festival review: tropicalia

Written by Donna Borges

Tropicalia, a weekend  music and taco festival in Long Beach, was a wild weekend full of good music, good food, and gorgeous views of the ocean. In just its second year, Tropicalia has already seen a large growth, from expanding from a one day festival to a full weekend with the acquisition of impressive headliners Morrissey and SZA. I was lucky enough to attend both days and witness the amazing show put on by a variety of artists, many of which I consider my favorite bands. The lineup featured bedroom pop artists like Michael Seyer and Clairo, as well as garage rock bands like Surf Curse and The Garden. Although the lineup pleased many fans since its initial release in August and the excitement for each band was felt throughout the crowd, there were a handful of sets that really stood out among the rest.

The High Curbs

On Saturday, the first set I watched was The High Curbs, the skate-punk four-piece from Chino, California. There weren’t many people at the festival yet, as it was early in the day, but a crowd began to gather for their set. Although the set was short, the band made the most of their time and played some of their most high-energy songs, including fan favorites “Tony T” and “Want.” A mosh pit even formed despite the size of the audience.

The next was Gus Dapperton, one of the most popular of the smaller artists on the lineup. His performance was incredible as expected, and I was reminded just how unique his voice and his style is compared to so many other popular indie artists. Next we listened to Jasper Bones and Jurassic Shark while finding food before Still Woozy’s set.

Still Woozy has been on the indie radar for a while now, and he only continues to rise in popularity. His unique approach to an electronic indie sound always catches my ear, and his songs always have a groovy feel to them. His music is guaranteed to make you dance, and is reminds you of contemporary artists such as Glass Animals. The performance was full of energy, while he played favorites like “Goodie Bag” and “Lucy,” while also exciting fans with some unreleased songs as well.

The next set was Orange County band The Garden, playing their self-genred “vada vada” style of music. Although I was a little disappointed by the choice of setlist, their performance was about as high energy as it could get. With drummer Fletcher Shears jumping around between his intricate drum parts and singer Wyatt Shears moving around on stage, their performance was the most active out of all the sets that weekend.

Next we watched Omar Apollo’s soulful set and listened to Sports while waiting patiently to mosh during the Frights’ set. The Frights played old and new favorites while the crowd went wild, shoes and shirts flying out of the pit. I am always amazed at how crazy people get when The Frights play.

To calm down after the intensity of the previous set, we listened to the calming voice of Frankie Cosmos as the sun set on the first night, one of the more peaceful moments of such a crazy day. Once it was dark, we listened to SadGirl perform “Little Queenie” and “Breakfast for 2,” as we tried to recover from the exhaustion due to the heat of the day. Former member of The Strokes, Albert Hammond Jr., performed next and seemed to please the entire crowd. Later we sat and listened to Mild High Club and relaxed to their dreamy songs like “Homage”.

We finished the night with Kali Uchis, who was scheduled inconveniently during Hot Flash Heat Wave’s set. We chose to see Kali Uchis since we had seen Hot Flash Heat Wave previously when they toured with the Frights earlier this fall. Her voice was angelic as expected, and it was the perfect end to the first day.

Sunday morning I woke up exhausted from the day before, but excited for what the new day would bring. We began the day with a set from Temporex, who played favorites like “Nice Boys” and “Sweet Sundae”. I also saw No Vacation and moshed to my favorite song “Dream Girl”.

Next we saw Vundabar, which was another energetic and fun set. I was impressed with the intricacy of their drum lines and the uniqueness of lead singer Brandon Hagen’s vocals. By time the set was over I had made it to barricade and stayed there throughout the next few sets.

Peach Pit has been one of my favorite new bands, and I was so excited to finally see them live. Their live performance did not disappoint; guitarist Chris Vanderkooy’s riffs and solos were incredible to witness. Singer Neil Smith was full of energy throughout the set and I was comforted by his smooth, familiar voice as he sang “Drop the Guillotine” and “Alrighty Aphrodite”.

I decided to stay at the barricade until The Marias’ set, which unfortunately meant missing out on The Regrettes’ set. I stayed at barricade throughout Allah-Las’ set, which was the perfect soundtrack to being by the beach.

The Marias

The Marias were incredible to say the least. The boys in the band were dressed in clean white suits and contrasted lead singer Maria’s black dress and gold chain belt. Potted plants were scattered on the stage, and the setup had such a vintage, dreamy feel. Combined with Maria’s ethereal vocals and the band’s funky, psychedelic sound, the whole set felt like a dream from another era. I can easily say that this set was one of my favorites, especially because I have been a big fan of the group for a while now.

We relaxed while listening to Boy Pablo before moshing to SWMRS as the sun set on the last day. SWMRS set was full of energy, and between songs lead singer Cole Becker spoke passionately about politics and preventing sexual harassment at shows. After SWMRS, we listened to Triathalon’s groovy set before taking a break between sets for dinner. We listened to Michael Seyer perform “Lucky Love” before heading over to the main stage to catch the end of Mac Demarco’s set. We ended the night moshing to Surf Curse and vibing to SZA’s soulful voice.

Overall, the weekend was incredible. The location was perfect, right next to the beach with plenty of room to eat and relax between sets. The food was expensive as expected from a festival, however there was a lot of variety in the options. Tropicália was marketed as a “music and taco fest”, so there were many different kinds of tacos available. My personal favorite food from that weekend was these giant mozzarella sticks that came with marinara and a pesto drizzle. Those were to die for. It was inspiring to be surrounded by so many talented artists, passionate fans, and delicious food. The whole weekend was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

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