–article by BIANCA BETANCOURT & photography by JAVIER SUÁREZ
They say in order to know that you’ve made it as a musician, you have to break it big in the states. If the newly minted Chicago music festival, Ruido Fest, proved anything, it was that previous statement false.
Over 50 different acts from all over the world, came together in Chicago’s Addams/Medill Park, in the heart of Pilsen, the city’s historic Mexican neighborhood. The artists ranged from seasoned Mexican rock headliners such as Zoé and Molotov, to up-and-comers such as the more indie, Strokes-similar Banda de Turistas or Tyler the Creator’s latest jazzy protege, Kali Uchis.
There was also the rockabilly, purple sequined suit strutting Rebel Cats (who rocked out whilst standing upon a massive classical bass) for good measure.
Like the artists, whose genres ranged from classic cumbia, to electronica to Caribbean style hip-hop and in-between, their countries of origin varied as well. Though the festival brought different acts from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and more, the bulk of the weekend’s lineup featured Mexican musicians which correlated with the heavily Mexican crowd.
As a new-age Puerto Rican–meaning, mis papás no hablan español–meaning the struggle is real when it comes to my comprehension of the Spanish language–at times I felt out of place in the crowd. Though I ached to hear a bit of salsa, I remembered we were in Pilsen and unlike other music festivals (we won’t name names) who place poorly considered musicians in mismatching neighborhoods whose residents want anything but the musical invasion, Ruido Fest thought carefully about who they were bringing to Pilsen and why, which is exactly why the festival’s inaugural kickoff can be considered a success.
Day 1 of the festival was the most newbie friendly introduction to the festival, while the following two days catered more to the die hard weekend pass goers. During the day, the crowds were full, but thin enough where one could easily walk (not shove) their way to the front to be able to get a closer look at the performers. No matter how tired you got or how much your legs ached, seeing couples and friends dance together to the sounds of Mariel Mariel or the Mexican Institute of Sound quickly inspired a new bolt of energy to get yourself dancing along too. Once the sun went down, the weather cooled, and it was time for the nightly headliners (Zoe, Molotov and Café Tacvba) one could be comfortable one minute and then turn around shocked to see how quickly the large park filled up for fans to see musicians they never thought they would see on United States soil.
Though the festival at times felt intimate compared to festival giants like Pitchfork and Lollapalooza, it wasn’t about the size of the crowds but rather the passion and dedication of the fans and artists alike that filled the crowd. Though the weekend’s setup was similar to any other festival (music, food, booze and too many ill fitted crop tops and bro tanks) the atmosphere was the first of its kind here in the states: a weekend music festival that celebrated rather than shadowed, Latino-centric music, culture and identity.
Camilo Lara of the Mexican Institute of Sound said it best towards the end of their Friday evening set: "Esto es historia."