In its eighth year Pachanga Latino Music Festival has not exploded into a massive happening, but for fans of the event, that drew a couple thousand or so to the idyllic riverside park in East Austin Saturday, that might be for the best. Skirting dire early week forecasts predicting certain thunderstorms, the event took place under clear skies on a muggy, but not unbearably hot, day. Recent rains didn’t leave the grounds muddy but the park’s greenery was exceptionally lush and spectacular. The stage was set for magical moments and the fest delivered.
Early in the day a diverse collection of families took in the kids activities by the main stage under the Pavilion. Around 3:30 p.m., Selena cover act Bidi Bidi Banda took the stage. The band has been busy lately, with a full slate of events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Tejano pop queen’s death, but it’s likely Saturday’s Pachanga gig was the most meaningful. Lead singer Stephanie Bergara enchanted the crowd with passionate covers of Selena’s hits. Then she emotionally thanked festival organizer Rich Garza for programming the festival and allowing her to play a festival she’s worked on "every year of my adult life," before pouring her heart into a few more choice selections from the Texas icon’s catalog.
Later in the afternoon Compass, a collaboration between cutting edge electronic artists Mexican institute of Sound and Toy Selectah got the crowd in the back of the park hype with a mix of electro cumbia, hip-hop and dance cuts. MIS’ Camilo Lara affectionately referred to the audience as "Pachangeros." He explained that the group had been on a marathon tour of over 90 cities, but Austin "always feels like home." Then the group ripped into a masterful mashup of seminal hip-hop song "Rapper’s Delight" fused with below the border beats and sounds.
Alex Chavez, who used to play around town in the group Maneja Beto, heated the scene on the patio stage, with his new Chicago-based band Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquestra. The group dropped a hip-switching mix of funkified cumbias. Then as the sun was going down, Spanish rapper Mala Rodriguez, a.k.a. La Mala, making a rare North American appearance brought screaming fans to their feet with her powerful melodic rap flow.
The crowd was a refreshingly diverse group of Austinites, spirits were high and vibes were great. Once again, the festival represented as one of Austin’s great cultural treasures.