latest move in a growing series of festivals from the folks at Kirtland, who first dipped their toes into hosting shows with Dia de los Toadies back in 2008.

“I’d love to lie and say it’s a grand design," says Kirtland's Tami Thomsen. "We started as a label and band promotion, so in relation to that we’re doing shows all the time. The Toadies thing happened because we were putting out their record, and we were looking for a way to promote it.” From there, they were invited to run Booker T. Washington's Flying Horse event and later did production for the opening of Klyde Warren Park. "So, we kept getting asked to do things and we decided, 'Why not to do it for us?'”

That line of thinking led them to expand beyond music and into the food festival arena: They hosted the Smoked Dallas festival that took place in Main Street Garden Park last fall. Smoked, like Taco Libre, features a blend of music and food, and was successful enough that a second edition of the fest will take place in October. “We really wanted to put on events we all wanted to go to. We all love music and we all love food," Thomsen says. 

For Taco Libre, there will be 15 taquerias slinging tacos, all carefully chosen by The Taco Trail’s Jose R. Ralat who’s serving as the event’s food coordinator. Anyone who has dropped by Ralat’s site knows the man is maybe the most knowledgeable person in the region when it comes to tasty meat being laid on flour or corn tortillas. Dallas, our taste buds are in for a treat. A very fairly priced, $2-per-taco treat.

“I've never been one for live music," Ralat admits about being asked to be food coordinator. "But when I saw that Ozomatli would playing, I freaked out. Ozomatli is legendary, and to have them play in Dallas and eat in Dallas."

Ozomatli are from Los Angeles and they're headlining the music portion of the festival, with an eclectic blend of traditional Mexican sounds and hip-hop. There will also be a mix of local and regional acts like Party Static, Dustin Cavazos and San Antonio’s Piñata Protest who slayed it so hard on their last trip through town at Three Links that I died and had to walk out of a cave three days later.

Oh, and of course Deep Blue Something are playing — who are not only still a band but also apparently planning to release some new music soon. "They just started recording a six-song EP that should be out in the next month," Thomsen explains. "They were rehearsing so when we were booking the fest, we asked the guys if they wanted to play, and they said sure, sounds fun.”

As for the wrestling, that will be happening between the band performances and was set up with the help of Aski the Mayan Warrior. In Mexico, Lucha Libre is considered not just a sport, but an art form, with many neighborhoods in the larger cities housing their own rings where the community gathers to celebrate and take in the theatre of masked men battling each other. These battles are reduced to their most simplistic form, the good vs. the bad. guys, and furious dancing.

It promises to be a strange mix, but that's partially by design. “Our whole idea and hope is that it’s culturally diverse and that it celebrates the Latin culture, but isn’t exclusionary," Thomsen says.

TACO LIBRE takes place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 27, at Main Street Garden Park, 1920 Main St., $22/$12 before 5 p.m.

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Jaime-Paul Falcon