"This is no Cinco de Mayo," said KLAX-FM radio executive Berth Lebow backstage at Sunday's "La X Cinco de Mayo Festival" on the Los Angeles Sports Arena grounds. "This is Woodstock."
And certainly the event, sponsored by the popular radio station known as La X and the Fonovisa record company, was closer to the spirit of Woodstock--in crowd size and enthusiasm anyway--than any Spanish-language concert in recent memory.
An estimated 200,000 people jammed the parking area and the inside of the arena to hear an 11-hour parade of 16 bands. The concert featured today's hottest Mexican techno-bandas --10- and 12-piece ensembles featuring brass, drums and electric guitar, with the keyboards taking the traditional tuba sound. Also on hand were some of the most important romantic grupos --a more conventional, melodic group with no brass.
But things were considerably more organized than Woodstock.
Unlike other major Latin music events, such as the L.A. Fiesta Broadway, there were no long waits between acts. Two large stages in the parking area alternated presentations of hourlong sets by each band while other groups waited their turns.
Most of the groups, according to organizers, flew into Los Angeles, traveled to the Sports Arena, played their show and immediately returned to Mexico. The concert was also shown on a giant video screen inside the packed Sports Arena.
Of the performers, Banda Machos, the group of the moment in the banda field, made a strong impression, delighting the crowd with its cheerful and more traditionally oriented style.
Distinctive blends were displayed by Vallarta Show ( banda music and occasional reggae "ragamuffin" vocals) and R-15 ( banda music and country guitar).
But the true heroes of the day were the legendary nortena group Los Tigres del Norte. They lifted the audience with their creative, powerful, accordion-based use of rock and virtually every area of Mexican folk music.