Even for the first day of a first-time festival, Los Dells in Mauston got off to a bumpy start Saturday.
Acts were delayed by at least a half-hour for much of the day on the main “Woodside” stage. And a crewmember used an expletive to describe the technical problems for the secondary “Dells” stage. One of the Dells acts, Gabriel Garzon-Montano, didn’t even perform, while every other acts that followed went on at least an hour late.
But reading the crowd and talking to some fest-goers, it didn’t appear that anyone was upset. That’s in part because Los Dells comes with a great deal of good will built in.
A $6 million to $10 million investment, it’s the most ambitious multiday Latin music festival ever assembled in the United States, with superstar Latin rock act Mana headlining Saturday. (“Despacito” hitmaker Daddy Yankee arrives Sunday.) Fest-goers — perhaps half or two-thirds of the 20,000 estimate — want it to thrive, because there’s nothing else like it in Wisconsin.
“Being Hispanic, these are my people,” said Los Dells attendee Neli Jasso, 24, of Milwaukee. “It’s awesome seeing so many here.”
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Here are five takeaways from Los Dells’ first day.
A masterful Mana: If you want to make a big first impression as an ambitious Latin music festival, booking Mana will do it. With more than 40 million albums sold, it is Mexico’s all-time most popular rock band, the U2 of Latin music. So to see the band in a Wisconsin field Saturday was certainly surreal.
Even though it was a smaller crowd than Mana largely plays for, it was an ecstatic one, clearly thrilled to be seeing Mana in this setting and to see the band so close. The band fed off that energy and gave the people a remarkable show.
Guitarist Sergio Vallin captured Santana’s lightning for their collaboration “Corazon Espinado.” Drummer Alex Gonzalez belted out the infectious, ska-flavored “Me Vale,” at one point leaping up from his stool while the rest of the band ran around like ecstatic kids. And with his handsome, weathered croon and stage gravitas, frontman Fher Olvera led the band and the crowd through an emotional journey, gleefully slapping Gonzalez’s kit with his handheld mic; passionately playing the harmonica during the bittersweet “Vivir Sin Aire;” and obliging repeated pleas from fans for “Mariposa Traicionera” with a moving performance near the 90-minute set’s end.
Prince Royce rules: Never underestimate the effectiveness of a simple countdown clock. With each passing second, the crowd for New York native Prince Royce became increasingly amped up, the energy level boiling over once the bachata pop star slid on stage.
With a slick wave of hair, handsome squints, pearly white smiles, puckered lips, even rose tosses into the crowd, Royce consistently threatened to slip into cheesy caricature. But he owned the allure, inspiring a swooning singalong to his “Stand by Me” cover and provoking one girl to spasm and scream like she’d just been hit with a cattle prod.
Certainly, Royce is easy on the eyes, but it was the romance of flirty congas, lush chimes and his smooth voice that made him so appealing. Royce worked it too, supplementing his steady stream of poses with animated performances for “Back It Up” and “Déjà vu” (English titles, Spanish lyrics for this show).
With Latin music exploding in popularity, the time is ripe for a major Spanish-language music festival in the U.S. Damon Zumwalt is investing up to $10 million, and amassing an impressive lineup, in the hopes it will be Los Dells, taking place Labor Day weekend in Mauston, Wis.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The sun comes out for Morrison: Just as Mexican indie pop singer Carla Morrison was about to take the stage, the gray clouds that an hour earlier sprinkled some rain on the grounds started to part and rays of light came down from the sky. The band stopped setting up to take a moment with fans to worship the sun.
Things only got brighter from there. Morrison may not have prime billing, but her voice, without dispute, is the most radiant that will be heard at Los Dells. Her passionate expressions matched the vulnerability of her voice, culminating Saturday with the soaring, heart-wrenching “No Vuelvo Jamas.” As she belted out lyrics about being driven to madness with unrequited love, understanding and appreciative applause, and the sun, offered some comfort.
Quantic saves the Dells stage: Music can do many wonderful things, and that was evident on the seemingly doomed “Dells” stage Saturday. For three and a half hours, no music came from that stage due to technical issues, but once Latin jam band Quantic (led by native Brit Will Holland) slipped into funky jazz with congas dancing around swinging horns and soulful keys, all that tedium and disappointment was wiped from memory.
Reggaeton rev up: “The King of Reggaeton” Daddy Yankee, and fellow reggaeton star Nicky Jam, will play Los Dells Sunday, but a couple big genre acts warmed up the crowd Saturday. Cosculluela offered a harder take on the style that leaned heavier into hip-hop, with a crew of dancers, a DJ supplying some old school record scratches and a biting, bruising flow that cut through some of the softer pop shades of songs like “Na Na Nau.” But all that effort was undercut by one factor: a backing vocal track that too frequently took the lead.
With Yandel, Wisin became the first reggaeton artist to win a Grammy, but the duo split for solo careers (for now) four years ago. At Los Dells, Wisin went all out to prove he’s his own star with a pop show spectacle supported by a flashy dance crew and sharp backing singers. Despite all that, Wisin’s fiery flow and magnetism consistently seized the spotlight.
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