It's rare to see a tuba or an accordion onstage at a trendy South Beach nightclub, but such was the beauty of Wednesday night's Billboard Bash, a pre-party the night before the Billboard Latin Music Awards in Miami. Held at the sprawling two-story dance palace Cameo, the bill featured a mix of emerging artists and award nominees, spanning genres from regional Mexican (the tuba-toters) to EDM to hip-hop.
A steady stream of label executives, performers, and various other celebrities streamed in across the red carpet. Norteño act Grupo La Leyenda, among the opening acts for the evening, brought along their manager, Hector Cano. Meanwhile fellow opener Sophim (below), a Miami-bred dance music diva, posed with nightlife personality and performer Vinna Rouge. Model Vida Guerra stopped dozens of admirers in their tracks, while reality TV personality Cristy Rice brought fabulous make-up artist Oscar International along with her for the evening.
Sophi who opened her set with a cover of Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl." (Photo: Arnold Turner)
Elsewhere in the crowd, other artists came to support their peers. Star-watchers could spot regional Mexican star Horacio Palencia, singer Sofia Reyes, and emerging 17-year-old bachatero Karlos Rose in the mix.
Executives like Fernando Rojo, senior director for creative and new business development at Universal Music Publishing Group, came to relax after a few days of heavy deal-making. "I'm here to do business and also just hang out," Rojo said. "I always get things done at this conference. I'm looking for writers and I think I already found two."
L.A. rap duo Awkid (Photo: Arnold Turner)
The Billboard Bash was hosted by mun2's Emeraude Toubia, Guad Venegas, Yarel Ramos and La Bronca and featured performances by Billboard Latin Music Awards finalists Mexican singer America Sierra, L.A. Rap duo Akwid, reggaeton artists Plan B, and tropical pop grup Grupo Treo.
La Bronca and Emeraude Toubia hostesses of the 2013 Billboard Bash
(Photo: Arnold Turner)
Akwid provided one of the evening's most dynamic performances, with brothers Sergio and Francisco Gómez aggressively tag-team rapping in Spanish over beats laced with Mexican folkloric flourishes. They were clearly among the fan favorites last night , and their decade-long grassroots support comes from staying true to their passions, they said. "We've been able to maintain ourselves for 10 years, and our fanbase keeps growing," said Sergio Gómez. "We even surprise ourselves."
"The secret is to be honest with your music," said Francisco Gómez. "We don't follow trends or worry about what else is out there."
Band Yrirense (Photo: Arnold Turner)
Another standout included the massive mariachi group Banda Yurirense, whose 17 musicians barely fit onstage but roused the crowd into group singalongs punctuated by heavy brass. Later, Grupo Treo also invited dancing with good looks, serious stage presence, and a contemporary, pop-influenced take on tropical sounds.
Gustavo Lopez, SVP, BRand Partnerships & Digital, Universal Music Group receiving an award on behalf of Fonovisa at the 2013 Billboard BASH with Billboard's Leila Cobo in back. (Photo: Arnold Turner)
Jorge Mejia, EVP, Sony/ATV Music Publishing receiving the Billboard award on behalf of Sony/ATV Music Publishing at the 2013 Billboard BASH. (Photo: Arnold Turner)
The night also belonged to publishing, imprint and label winners who were announced during the event. Some of those highlights included wins by Universal Music Latin Entertainment, Sony Music Latin, EMI Music, ARPA Musical, LLC, and BMI, among others. (The complete winners story is here).
Payaso Triste (Photo: Michael Seto)
Back on the red carpet, other emerging artists came to pose and peacock and set their own trends, even if they weren't performing that night. It was impossible to ignore Payaso Triste, an urban Latin artist from Brooklyn who donned clown-white face paint, gold-glitter eyeshadow, and a Peewee Herman-style suit. Proclaiming himself "the Lady Gaga of reggaeton," he detailed his plans to revive the genre with a new form of glam pageantry. "There's no other artist like me," he said confidently, his makeup artist, Carmouche, in tow. "You don't have to be this guy with gold chains and a Lamborghini any more."
The Almas Band. (Photo: Arnold Turner)
The hard rock brother team of Almas Band showed an aptitude for bold guitars and influences like The Scorpions. A few headbangers in the crowd even threw up their devil horns and played air guitars.
Norteno Pride: Banda La Leyenda on the red carpet. (Photo: Michael Seto)
Grupo La Leyenda made sure everybody in Cameo, and all the people passing the front of the club on Washington Ave., knew they were from Monterrey, Mexico. That fierce norteño pride also showed itself in the whoops and hollers of the regional Mexican fans in the audience.
Viajero (Photo: Michael Seto)
Viajero's trumpet player is to be commended for achieving maximum volume without the dreaded screeching brass effect that is the bane of the concert going public. The band leader, Viajero himself, sporting a suit and shades, and singing like a young Elton John of the new millennium, didn't convert new listeners with his first song. But by the third, he'd won the audience over to his showtune-like pop.
The real star of the night may have been DJ Ash. Whatever the industry heavy crowd's allegiance to rock, folk, pop, or rap, when it comes to a night on South Beach, they want the bass heavy electronic dance music experience the place is most famous for. Ash gave it to them, and dropped Latino world mainstays like Danza Kuduro that sent their hand up, and made them dance like clubbers till the next band came on.
Model Vida Guerra on the red carpet outside the Billboard Bash (Photo: Michael Seto)