Latin Alternative Music Conference Day 1: Lots of Alternative, But Not Much Rock
Latin Alternative Music Conference Day 1: Lots of Alternative, But Not Much Rock

Monica Lionhert performs at the LAMC Indie Showcase. (Photo: Marlon Bishop)

The 13th Latin Alternative Music Conference kicked off Wednesday evening in New York City with a pair of concerts of very different scale: an outdoor show at Central Park's Summerstage headlined by Spanish hip-hop sensation Mala Rodríguez, and the conference's yearly Indie Showcase, held at a cozy downtown club.

Both shows had all the elements conference-goers have come to expect from the LAMC: An eclectic roster of performers, a crowd of stylish young Latinos and packs of Latin music industry insiders busily networking in English and Spanish. But perhaps what was more telling about the state of the "Latin Alternative" scene is what was missing: good old-fashioned rock en español.

Spanish-language rock was the bread and butter of the conference when it began 13 years ago. Tomás Cookman of Los Angeles imprint Nacional Records founded the LAMC to draw attention to Latin sounds underrepresented on radio and on the charts. For the most part, that has meant Spanish-language rock acts like Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and Aterciopelados. While rock still has a presence at this year's LAMC, the newest crop of acts draws on a mélange of indie and electronic sounds to make music that is much harder to define.

"It's great because we're all kind of different now. It used to be all rock, punk, ska, hip-hop. Now bands are doing all different kinds of styles," said Marisol Hernandez, vocalist for Los Angeles-based chicano roots band La Santa Cecelia. "I'm excited to see the diversity of what Latin Alternative is now, it's really inspiring."

Marisol Hernandez of La Santa Cecilia outside the Mercury Lounge. (Photo: Marlon Bishop)

That diversity was particularly on display at the Indie Showcase, a yearly event featuring up-and-coming and underground artists from around the Spanish-speaking world. Standout acts included Xenia Rubinos, a Brooklyn-based singer with a lo-fi, minimalist sound sometimes likened to Bjork; and Alex Anwandter, an electro-pop artist from Chile who crafts dance tracks out of understated vocals, bouncy basslines and big analog synth pads.

On the more experimental side of things was Uruguay's Martín Buscaglia, who took to the stage alone with an assortment of musical children's toys, guitars, and a loop pedal. One of his songs was composed entirely of nonsensical phrases he found in spam emails.

La Mala Rodriguez at Central Park Summerstge. (Photo: Marlon Bishop)

Hip-hop took center stage at the Summerstage show with fists shotting up in the air for Mala Rodríguez, whose fierce flows have cemented her as Spain's leading hip-hop voice.

"La Mala is Spanish hip-hop act inspiring people to step it up to the next level," said rapper and radio producer Eduardo Iniestra, who said he came to the LAMC to network and make new business partnerships. "She's showing us where we can get with this music, with enough organization."