The L.A. festival featured performances by La Arrolladora Banda El Limon, Ludacris and more.
Billed as the Uforia Music Festival, the daylong Univision-produced event at USC’s Exposition Park in Los Angeles on Aug. 16 was much more of a concert than a festival.
Sure, there was a wide array of vendors and food trucks, from Jewish deli to pizza and Mexican food, but with only two stages, one of which featured just four bands and wrapped before 4:30 p.m., the pacing of the night, which featured a lot of lag time, didn’t have the frenzy of a festival.
It did, however, have plenty of big names in the incredibly eclectic lineup, designed to bring together Latin music and hip-hop artists. How eclectic was it? Dirty South, the EDM artist who bridged the night, sandwiched between Latin headliners La Arrolladora Banda El Limon and Ludacris, tells Billboard of his place on the bill, “At first I thought it was a mistake."
But once he got the idea of the festival he embraced it. “Then I realized it was hip-hop, it’s Latin bands, it’s me, so it’s very diverse. It was great.”
And the eight-hour-plus show offered plenty of highlights during that time, starting with St. Louis rapper Nelly going old-school for a litany of hits, from “Country Grammar” and “Batter Up” to “Hot In Herre.” His more than 30-minute set mixed in a heavy dose of reality, as he made multiple references to his hometown of St. Louis and the ongoing unrest in Ferguson, Mo., following the shooting of teenager Michael Brown last week.
While Nelly said at one point from the stage, “It’s hard to keep a smile on your face,” he didn’t let the trouble back home distract from him having a good time, instead bringing the social consciousness and party vibe together for the finale, as he dedicated “Just A Dream” to “everyone back home in my city of St. Louis.”
Rising Latin star Luis Coronel was excited to share a stage with some of hip-hop’s finest. “It’s one of the biggest events, being part of Nelly and all them is a big opportunity,” he tells Billboard. “Just to be part of that stage is a really big opportunity.”
One of the perks of a show like this for the artists is the chance to reach across generations and cultures for new fans, and the top artists on the bill definitely exploited the opportunity. The upbeat, dance-heavy beats of El Dasa and the romantic and heavily dramatic ballads of Camila were met with as much enthusiasm by all as Ludacris’ set of hits and Dirty South’s EDM mix.
Living up to their billing on each side though the two headliners, La Arrolladora Banda El Limon and Kid Cudi, were heavy crowd favorites. La Arrolladorra in particular, with their huge horn-driven sound that blended mariachi and big band, were outstanding, drawing the biggest crowd of the night. And the joy at watching the couples dancing in the audience and young girls screaming each word was overwhelming. It would be a blast to see this band crossover to rock festivals.
Headliner Cudi, who took the stage just after 11 p.m. to chants of his name, came out ready to go. Two songs in he informed the crowd, “I’m just getting warmed up, baby.” He delivered his set that way, taking a slow build in the beginning before really taking off with “Erase Me” and “Immortal,” among others.
It was a quality set in a night marked by them. Musically Uforia offered a lot, and showed a lot of promise (the festival is not new, however, as it previously existed as H20). The idea of Latin and hip-hop was unquestionably a successful one. The question now is can Univision grow out the concept in future.
Based on the debut Uforia, the answer is hopefully yes.