Mon Laferte danced so hard that the setlist stuck to her heel. Saturday at ACL Fest, the artist big enough to fill up Mexico City’s town square performed early on a big stage.
Wearing a bright pink dress, and backed by an eight-piece Mexican band of matching gents in slacks and pastel-pink buttoned-downs, Mon Laferte celebrated Pan-American sonic traditions with a dialed-in, hip and youthful focus.
With the remixed vision of a kid who grew up around a sprawl of vinyl and tapes, the set ran on bright trumpets, and elements of cumbia, salsa, doo-wop, ska, and even a brief fit of hard-rolling trap snares.
“Muchas gracias por venir y estar bajo el sol,” she told the crowd. It translates to “thanks for being here in the hot sun,” but she also added a sex-positive one-liner about not caring that her onstage attire wasn’t modest: “Enjoy it.”
The Chilean actor and singer born Norma Monserrat is plenty fine with the undercard Stateside billing, though Latinx folks were heard when trusted with the chorus to “Amárrame” — she’s among the few 2:30 p.m. performers at ACL to win an MTV VMA and a Latin Grammy, after all.
She said that it’s a different challenge up here.
“It’s more difficult because it’s a festival,” she said in an interview translated from Spanish backstage after her set. “And without too much of a Latino presence, sure, you have to defend your sound.”
It wasn’t a tough sell, though, she added.
Between ACL weekends, she hopped between New York and Los Angeles. She’s gearing up to release an as-yet-untitled album with At the Drive-In’s Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, who produced an album bright with live takes and Caribbean-tinged genre blending.
(Their project began with some emails.) But she’s no stranger to Austin, a place she says she’d like to vacation in, having performed handfuls of South by Southwest sets.
The horn-trio led, skank-mosh-ready “No te fumes mi mariguana” (translation: “Don’t smoke my marijuana”) got the kids dancing just as much as the traditional stuff. The pogo-punk remix of Selena’s “Si Una Vez” got the most hand claps. A young man nearby sang it into his phone.
“I love Selena and being in Texas seemed like an excellent opportunity to play it,” she said. “But I had the idea to do a ska version. I didn’t want to just recreate it. It wouldn’t be the same.”
The music may come with cool tattoos and a learned aesthetic fit for rooftop mezcals at D.F.’s Hotel Condesa, but whereas Twitter weirdo Cuco fused the elements to make ironic rap anthems and mariachi-tinged border ballads last week at the HomeAway stage, Mon Laferte played punchy but familiar homages — the thrills came from the audience’s shared experience. Especially north of the Rio Grande where it can feel like only your parents own Juan Luis Guerra CDs.
The international left turn in programming was a signal-marker for Saturday: After a quiet morning the big dogs are eating and Zilker’s getting crowded.