Farruko, smiling from ear to ear, donning an MLB-styled BBF jersey and bedecked in diamonds that are basically shooting rainbows, is wailing out the chorus to one of the most hard-hitting songs of the summer, the anthemic EDM banger “Pepas.” Before him, a sea of festivalgoers (30,000, to be exact) are losing their minds.
It’s Day 2 (Aug. 14) of Baja Beach Fest, the largest Latin music-focused festival in the Americas to resume since the coronavirus pandemic. The two-weekend fest kicked off Aug. 13 in Mexico’s Rosarito Beach, with reggaeton stars Ozuna, J Balvin and Karol G among the headliners, and with strict COVID-19 protocols in place.
After some concertgoers took to social media to criticize enforcement of protocols during Day 1, organizers seemed to be stricter on Saturday, implementing a zero-tolerance policy. For instance, if attendees were spotted without masks and refused to wear them, they would be escorted out of the festival grounds. Temperatures were checked upon entrance, and squirting hand sanitizer on the hands of those moving from section to section was mandatory. Most performers also reminded audiences to leave their masks on.
According to a report in Mexican newspaper 24 Horas, Baja California’s Secretary of Health Alonso Pérez Rico said health officials had verified that organizers were taking the agreed-upon measures, and that the show could go on. If measures were not followed, he said the festival could be shut down, according to published reports.
On their end, artists were euphoric.
“I was anxious to return to the stage and sing at a massive festival with a large audience,” Farruko told Billboard backstage, in Spanish, just after his set. “I’m speechless. I saw so many people. It’s impressive. The feeling, the adrenaline. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that, and to feel that again is something beautiful.” The 30-year-old performer spanned through his numerous bangers and features like “6 AM,” “Krippy Kush,” “Calma” and his latest, “Me Pasé” featuring Enrique Iglesias. But the closing number “Pepas” was what, hands down, electrified the entire festival ground. “‘Pepas’ was an experiment. Obviously it’s not a reggaeton song. We released it for the DJs as we were seeing that they were returning to the clubs. We dropped it to see what would happen, and it went viral. People just went crazy,” he said.
Day 2 also featured headliner Anuel AA, as well as rising stars like Myke Towers, Lenny Tavárez, super-producer Ovy on the Drums and Guaynaa. The former played a 45-minute set of pop-flavored reggaetón that also included “Cumbia a la gente,” recorded as a duet with Los Angeles Azules, in an example of the increasing blurring of genres in Latin music.
While música urbana is still mainly dominated by male performers, it was refreshing to see another female (following Karol G’s performance on Friday night) seize the stage and command the audience. Mariah, formerly known by her fuller name Mariah Angeliq, burst into the scene looking confident as hell, rocking cute pigtails with extensions down to her lower back, a mini skirt, Nikes and white long socks. She encouraged perreo among the hordes of people with songs like “Bobo,” “Perreito” and “Taxi,” but really turned up the crowd with “El Makinon,” featuring Karol G, who did not join her onstage.
“It’s my first time being out here,” she told Billboard. “It was crazy crossing customs to get here. That shit was so packed, we drove from San Diego. I loved the crowd, I loved coming out here, seeing all my colleagues and making more connections. It’s always great.”
Unlike Coachella, one thing that BBF lacks are surprise appearances. While reggaeton and Latin trap are heavy on features — and many artists on the BBF roster collaborate — it was a bit disappointing that no artists on the bill joined their colleagues’ sets to perform any of their joint songs.
Nonetheless, the fact that Baja Beach Fest, and Day 2, took place at all, is a testament that music has the power to bring us closer, especially during uncertain times.