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Ruido Fest Brought The Noise To Pilsen

By Justin Freeman in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 17, 2015 8:15PM

Photograph via Ruido Fest's Facebook page

A few months ago Afropunk was in town and we said that "it found favor amongst alienated black youth who didn’t quite fit into archetypical standards of black masculinity and/or femininity.” This past weekend the very first Ruido Fest happened at Adams Park in Pilsen and if you swapped out “black” for “latin,” you could make essentially the very same point.

Afropunk was designed to showcase black bands and celebrate the influence that people of color have on rock and other variants of modern music that tend to be stereotypically overlooked. Ruido Fest has taken a similar approach and focused on creating a celebration of the influence that Latin people have on rock and other variants of modern music which also tend to be stereotypically overlooked.

Ruido, which means noise in Spanish, is what greeted us when we arrived at Adams Park as the thundering drums and clamours guitars of Triángulo de Amor Bizarro melded into an ominous, anxiety-building sound. Triángulo de Amor Bizarro, who are from the northwest region of Spain, seem like they probably would’ve been signed to Creation Records if it still existed as they take clear inspiration from bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. As they ended their blitzkrieg of a set, one of the band members set their guitar on a massive amplifier simultaneously flooding the park with glorious feedback and fulfilling the prophecy of the festival’s name.

After Triángulo de Amor Bizarro wrapped up, we decided to explore for a little while. It’s a smaller festival, comparable to maybe the size of Pitchfork, but it feels much larger because it wasn’t insanely crowded. Ruido Fest says that about 25,000 people came through over the weekend. It had plenty of food options such as empanadas and other variants of street food from places like Estrella Negra.

Stylistically, Ruido Fest is a lot like Riot Fest, but with subtle changes. For example, instead of the Riot stage, it's the Demon stage with a large graphic of a luchador wearing a blue mask, in a shoutout to luchador legend Blue Demon. Instead of the Rock stage, there is the Santo stage with a large graphic of a luchador wearing a silver mask, in a shoutout to luchador legend El Santo. And on it goes.

In addition to the stage names, luchador culture had a sizable presence throughout the festival. it was common to see people in mosh pits wearing Rey Mysterio masks. A wrestling ring was placed near the small stage and a match began shortly after Los Rakas went on. Currently based in Oakland, Los Rakas are a crew of Panamanian rappers who mainly rap over Caribbean sound system dancehall beats. They sound like they would open for Major Lazer. As the crowd danced with reckless abandon, a few people started to flick their lighters and oversized flames waved in the air as one of the luchadors whipped the other into the corner of the ring, ran into him at full speed and clotheslined him with his massive forearm. At some point near the end of their set, Los Rakas starting rapping in Spanish over the beat of Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz” as a luchador dropkicked the other in the chest and won the match via pinfall.

Later on that day, one of the luchadors we saw perform earlier was slow dancing, still masked, with his assumed romantic partner, simply enjoying the evening as Sonido Gallo Negro played their weirdo tropicália Os Mutates style of music and the sun slowly disappeared from the sky around them. It was a touching moment.

We enjoyed most of the bands we saw throughout the day. Porter, a band from the city of Guadalajara in midwest Mexico, reminded us of bands like Chikita Violenta or Air, maybe even Toro y Moi’s more instrumental sounds. Astro, a Chilean dream pop band from Santiago, reminded us of the band Delorean and had people dancing in a frenzy throughout their set.

Kinky, who over the course of a decade have established themselves as potential heirs to the Latin alternative crown, were quite impressive switching from well crafted new wave and post-punk to an impressive cover of The Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” and back again with skill and ease. Latin alternative stalwarts Cafe Tacuba headlined the night and have maybe some the most enthusiastic fans we’ve ever encountered. From the moment they appeared on stage, the crowd joyfully and almost riotously erupted and stayed that way for the the majority of their performance. As Tacuba played decades worth of hits, the crowd became so happy and started jumping around and dancing so intensely that the staging we were on in the press area started to buckle at it’s knees and security promptly kicked all of us off for safety purposes. It was a wild sight.

One thing we’re glad was absent was protesting. At least we didn't see any signs of a protest while we were there. Ruido Fest is a partner of Riot Fest, with Riot Fest seemingly providing logistical experience and support but taking a back seat to the latino community who handle the booking. Riot Fest has had recent problems with people claiming the organizers are capitalistic carpetbaggers fueling gentrification. Gentrification is complicated and there is some legitimacy to both sides of the argument, but we do find it noteworthy that factions who are actively protesting Riot Fest due to its use of a public park in a neighborhood of color apparently didn’t protest a festival so heavily related to Riot Fest that also took place in a public park in a neighborhood of color. This prompts a return of the question that we asked a few months ago: “What makes Riot Fest so special?

Ultimately, Ruido Fest was super chill and a pleasure to be at. Ruido Fest is a relaxed and welcoming party in the park that’s a celebration of the genre as well as people of color’s contribution to rock. We’re happy it exists and we sincerely hope it comes back.