The Latin Alternative Music Conference is without a doubt my favorite week of the year. Forget a week at the beach when you could spend the time in NYC going to shows of bands you love, discovering new music, and meeting artists from all around the world. LAMC is celebrating its Quinceañera this week (15th year) and it’s going to be better than ever. Here’s why:
1.) Babasónicos. You may remember my posts a few months back about how I got into Latin music. Well, Babasónicos is one of those groups. These legends of Argentine rock are closing out the conference with a free show in Central Park next Saturday, along with Juana Molina and La Santa Cecilia (see #7).
2.) Unofficial Sets.While LAMC has a lineup of shows affiliated with the conference, most artists schedule a few unofficial shows elsewhere in the city. These are the ones you want to look out for! My first year, I saw Husky in two random bars across the city, and they were both my favorite performances of the entire conference experience. And since many of the LAMC shows take place at the same time, if you miss one artist’s official set, chances are you can see them performing elsewhere later.
3.) SOB’s. It doesn’t stand for what you think it does. The annual LAMC show at Sounds of Brazil is my favorite conference-related show each year. Selected artists get to strip down their music and play an acoustic set for a smaller audience.
4.) AJ Dávila. Oh wait, yet another artist I’ve written about on this site. AJ is performing two shows with LAMC — one at SOB’s (see #3) and one at the Gramercy Theatre. I love his garage rock, 60’s-influenced music, and can’t wait to see what he does with it for the acoustic set.
5.) Music Festival Organizers. Let’s not forget to talk about the panels. LAMC always features great panels for artists and managers about how to network and promote their music. The founders of both Vive Latino (Jordi Puig) and Estereo Picnic (Sergio Pabon), two of the biggest music festivals in Latin America, are going to be there. How cool is that! To top it off, Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras of my favorite show, NPR’s Alt.Latino, will be moderating one of the panels.
6.) Cuba. Maybe it’s a sign of loosening immigration restrictions between the US and Cuba, but there are more artists from Cuba this year than I remember in the past. Cucu Diamantes, solo artist and also co-founder of Yerba Buena (whose song “Guajira” is featured on the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights!) is screening her documentary/comedy about her tour across Cuba. Diana Fuentes of Cuba is performing at SOB’s and the Gramercy Theater (another fun fact: she’s the wife of El visitante of Calle 13). And Danay Suarez is another solo artist from Cuba who has some gorgeous jazz/hip hop piano pieces.
7.) Socially Conscious Performers. Two years ago, Calle 13, probably the most well-known socially conscious Latin artists, packed Prospect Park for their free LAMC performance. Unfortunately, they’re not coming this year, but guess who is. Ana Tijoux, who I admire for not only being a fantastic woman rapper, but also for her social-justice oriented themes, is a part of Wednesday’s hip hop/rap show in Central Park. Let’s hope she performs her new songs “Somos Sur,” a call for unity and action throughout the Southern Hemisphere, and also “Antipatriarca” an anthem for women to stand up to patriarchy. ChocQuibTown from the Pacific coast of Colombia also sings about the importance of place and race in their fusion music of hip hop and traditional Colombian music. They had a very honest discussion about race with Univision here, and fun fact: were featured in Carlos Santana’s latest album! La Santa Cecilia is a strong voice for immigrants’ rights in the US through their music. Finally, Maria Hinojosa might not be a performer, but she is a panelist, and quick research shows she’s accomplished amazing journalism for NPR and PBS about civil and social justice issues in the US.
But don’t just take my word for it. Check out www.latinalternative.com for the rest of the schedule and panelists, and see what you like.