July 6, 2016
By Laura Emerick
With 50 acts on three stages over three days, Ruido Fest returns for its second season, bringing the noise, alt-Latin style, to Pilsen.
"Ruido" means "noise" in English, and there will be plenty of musical energy Friday through Sunday at Addams/Medill Park once again the site for the outdoor event. Billed as the first U.S. destination festival for Latin rock, Ruido will present headliners such as Los Fabulosos Cadillacs (rock-ska) from Argentina, Gondwana (Latin reggae) from Chile, Aterciopelados (roots rock) from Colombia, and from Mexico, ska-fusionists Maldita Vecindad and Panteon Rococo. Aside from the headliners, many bands on the Ruido lineup will be making their Chicago debuts.
Ruido's locally based promoters hope to build on the event's inaugural success. "Everything went very smoothly last year," said Eduardo Calvillo, a longtime Latin rock promoter and founder of "Rock Sin Anestesia" (broadcast weekly on WLUW-FM, 88.7). "This year we know how to make it even better. We're improving amenities and logistics so that fans can focus their attention on the artists and not have to think about where the gates, facilities and vendors are."
Formed in 1985 at the start of the Latin rock movement, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs became one of the biggest acts on the scene. It disbanded in 2002, reunited in 2008, but since 2009, has done few concerts. When the band was finishing "La Salvacion de Solo y Juan," its first disc in seven years, it decided to go on the road in 2016. Its plans conveniently meshed with Ruido promoters' strategy. "The Cadillacs heard about the fest, then decided to tour and do Ruido," Calvillo said. "So with the Cadillacs on board, we decided to go heavier on classic bands this year."
Calvillo is one of four locally based promoters behind Ruido Fest, along with Metronome Chicago (North Coast Music Festival), Riot Fest Presents (organizers of the annual rock event, with editions in Chicago, Denver and Toronto) and Star Events (Taste of Randolph Street and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival).
Last year, Ruido drew more than 25,000 fans from across the United States and around the world. So far, more than 38 U.S. states and eight countries are represented in this year's ticket count.
For Ruido's promoters and many of the bands, the festival is more about building community. Anglo rock groups have long had festival showcases such as Lollapalooza, Coachella and Bonnaroo. Though Vive Latino in Mexico City and Rock al Parque in Bogota, Colombia, have served as Latin equivalents, there was no U.S. counterpart until Ruido Fest came along. "It's great exposure for alternative Latin music and great to have events like this in the States," said Alex Bendana, bassist of La Santa Cecilia, the Los Angeles-based, Grammy-winning Latin fusion band (performing Sunday at Ruido). "We need more of them so the Latino community can be exposed to all sorts of acts. Bringing these bands together unites the community we live in together today."
Missael Oseguera, saxophonist of Panteon Rococo (performing Friday), also endorses the Ruido concept. "It's what people want to watch in a festival," he said. "We have a lot of festivals in Mexico, they are very commercial. But Ruido is like real bands, the bands the fans really want to watch. It's very important that the Latino community is getting the real thing, not just commercial stuff."
Ruido has had an impact on the national Latin music scene, helping to spawn similar events, such as Rock Fiesta, a two-day festival held in Arizona this March. "It's good to see others realize, 'hey, I knew that could work, and we should do that, too.' Most Latin artists would like to have more concert opportunities in the States, just like other U.S. bands," Wagner said. "Fests like Ruido will lead to more crossover. Maybe it will open up eyes, and then you'll see acts like Maldita (Vecindad) at Lolla."
Although this year's lineup looks more diverse, with an increase in female-fronted acts and a wider range of countries represented, some Latin music observers have grumbled that too many classic bands dominate the schedule. "That's like saying The Cure isn't popular this year, so we're going to ignore them," said Calvillo, referring to the influential British band that peaked in the late '80s. "Los Cadillacs, Maldita, La Ley — these are legacy bands that the current bands learn from."
"Yeah, we've heard the complaint that we're not as cool as last year," Wagner said, laughing. "But we're looking for diversity and to expand our appeal. There are plenty of acts that are relevant and current," he added, citing singer-songwriters Natalia Lafourcade and Carla Morrison. "What we want to provide is a mix. The biggest challenge is to keep it fresh."
La Santa Cecilia, one of the hottest young bands on the alt-Latin scene, likes this year's emphasis on the classics. "Me and Marisol (Hernandez, the group's vocalist) really want to see Los Fabulosos Cadillacs," Bendana said. "They were important to us as teens. They mixed ska, reggae and horns in a time when that was unusual. It's good to be bringing these bands back, and mixing older bands with newer ones like us."
Though veteran acts like Los Fabulosos Cadillacs have performed in Chicago over the years, many groups on the Ruido lineup have not, including Latin reggae pioneers Los Cafres from Argentina and singer-songwriter Mon Laferte from Chile. "A good portion of the Ruido lineup will be making their Chicago debuts," Calvillo said. "If not for Ruido, they probably wouldn't be touring the U.S. this year at all." Except for longtime concert favorites such as Mana or El Tri, for instance, many Latin rock bands remain unknown quantities to U.S. promoters. "It's a more of a risk to bring in unproven bands," Wagner said. "But these bands are great for festivals, and (Ruido) gives them the chance to get in front of a lot of people. That helps to create more opportunities for them down the road."
Along with new bands, Ruido attendees can expect more food choices and activities. "The stuff that people liked, there's more of it this year," said Wagner, noting that the festival will feature 13 food vendors, all from Pilsen, up from seven last year. New sponsors, such as Toyota and AT&T, have signed on. "They're all providing activities to enhance the attendee experience and to make sure there's more cool stuff to enjoy on site or take home." More than 15 nonprofit groups such as Yollocalli Arts Reach of the National Museum of Mexican Art and Voto Latino, will have booths on site.
Along with the music, Ruido Fest hopes to help address the greater challenges facing the Latino community. "It's a very difficult time in America, with lots of racist talk going on," said Oseguera of Panteon Rococo. "Festivals like Ruido can be an example of how a community can come together and have that chance just to enjoy being Americans. Music is universal. So let's make music and unite."
Source: Chicago Tribune