Latin Alternative Music Conference, Day 4

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Ernest Barteldes

Latin Alternative Music Conference, Day 4
Saturday, July 12,2008
Central Park Summerstage, New York

With no more panel discussions to attend anymore, we headed out to Central Park's Rumsey Playfield during a mild Saturday afternoon for the final round of concerts for this edition of the LAMC. Like in previous years, the last night is reserved for big-name artists, and fans responded accordingly – the venue was filled to capacity even though others might have been tempted to try to score tickets for Bon Jovi, who was performing at The Great Lawn that same evening as part of a promotional bid for the upcoming All-Star baseball game.

Chile's DJ Bitman opened the proceedings with his mixes of Latin, Brazilian and other sounds. Unfortunately, the crowd did not respond quite well – for some reason, DJ sets don't seem to work during the day at Central Park without the benefit of lights and other effects. It was nevertheless an enjoyable set that included material from Latin Bitman, a disc that blends samples from bossa nova, Latin and jazz with fresh new sounds.

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Ernest Barteldes

Up next was Plastilina Mosh, the Monterrey-based duo formed by Alejandro Rosso and Tomas Gonzales that includes a handful of other musicians. The band opened with a disco-like tune that gradually evolved into a rockier beat. They also paid tribute to many of their musical idols, including snippets of Queen's “Another One Bites The Dust” and Black Sabbath's “Iron Man” in between original songs.

There seems to be no limit to what the group can tackle, seamlessly going through hip-hop, funk and electronica and other sounds without skipping a beat. While in previous years the photo are became a de facto mosh pit, this time around that didn't happen due to tight security and also because most of those well-behaved fans were there for the evening's headliner, Julieta Venegas, who came backed by a 13-piece band that included a string quartet, brass, keys and percussion to promote her recently released MTV Unplugged disc.

By the time she came on, the venue was filled to capacity (many latecomers were turned back at the door). She warmly greeted her fans after the first number, and moved on to “Algun Día,” a tune included on the new disc.

It was impressive to notice that Venegas did something seemingly impossible – she played what seemed to be an intimate show to a crowd of thousands. She showcased not only her vocal chops but also her ability on the guitar, piano and accordion, going through a mix of pop, rock and more traditionally sounding material. Aware that many who were there probably hadn't had a chance to see her live in a while, she concentrated on hits, which prompted everyone to sing along to each song.

Venegas' music has quite a universal appeal – it wouldn't be surprising to see her cross over and win over some Anglo fans in the near future. She also has an appealing “girl next door” look, and that definitely counts in her favor.

After the concert the LAMC participants ended the week's proceedings at an invitation-only party at downtown Manhattan's Altman Building, where Bronx-based Pacha Massive played a late-night set following a series of Latin DJs. The Pepsi-sponsored event included an open bar with rum-based mixed drinks, which came handy after such an incredibly active week of musical discovery, which keeps us wondering about what the future might bring.

- Ernest Barteldes

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