A Wealth of Rock Talent in LA

But lack of headliner & support disappoint fans at Aztlan Fest

By Rick Fazekas
Published on LatinoLA: June 27, 2002

A Wealth of Rock Talent in LA

I attended Aztlan Fest 2002 just one month after my return to my hometown of Los Angeles after periods of time in San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York.

Immediately upon entering the gate, I felt a surge of excitement from the music pouring out from three different stages and the vast throng of appreciative music lovers that had gathered for a bounty of diversified music.

Having been away from LA for 15 years, periodic visits back to my Los Angeles and enthusiastic write-ups in Al Borde, No Cover and Retila had whet my appetite for a rockero scene that was starting to rival Buenos Aires, DF and Monterrey for both quantity and quality of bands. And that is what I found.

While I had previously seen a few of the bands performing at Aztlan Fest 2001, hearing others for the first time further confirmed my belief that a wealth of talent exists in the musical umbrella of rock en espa?ol en Los Angeles, whether it be rock, punk, ska, traditional-fusion. I also met members of many bands that were not scheduled to play, but were there to support the scene, and countless boosters from the press and live show promotion.

It was a magical day.

With no Watcha Tour this year, Aztlan Fest planned an ambitious schedule of expanding to Northern California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas. But there were already storm clouds on the horizon. Many bands with historical significance were
simply not invited. Others that were asked felt the contract requirements too restrictive, and declined. Still others that had accepted withdrew because they started to feel a "bad vibe" about the LA event.

The final outcome in Los Angeles?

* A band lineup that featured good and so-so bands, but lacking the diversity in musical scope that an event of this nature requires.

* Lack of an obvious headliner

* Minimal support from vendors and community groups

* Attendance that was about 10% of the previous year

* One stage where the sound system was so abysmal that it was difficult to listen to an entire set

* A lot of disappointed fans and musicians who did attend and who did not attend

While I was fortunate to attend a smaller-scope Aztlan show in Phoenix that was enthusiastically received, people in Los Angeles expect more because the scene is more highly developed, and they spoke their opinion by staying away in droves [an anti-Aztlan Fest show in Huntington Park the same night drew as many as the actual Aztlan Fest]. Music fans sent a message that this particular show was one they did not wish to attend.

What are the repercussions? Obviously the promoters lost a lot of money. {And I should add that anyone who believes promoters of shows like this or even at clubs are in it to make huge profits is sadly misinformes -- the risks are huge, and the profits if any are minimal. Those that do promote do it because they love music and have a commitment to the movement, and/or have sizable egos in a few cases.

It is time for a healing process by supporting live music in clubs and in concert, and buying cds by your favorite bands. The "suits" that control much of the music and radio business in this country are already skeptical about the financial viability of rock en espa?ol, regardless of the sub-genre. We have to prove their skepticism is
without merit. Cooperation between promoters and bands -- with each giving a little -- is crucial to getting our music to a wider audience. And fan support is essential.

From my perspective, the bands singing and writing in Spanish are producing much more creative music than the vast majority of bands singing in English. A good show by a local band or a major label band visiting from Mexico or Argentina
(or the many other pockets of rock en espa?ol creativity) just reaches inside your body and grabs you.

But this is about the music, not petty jealousies or factions. Let's unite to send our musical message to the world and show them that many people not only want to hear it, BUT DEMAND TO HEAR IT.

About Rick Fazekas:
Rick Fazekas is producer and program director of El Cohete Radio and publisher of El Cohete Bajo21 Bolet?n. Bajo21Boletin@aol.com

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