Eso Es concert finds solidarity in music, benefits El Paso
A packed house at Red River Street club Mohawk made the case Saturday night that “Amor Prohibido” is Selena’s best song.
The cumbia-paced Tejano standby is built for listeners to clap along while chanting “hey,” like you’re two Coronas deep at a backyard birthday party. But as performed by Austin's Bidi Bidi Banda, a group that covers the late superstar's songs, "Amor Prohibido" felt in step with the current moment. The 1994 single is one of Selena's most streamed tunes on Spotify. It's a story about class and loving someone from a different side of town. Translated, the song’s refrain goes: “Forbidden love, they whisper in the streets, because we’re from different societies.”
The crowd belted out those lyrics at the Austin stop of Eso Es, a four-city Texas road show billed as a celebration of Latinx music. The tour also traveled through Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.
“We are from Austin. We came to slay,” Bidi Bidi Banda singer Stephanie Bergara told onlookers.
Banda was joined on the Eso Es bill by chillwave pioneer Neon Indian, bilingual rapper La Goony Chonga, indie-pop singer Empress Of, falsetto-crooning Dallas five-piece Luna Luna and Peligrosa DJs.
“Thank you for bringing all these different artists together,” Lorely Rodriguez, who performs under the Empress Of moniker, said from the stage. In the DIY community spirit of Eso Es, Rodriguez, who is first-generation Honduran American, also thanked her mother for making her stage outfits.
Following the Aug. 3 shooting in El Paso that left 22 dead, local concert promoter Margin Walker, which organized Eso Es, pledged to donate all proceeds from the four concerts to the El Paso Community Foundation to help victims’ families. As of Tuesday, organizers were still totaling the money raised.
The shooting suspect, Patrick Crusius, told police that he had been targeting Mexicans. Police said he expressed white supremacist beliefs and hate toward immigrants and people of Latin American descent in a manifesto. Many of the dead in El Paso had last names of Latin American origin, and eight were Mexican nationals, according to the Associated Press.
Democratic politicians like former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who are both running for president, have linked the shooting to President Donald Trump's rhetoric, including on immigration at the Mexican border. A day before the shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a fundraising mailer calling on voters to “defend Texas” from illegal immigration. Abbott later said that “mistakes were made” when asked about the email and called the shooting an attack motivated by racism during a town hall about the attack.
Austin’s leg of Eso Es, which translates from Spanish to English as “that’s it,” proved nostalgic, inclusive and rich with foil-wrapped tamales. From air-brushed T-shirts to a Glamour Shots-like pop-up photo stand, there was a throwback playfulness at the show, rooted in cheesy 1990s memories of spending time in cavernous Texas shopping malls. Yet hours after another Texas mass shooting over Labor Day weekend, this time in Odessa, left seven people with last names like Granados, Peregrino and Hernandez dead, a public gathering of the Latinx community touting its heritage in earnest felt like more than a party.
One silver-haired attendee of Eso Es summed up the spirit of the night in a T-shirt bearing the words "El Paso fuerte” — "El Paso strong."
The term Latinx has gained momentum in recent years, especially on social media, as a gender-neutral way to describe Latin American heritage, especially for nonbinary people. The term typically is used in place of Latino or Latina, words which follow the gender rules of the Spanish language. Eso Es, which organizers promoted under the Latinx label, embraced the term's inclusive spirit with a multifaceted lineup that tinkered with disparate genres like trap and yacht rock. Some dabbled in 1980s standards popularized by Mexican idols.
One of the artists on the lineup, La Goony Chonga, rapped over loud beats in English and Spanish. The Miami up-and-comer writes direct, hard-hitting rhymes about strip clubs and Krazy Glue (or, as her song of the same name stylizes it, "Gloo.")
Backstage at Eso Es, a beaded Texas flag shined on her ball cap, and she wore a denim top and matching shorts that showed off her neck-down tattoos. La Goony Chonga's manager said that she prefers not to share her real name.
The rapper's hip-hop set was built on anthemic one-liner hooks like “ponte a trabajar,” which translates to English as “go to work.” Her album, "Dimensión," is coming in October, she says, so named because of its experimentation with different genres. On Twitter, a fan called her this era’s Cypress Hill last week, and La Goony Chonga retweeted the compliment.
“When I found out that all the proceeds were going to the El Paso foundation, I got more excited,” she said. “Because (the El Paso shooting) was in the Latin community, it was really a shocker to me. … It was sickening that somebody would do that and people have that much hate. ... With this whole Trump thing, I’m also not really surprised.”
Neon Indian frontman Alan Palomo fully embraced the Latinx pride of Eso Es in his headlining set. He thanked patrons in Spanish. He led soccer-style chants of "Mé-xi-co." He covered Luis Miguel’s “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar,” a warped 1987 take on Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be With You" that’s as cheesy as it is beloved at Mexican weddings. Palomo’s set also was heavy on songs from 2009’s "Psychic Chasms" like slacker anthem “Deadbeat Summer,” but his closer was an Empress Of-assisted cover of Mexican band Caifanes’ goth hit “La Negra Tomasa."
At one point in the night, Palomo said that he didn’t become an American citizen until high school and then performed a lively new original song in Spanish. “We came to study, we want to work,” went the chorus.
“My family and I, we arrived in the states in 1994. Everyone but my dad was illegal,” Palomo, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and raised in Texas, said from the stage. “You never want to talk about it because you feel uncool, (but) you get older and you realize ... solidarity is important."