Tropicalia Fest Headlined by Morrissey and Cardi B Caps Off Successful Year One in Long Beach for Goldenvoice

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Morrissey performs at O2 Arena on Nov. 29, 2014 in London.

LA promoter brought seven festivals to site near the Queen Mary

On paper, Long Beach should be a Southern California powerhouse for concerts and festivals. Home to Cal State Long Beach, one of the largest universities in California, the LBC​ is a music-soaked city of nearly 500,000 residents just south of Los Angeles that birthed American funk band War, the G-funk sounds of Nate Dogg and Warren G and the laid-back reggae punk vibes of Sublime. While artists like Snoop Dogg put the city on the map for popular music, it's still a tricky place to sell tickets and stage concerts thanks to a lack venues in the city, serious competition from LA and Orange County and general difficulty reaching the city's tens of thousands of music fans. 

Despite the obstacles, LA concert promoter Goldenvoice seems to finally have broken through with a highly successful festival series held on a large outdoor event space near the city's most iconic attraction, the Queen Mary, a retired British ocean liner bigger than the Titanic with three red and black smoke stacks that can be seen from anywhere along Long Beach's ten-mile coastline.

This weekend, Goldenvoice stages its final festival for 2018 — Tropicalia Festival, a celebration of Southern California Mexican-American culture and its love for Spanglish, Cumbia and Morrissey.

"Tropicalia Festival was spawned from the love of going to Mexican nightclubs, backyard parties & all-ages punk shows at community centers in the culturally rich neighborhoods of Southern California," says Goldenvoice's Jeff Shuman, who curates the Tropicalia festival and books the Observatory in Santa Ana.

"It's La Sonora Dinamita blasting at midnight at the family party next door. It's Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" in a smoke-filled room in your teenage years," he tells Billboard. "It's Cardi B bumping in a random car on the streets of your neighborhood.  It's a celebration of a new generation of artists rooted in their cultures and guided by a truly independent artistic vision. It's a time for musicians and audiences of all ages to rejoice in the love of culture, great music, and—of course—tacos."

In Long Beach, tacos form the tip of the city's nutritional chart, with locally famous "taco ladies" booked months in advance for parties and quinceaneras, while taco trucks fight for turf in neighborhoods like California Heights and the city's East Side. In a first for the city — and in honor of headliner Morrissey's strict vegetarian diet — the tacos of Tropicalia fest will go vegetarian after 5 pm on the same night that the former Smith's frontman headlines the first evening of the festival.

"When he plays a show anywhere, he requires the venue to go vegetarian during the times that he plays," says Paul Billings, svp at Goldenvoice who has helped develop the festival series at the site near the Queen Mary. That includes One Love Cali Reggae Fest with Nas and RebelutionSmoker's Club featuring Wiz Khalifa, Schoolboy Q and Kid Cudi; Smokin Grooves with Erykah Badu and The Roots; Summertime in the LBC with Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube and the Alt Summer Camp for Alt 98.7 FM with Death Cab for Cutie and Odesza.

"We also did Smoke Me Out — lots of smoke this year," Billings joked. "That's a regional Mexican event. And now we're ending with Tropicalia. That's seven total."

All events, which range in capacity from 10,000 to 15,000, sold out in the first year with Smokin Grooves and Summertime in the LBC selling out one day after going on sale. Tickets for Tropicalia are still available, but Billings thinks that come Saturday, Tropicalia will sell out too.

Billings is a native of Long Beach and said the purchase of the Queen Mary by developers Urban Commons paved the way for Goldenvoice to sign an exclusive booking agreement at the end of 2017.

"With all these festivals, we pack a lot of talent into a small capacity location," Billings said, noting that Tropicalia features Latino rockband Chicano Batman, Colombian-American singer and songwriter Kali Uchis, singer Mac Demarco, 90s rockers Mazzy Star and red hot rapper Cardi B, who's song "Girls Like You" has spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"There's definitely a thread that connects everything together," Billings said. "I think it's one of the most interesting and diverse line ups in Southern California."

Tropicalia Fest starts Saturday with single tickets costing $150 plus fees. Learn more at tropicaliafest.com.

 

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