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Music Festival Highlights Spanish Rock

Dennis Dyer

Quartzsite-Weeks ago over a dozen Latin Rock bands gathered in the Arizona desert for a unique music festival.

Informally called the “Coachella of Latin Rock,” the Rock Fiesta brought together fans of Spanish-language rock in Quartzsite, Arizona, a town known for its RV winter visitors and its annual rock, gem, mineral and fossil show.

It’s an odd location for a Latin Rock music festival, but organizers, fans, and the bands, hope the event focuses attention on the growing Spanish rock scene.

It's 11 a.m. on a Friday, that's the band Metalachi-known for mixing Mariachi music with heavy metal to create their own sound kicking off a big event in southwestern Arizona.

This month, Rock Fiesta, a two day music festival, brought some of the biggest names in Latin Rock to Quartzsite, along with thousands of Spanish Rock fans.

Bands like Caifanes, Café Tacuba, El Tri and others performed at Desert Garden Showgrounds, a 118 acre site along Interstate 10.

Fans could come for a day or stay in the facilities campground and catch all nineteen acts on two stages. 

So rare is it to see so many Latin rock bands on the same ticket that fans like Karina Donald, who drove 3 and a half hours from Las Vegas, almost can’t believe it.

"Well right now I'm kind of worried. I hope it's not a trap." she said. "We'll put out all the Latino and then Donald Trump is going to come out on stage and say 'you (expletive) deport all these people!"

Organizers originally thought to hold the Rock Fiesta in a more recognizable place, like Las Vegas, Santa Fe or even in the desert of Southern California, where events like Coachella thrive. 

61-year-old Hal Davidson travels the world organizing music festivals.  He said he’s never taken on anything like Rock Fiesta.

"I'm not Latino. I'm a Jewish man from Washington D.C.," Davidson said. "It's probably one of the most difficult events I have ever done and I've been doing festivals for 40 years."

Southern California was out because of cost and local regulation, and other sites Davidson looked at didn’t seem to know much about the bands he was booking.  He settled on Quartzsite because of its proximity to Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Diego, but also because it was closer to the U.S.-Mexico border.

"When we went down to Mexicali to speak with MORE FM," Davidson said. "They play three quarters of our bands. When you listen to that station you think you are listening to Rock Fiesta FM."

Davidson said he also had an easy time with Quartzsite officials and was able to get all the paperwork and permits in place quickly. 

Festivals devoted to Spanish language rock music are not common in the United States. Luis Chenka, lead singer for the band Panteon Rococo, said Rock Fiesta is completely new.

"Normally Mexican rock bands when touring in the U.S....well...we do small venues maybe some theaters or some a little bit more bigger," Chenka said. "But in this case it's new for us to play in a festival in the U.S."

The bands bass player, Dario Espinosa, said he knows how hard it can be to get a festival started, especially one in the middle of the desert with Latin rock music. But Chenka said there’s an appetite for their kind of music.

"It's seems like it's not a big market, you know now a lot of promoters they are seeing that Latin American rock is growing in the U.S.," Chenka said.

For Samantha Flores who traveled from San Diego and camped overnight….Rock Fiesta gave her an opportunity to see some of her favorite bands.

"I feel like i'm part of history," Flores said. "I've always wanted to see Caifanes. I always wanted to Café Tacuba and I always wanted to see El Tri. To see all those bands in the same's amazing."

Organizers weren’t sure how many people would make the trek to Quartzsite for Rock Fiesta.  They planned for up to 50,000 but some media have reported attendance at about 20,000. 

Local police Chief Ernie Renfro estimated about 15,000.  Renfro also said there were no major incidents related to the event.  He said they’d be happy to welcome the event back next year.

Organizers said the audience enjoyed themselves at this year’s event. Decisions are still being made about whether Rock Fiesta will return to Quartzsite.

Credit Dennis Dyer
Rock Fiesta gathered multiple Spanish rock headliners in Quartzsite, Arizona for a two-day music festival on March 18th and 19th, 2016.

Credit Dennis Dyer
"Los Amigos Invisibles", Spanish for "The Invisible Friends" were among the 19 performances held at Rock Fiesta, a two-day Spanish rock festival in Quartzsite, Arizona on March 18th and 19th, 2016.

Credit Dennis Dyer
Rock Fiesta, a two-day Spanish rock festival was held on March 18th and 19th, 2016 in Quartzsite, Arizona.

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